Ever feel like you have your life in order, know what you want to achieve, and how to get there? Then everything changes? When you think you've made progress, all of a sudden, your map is flipped upside down, and you are lost again. With a sense of uncertainty?
Recently, I've felt this way. It's exhausting, and it's happening to everyone right now. The world is changing rapidly, and we're all scrambling to keep up. It would be nice to take a break. It's likely you'll want one, too.
This month is Mental Health Awareness Month, and it’s there to remind us all to focus on our mental health. There are no excuses. It is our responsibility to check in on others who might need some mental health assistance. Normal times can be isolating because of mental illness. In an era of so many unknowns, mental illness can be fatal.
There are some things we can all do to ensure we're prepared to deal with what lies ahead as we navigate this new world together, and while nobody knows exactly what to do, there are some things we can do to equip ourselves.
To keep your mind healthy right now, try these simple tips.
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Ryan Holiday, a student of Stoicism and bestselling author, often recommends reading about the world in the past if you want to understand the world today. Don't get caught up in the news; instead, learn how we have traditionally overcome obstacles. A good example is a current pandemic.
Read up on the 1918 influenza pandemic instead of obsessively tracking COVID-19 cases in your state, as I used to do. In what ways were we able to overcome it? What were our mistakes? Is there anything we can do differently today? It's more beneficial to look back at our past with an eye toward the present - and to find some relief for the anxiety building up in your head as a result.
Another valuable aspect of avoiding the news is taking a break from social media. How often do you open Instagram without even realizing it? Almost everyone does it as a physical reflex now. Scrolling through Instagram is usually the least productive thing I can do when I have a lot of projects and goals to achieve. As soon as I take a break, I reach for my phone instinctively. Whenever I catch myself doing this, I place my phone down and instead do something else. It feels wonderful to be able to control myself and redirect my energy. Then I enjoy social media when I return to it because it's fresh and novel.
The act of being generous to another person helps you feel better when you aren't feeling your best. In addition to creating empathy and compassion, kindness also promotes a sense of interconnectedness among people. You're probably familiar with runner's high, but do you know what the helper's high is? It’s the sense of well-being you get when your body releases neurochemicals that are activated by kindness and compassion.
As Mother Teresa said, on this earth, we cannot accomplish great things; we can only do small things with great love. The simplest things are easy when they are done with love. You can do these small things right now:
Besides these simple actions, there are plenty of others you can do to make yourself feel better, as well as brighten someone else's day.
I understand that not everyone enjoys writing. Most people (writers included) find it tedious and time-consuming. Despite this, writing for me is cathartic to such an extent that I always feel good after. It’s like going to the gym; it isn't always fun or easy, and you will sweat, but when you're done, you won't regret your decision.
By writing, you remove a small weight from your mental burden by putting your fears, stress, and anxieties on paper. While writing won't eliminate your worries, it will help you identify them, identify challenges, and process them. You can begin to address your worries once you can put shape to the invisible.
Rather than writing, consider creating a bulleted list, such as what you might make before going grocery shopping. You should also write down what isn't worrying you while you are writing. Keeping a gratitude journal or a list of things that make you feel good now could be useful. See if looking at that list helps you feel better when you're feeling overwhelmed or anxious.
There is nothing I love more than taking classes. For classes I can't attend physically, I take them online. It is possible to take many affordable online classes, and there are a lot of opportunities at our fingertips. There are dozens of classes on just about any skill you'd like to master.
There's no denying that the world is full of ingenuity right now. Companies are now offering opportunities that were previously unavailable due to price or distance. There is an increase in creativity, and if we choose to take advantage of it, we can all reap the benefits.
It turns out that learning something new actually relieves stress because it gives your brain a new challenge to work on. Besides giving you a new skill or knowledge, learning increases the elasticity of your brain. We stretch our brains in new ways when we learn something new. Taking on a new challenge can actually help you reduce stress, according to research.
There is a kaleidoscope of color and texture out there in the world. When you get outside after a long winter, nearly all of your senses are stimulated. A Harvard Medical School study confirms what we've all heard: the outdoors reduces anxiety, depression, and stress. Walking in your neighborhood for 20 minutes is enough to benefit you; you don't have to walk through a forest. Those who listen to sounds of nature, such as birdsongs and wind rustling leaves, can lower their blood pressure, and those who look at trees and greenery can easily block out negative thoughts.
With houseplants, you can bring nature inside even if you can't get outside. Research has shown that plants boost moods, lower heart rates, reduce cortisol levels in the brain, and may enhance focus. Aside from these benefits, they also allow you to take care of something that comes with its own benefits.
Don't forget to be patient and to give yourself some grace. The human mind and body aren't perfect, but taking care of them every day will make us better equipped to face what lies ahead.
When you are out in nature, you can shift your focus away from work and replenish your mental energy. Discover the physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental health benefits of spending time outdoors.