One of the biggest roadblocks to the management of our mental health is rooted in our innate fear of failure. So many of these self-help books by big name motivational speakers can often do more harm than good. Readers often end up feeling increased pressure to solve their issues in the inspired “go big or go home” mindset of some of these authors and become discouraged when they can’t adhere to these massive changes for an extended period of time. Not only are these individuals already experiencing generalized anxiety and doubt, but now they are also experiencing it in relation to the maintenance of their mental health. That in and of itself is a major issue.
In this post I’ll outline some of my super simple steps to mental health maintenance that have worked wonders on my emotional well-being. I know I was personally very overwhelmed by the thought of immediately implementing intensive yoga practices, hour long mediations, or filling pages upon pages of my journal with never ending goals, mantras and aspirations. Don’t get me wrong, for some people that IS what is best for them. If that process works for you -awesome – keep it up. Never stop doing what is best for you! But for me personally would that approach work? The answer was a resounding NO. I knew I needed to start as simply as possible. For me, consistency would be far more beneficial than intensity.
My best recipe for success in the maintenance of your mental health is to incorporate small changes or additions to your routine and do them consistently. I’m talking something as simple as getting up every morning and doing the following fitness flow: plank for 30-45 seconds, transition into downward facing dog for 15-30 seconds and finish in up-dog for a final 15-30 seconds. Yes, this is a major portion of my fitness routine. And yes, I have seen massive physical changes and benefits from just this minute or two a day!
Here are some of my other practices that have been so important for my mental well-being and are so incredibly easy to incorporate into your own routine! But remember – you don’t have to be perfect at this! Slow and steady wins the race. Be kind to yourself…you can always start fresh! Focus on what you do accomplish, not what you don’t!
Change your state. Feeling down, anxious, or overwhelmed? Take one minute to get up and make yourself a cup of tea, pour a cup of coffee, or re-fill your water bottle. This change of physical state can instantly shift your mental state.
Exercise! Exercise is anything that makes you move. By no means do you need to be a star athlete. Studies show that a mere 10-minute walk immediately boosts brain chemistry to increase happiness. I aim to walk 20-30 minutes a day at least 3 or 4 times a week. I also start my morning with a planking and light yoga routine as soon as I get up every (or mostly every :) ) morning.
Find what it is that helps your get out of your own head. For me it’s reading. For others it’s yoga, running, driving, listening to music, writing, working out – the list goes on and on. Find your escape. The place where you can fully get lost. Prioritize incorporating it into your upcoming week.
Journal. Even just jotting down a few words that describe how you’re feeling or what you’re experiencing is more than enough. One of my favorite pages in my journal is one that simply says open windows, sunshine, naps + fans = <3 I was feeling particularly peaceful at that moment, and that is how I chose to capture it.
Disconnect. I know that after being ON for the entire work day: answering calls, responding to emails, servicing clients…the last thing that I want to be doing when I get off is staring at my cell phone screen or talking to even more people. Using the evening to decompress without feeling constantly accountable to others is crucial. Come up with an evening routine: cooking dinner, taking a bath or hot shower, having a cup of tea, meditating, or even catching up on one of your favorite shows that aired earlier in the week. I try to switch my phone into airplane mode by 7 or 8 PM each night. It stays plugged in out in the kitchen until the next morning when my alarm goes off. For me, consistent disconnecting has worked wonders on my mental wellbeing…primarily because when you are disconnected, you are far less overstimulated.
Treat yourself. Cut yourself a break. As Allison so perfectly put it in her last post, dump that perfectionist chatter! Instead of nitpicking yourself for what you didn’t do, commend yourself for what you did do! Spoil yourself. Get that massage. As one of my favorite yoga teachers Adriene Mishler says, self-love is a super power. This couldn’t ring truer. Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself! Fuel your body with nutritious, lean, clean foods and stay hydrated. Get outside. Experience nature. Travel. Move more. I could go on and on!
Open up. I’m not saying you need to bear your soul to every person you interact with, but embrace your vulnerability and share your story. You’d be surprised at how many people have gone through something similar.
Establish your rules and boundaries and stick to them. “No” is a complete sentence. You don’t need to explain yourself to anyone – do what’s best for you. Your energy belongs to you and for YOU. Do no harm but take no sh*t! (Rachel Brathen)
Surround yourself with those who serve you. Remember, maturity is learning to walk away from people and situations that threaten your peace of mind, self-respect, values, morals, or self-worth. We absorb the energy of those around us, so surround yourself with people who are on your same level.
Above all, seek help when you need it! I’m not ashamed to say that I see my counselor every two weeks or so. This crazy world throws a lot at us – and it’s more than ok to have someone there to help you navigate it. Friends and family can only handle so much, after all, they aren’t professionals. Utilize every resource you can to make yourself the very best you can be. I view my appointments like physical therapy. If I injured my shoulder I would engage in physical therapy to maintain, and improve, my strengthening and healing process. The same is true for the mind. The culture surrounding mental health has certainly shifted for the better, but there is still a lot of work to be done to minimize stigmatization and break the silence. Choose love. Choose empathy. Choose support. Choose help.
I can only hope that some of my tidbits will be of benefit to you. Remember, you are not alone. Trust that life will always take you where you’re supposed to be. You’re doing just fine.