As we close out May – Mental Health Awareness month let’s keep the conversation going. It’s so exciting to see and hear how things are changing. The conversation and attention to mental health have been phenomenal in the last few years. The stigma around mental health is lessening its grip, but the hold is still there.
I believe the pandemic shined a light on the many cracks in society and emotional well-being is one of those cracks. We all got a front-row seat to how the pandemic, work, family, financial challenges, loss, isolation, crazy gas prices, food prices, war, invasions, and all the other stressors in the world can really take a toll on one’s emotional wellness. Undoubtedly, many of life’s ups and downs are out of our control, and that’s okay. It’s also okay to acknowledge your feelings around it all. It’s okay to feel frustrated, scared, anxious, and whatever emotion comes to mind. It’s so important to give yourself permission to feel. Why? Feelings and thoughts are just that, feelings and thoughts. Giving yourself permission or just plain old acknowledging your feelings is the first step to leveling up to mental wellness, and doing so gets you one step closer to being emotionally healthy. It’s challenging to be happy and experience life to the fullest if your emotional health isn’t where it needs to be.
Often, the best solution is right in front of us. I grew up when spending time outside was a requirement, lol. Even if you didn’t want to go, you had to “go outside and find something to do,” according to my mother. I would spend hours outside, exploring. My explorations took me to discover new paths in the woods, on long bike rides, racing friends to the nearest pool, or walking for miles “uptown” for a sneakers bar and a bag of funyuns chips. The entire outdoors was my playground. Those were the good old days. Sure my cares were few back then, but what a difference getting outdoors made. I still enjoy taking to the great outdoors and connecting with nature to reset and clear my mind. In a world where things are often out of your control, here are a few tips to help put things into perspective and shift your focus from what is out of your control to what’s within your control.
- Move more. Your brain and your body are connected. You feel your emotions in your body. Stress and pain are related. Stress increases pain. Now, you need to know your limits, but you also need to move. When you move around more, your body reduces stress hormones and stimulates the production of natural painkillers and mood elevators. Did I forget to mention that your body will be healthier? Win, win, and win. Remember sitting around often increases the likelihood of feeling stressed or depressed.
- Use your time more effectively. The more you get done, the less you leave undone; hello. Shifting your focus on determining the best way to use your time is a great habit to develop and will benefit your life. Having your work and tasks done regularly results in less stress and a greater opportunity to feel calm and relaxed.
- Be gratitude focused. Unrealistic expectations, long task lists, or unworkable goals equal disappointment. Grab your planner and lay out practical and actionable tasks. Spend some time each day focusing on gratitude rather than being annoyed that life, you, or others, have failed to meet your expectations
- Address any financial challenges you’re facing. Look, there are only three basic ways to address financial challenges: Worry about them, ignore them, or address them. Find a solution to your financial issues and begin working on it. Budgeting, eliminating wasteful spending, picking up a side gig, or side hustles are all ways to find solutions.
- Get enough sleep. I’m all about it. I appreciate quality sleep just as much as I appreciate quantity of sleep. The truth is, your brain and body are a mess if you’re not getting enough sleep. Studies show that insufficient sleep can impact everything from weight gain (yep, I said weight gain) to mood regulation to general brain health. Find a sleep schedule that works for you and stick to it.
- Be sociable. As solitary as you might think you are, we were created for relationship. You still need to be around other people on a regular basis. Having people you can count on makes a huge difference.
- Watch useful news. Talk about tricky, right? Today’s news is little more than foolishness, mayhem, and political news because that’s what people like to watch. Mayhem drives ratings. Let’s be honest; engaging isn’t the same as useful. Know the difference and know when you’ve had enough.
- Limit social media usage. I know, I know that sounds like blaspheme, and I get it. The primary goal of social media is admirable: Share pics, and stay in touch with friends and family. Sadly, the reality is that we’re far past that because it’s become a place where anything goes. Studies show people spend entirely too much time on social media and devices. Learning to balance usage is key. Be smart in how you use technology and social media.
- Limit your obligations. A simple and meaningful life is the best option for most people. Keep your life simple by avoiding optional obligations that don’t add value to your life. No is a complete sentence.
- Take a daily walk. I enjoy a daily walk. I try to get 2.5 to 3 miles in a day. The benefits are transformative. I’m moving, my mind is clear, I feel better, and I look better. Win, Win. Get out of the house and the office and take a nice walk each day; you won’t regret it.
When your emotional health is high, you have a solid foundation for enjoying many other aspects of life. Get your rest, move around, and address the challenges in your life that are within your control. Spend time with people that you love and level up.