"I can't think straight!"
"I worry all the time."
"I'll never feel calm."
Anxiety is omnipresent. One may argue that something is wrong if racing thoughts, sleepless nights, and tightening in your chest aren’t a part of your identity. It's almost as if feeling calm is a myth.
Be that as it may, you can get on the right side of inner peace with discipline, creativity, and devotion to intentional acts of calm daily.
Here’s to activities that promote healthy mental health habits without the input from the almighty headshrinker.
1. Memorize the following sentence: “What is a different way of looking at my situation?” Ask yourself this question every time you start to feel overwhelmed. Getting out of habitual patterns of over-reacting to stress and uncertainty is key for regarding yourself as a capable problem-solver.
2. Walk your dog for 30-minutes daily, or go for a hike. Movement is a wonderful metaphor for getting unstuck. Not only are you getting out of your home, but you’re getting out of your head. Especially if you have a wily breed like a Siberian Husky to keep you on your toes.
3. Drink a lot of water. Staying hydrated is a simple way to improve mental health. Studies show water facilitates the delivery of nutrients to the brain, removes toxins and inflammatory markers, and improves brain function.
4. Drop and do 10 pushups when your heart starts racing because your boss just bombed your inbox with unreasonable requests. Short bursts of heightened physical activity help you get rid of excess nervous energy.
5. Silently repeat, “I’m not the cause and I’m not the cure” whenever someone around you is being unreasonable. Many anxious souls are overly responsible for others’ feelings. If Bob in Accounting goes on a rant because the numbers aren’t adding up, that’s his problem. Don’t make it yours.
6. Fall in love with emotional regulation. Successful people are self-aware people. They also know how to reign in their emotions and maintain composure while warding off impulsivity during trying times.
7. Think of a person you admire who sees a glass as half full. When you’re stumped about a problem ask yourself what this person would do. Anxiety can cause you to feel alone and isolated, even when you're around others. When you aren’t getting the feel-good vibes of those in your purview, think of your admired person for inspiration.
8. Practice the Pomodoro Technique when you’re demotivated and stressed about looming work or school deadlines. There are various iterations, but the classic version is to set a timer and work for 25 minutes, followed by a 5-minute break. Repeat this cycle three or four times, and then take a 15-20 minute break. This method is especially helpful when you're daunted by a huge project. Working in small batches of time is a wonderful productivity hack.
9. Leave work on time. Unless your job involves researching a cure for cancer or other terminal illness, let it go. A healthy boundary means respecting your obligations just as much as your “me time.”
10. Choose a mindfulness activity to ease yourself into transitions. For example, let’s say you have a hard time leaving work stress behind, and you emotionally vomit on your spouse upon arriving home. Before walking through the front door, spend a few minutes in silence to make peace with what’s happened during the day. Take a few cleansing breaths and open the door with presence and intention.
11. Laugh. Finding humor and grace in difficult situations is a critical skill. And it doesn’t take long to distract yourself when feeling down. Since you likely have your mobile phone at the ready, take a scroll through entertaining content on Twitter or Instagram. An added benefit of these platforms is you can quickly peruse content without getting bogged down with commentary.
12. Remove rude people from your social media accounts. Think mute, unfollow and delete.
13. Plan a fun activity for the weekend. As the saying goes, "spend time around people who are good for your mental health." Plus, the act of making plans is a mood booster.
14. Read the newspaper rather than watch the news online. The salacious sidebars can be a never-ending time-suck and a contributor to procrastination. Not to mention, the Google algorithms purposefully place ads based on your search term history.
15. Clear the clutter. It’s no secret that a messy space contributes to a messy place inside your head. Before leaving work and before going to bed, spend 15 minutes tidying up and organizing your office and home. When you can easily locate your memory stick and workout gear, life runs smoother.
16. Focus on reality. Sure gratitude quotes are everywhere and "positive thinking” should rule the day, but slapping on a smile isn’t going to help every problem. In fact, constant positivity can be a form of avoidance, not a solution to the issue at hand. Sometimes you need to switch out the rose-tinted glasses to see your smudged, cloudy situation for what it is.
17. Accept your anxiety. You have to work harder than other people to find your zen place, and that’s okay. Sometimes letting go of the need to control outcomes leads to acceptance of where you're at right now. Reflecting on what you’ve accomplished invites the realization that as uncomfortable as your worries are, your track record for overcoming anxiety is 100 percent.
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Copyright 2019 Linda Esposito, LCSW
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