It can be hard to know where to start when it comes to taking care of our mental health. We’re constantly bombarded with direct or subliminal messages that tell us we need to dress a certain way, parent our kids better, read this, watch that, invest in anything and everything, or else we’re doing something wrong.
It can get overwhelming, trying to navigate life with constant reminders of not being good enough. So what if we took a step back and looked at how we were living our lives? How we can take better care of ourselves, both physically and mentally, and try to calm the storm that peaks every now and then.
What if we asked ourselves how we can lead such fulfilling lives?
What is Mental Health?
Mental health refers to how you feel about yourself and others and how well you deal with those sentiments and daily challenges. With more and more conversations taking place about mental health and the importance of therapy, the discourse about such topics is starting to feel less taboo and more widespread and accepting.
While therapists should be as important as primary care physicians, not everyone can afford or access such services. So, if you can’t afford or schedule regular counseling, here are some ways to help you monitor and control your mental health.
The Benefit of Checking in With Yourself
Working outside or at home, waking up and reading stories and news online and on social media, engaging in conversations with family members, coworkers, and friends; all take place outside ourselves. We volunteer our time and energy to help those who are close to us. Almost always, our mental space is occupied. But how much of your day is spent in internal dialogue?
It can get challenging when checking in with yourself seems like just another task you have to do according to your daily to-do list, but it’s an integral part of maintaining your emotional and mental health. Just as you would exercise your physical body, “working out” your inner world will help you stay balanced amid daily stress.
7 Ways to Keep Your Mental Health In Check
1. Learn your external/internal triggers
Both external triggers and internal cues can affect your emotions and change how you feel, so knowing what types of situations tend to trigger/activate your feelings allows you to check in with yourself before becoming distressed.
Internal cues are sensations you feel inside your own body that can provide insight into what you may need, emotionally or physically. For example, being thirsty, or feeling tired, are both internal cues that inform you that your body needs food or sleep. Likewise, the tension in your shoulders may be an internal cue that you need some time to relax and take deep, releasing breaths.
2. Ask yourself: How am I feeling today?
This may seem obvious, but how often do you ask yourself how you feel and then pause to think about your response?
Assessing your mental health begins with asking yourself how you are feeling. Try to give each emotion your feeling a qualitative number, and take note of how you feel at the same time each day.
Being honest with yourself can be difficult, but it is necessary. Be truthful in your responses when checking in with yourself. Find ways to transform your thought/response into an action that improves your life or mood.
3. Write or journal your feelings
It’s not surprising that journaling is a way to check in with yourself because it has so many mental-health benefits. You can express yourself and share your thoughts however you like; the good, the bad, and even the ugly. In addition, this practice enables you to process and solve some problems.
Dedicate 5 minutes per day to writing down your feelings, reflections, and ideas in the most judgment-free environment possible — a notebook that no one else has access to. Don’t forget to end your passages with one thing you’re grateful for that day!
4. Get that hard-working body moving
Physical activity has the potential to improve our well-being significantly. For example, even a short burst of brisk walking for 10 minutes increases our mental alertness, energy, and positive mood.
You don’t have to go for 30-minute runs if the idea of doing that makes you bored out of your mind. Instead, experiment with different styles and sports, and see which ones suit you the best. Classes like spin, TRX, pilates, yoga, and boxing are all great ways to pump up the heart rate for a boosted mood. Thankfully, with the golden age of content, you can even do home workouts as effectively as gyms or outdoor classes. You have to want the change, and your body will do the rest for you.
When it comes to losing weight, eating healthier, and exercising more frequently, most of us have good intentions. And most of us understand the fundamentals of what to eat and what to avoid. But sometimes, even with the best of intentions, we frequently end up impeding our progress when we are tired, stressed, bored, or frustrated. And, let’s face it, these feelings arise often.
A balanced diet or meal plan and increased physical activity are the most remarkable ways to reduce weight. This is the safest and most effective way to lose weight.
However, there are several reasons why people who improve their diet and exercise do not lose weight, and medicines like Saxenda may benefit these individuals.
5. Don’t forget to give your body its most basic needs
Good food and enough sleep. That’s the key to maintaining your body’s basic needs apart from daily exercise or movement. Make sure you eat nutrient-dense meals rich in fruits and vegetables, drink plenty of water, and get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night.
6. Focus on your breath
After you’ve completed everything off your checklist of daily activities, sometimes you just need a second to breathe, some time to take a break.
If you’re in a situation that’s sending you into a nosedive, get out of it, even if only for a few moments. Instead, begin by performing a simple breathing exercise.
Close your eyes, inhale for four seconds, hold for four seconds, and exhale for four seconds. Repeat for 2 minutes, and you’ll see the instant boost in your mood!
7. Be kind
A simple act of kindness, such as being helpful to a friend or family member, increases your sense of self-worth. It may seem trivial, but imagine the impact if everyone consciously tried it.