This year has been one for the books. From a global pandemic to an ever-changing political landscape, 2020 has caused millions of people more stress and anxiety than any other year. So, if you’re struggling to maintain good mental health, you’re not alone. In fact, there’s been such an uptick in those requesting therapy that New York’s governor decided to launch a mental health hotline. It seems everyone needs a listening ear these days.
While there is a certain comfort in knowing everyone’s struggling along with you, it does make finding help more difficult. Even if you wanted to book an appointment with a therapist, everyone in your area is probably booked already. If you find this to be the case, it may be time to dig yourself out of your depression and reprioritize self-care.
Whether you’re dealing with loneliness, anxiety, stress or depression, there are ways to defog your mind and improve your mental health. You just have to be willing to try.
1. Take a Shower
When your to-do list is long and your anxiety is high, you may want to curl up and disappear under a pile of blankets. However, staying in bed all day can make you feel unproductive and exacerbate depressive symptoms.
On these days, you must still pull yourself out of bed and care for yourself. If you can’t manage a bath, take a shower. Simply rinsing off and enjoying that fresh, clean feeling can uncloud your mind and lift your spirits.
If you’re feeling up to it, consider pulling out a notepad and jotting down your thoughts and feelings. Journaling helps you prioritize problems, fears and concerns to pinpoint what’s bothering you and regain control over your symptoms. This strategy is especially helpful if you feel overwhelmed or can’t seem to voice your emotions to those around you.
Jot down a few words to describe how you feel or put pen to paper and let it flow freely as thoughts and emotions arise. Identify self-talk and negative thoughts and behaviors or look for trends in your journal that may point to repetitive stressors or triggers.
After putting your thoughts down on paper, leave them there in your journal. Keep your mind empty as you find a comfortable place to sit or lay down and try meditating or praying.
These mindful exercises can relax your entire body and improve your state of mind and outlook on life. They can even enhance the effects of therapy, making them a wonderful addition to practically any kind of cognitive or behavioral therapy. Meditate for at least a few minutes each day to reap the benefits of this calming habit.
4. Move Your Body
Whether you’re experiencing a case of the Monday blues of suffering a severe bout of depression, exercise can ease your mind and boost your mood. When you move your body, your brain releases endorphins that help relieve pain and stress. You might even feel something similar to runner’s high or bliss during and after your workout.
Exercise also stimulates the release of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. This sudden influx of feel-good chemicals can significantly improve your overall sense of well-being and boost your mood. Additionally, these neurotransmitters can improve your appetite and sleep cycles, which often take a beating during depressive episodes.
5. Learn To Say No
If you’re a people pleaser or simply can’t stand the thought of missing out on a fun time, saying no may be one of the most difficult things for you to do. Yet, saying yes to everything and filling every hour of your schedule with meetings, lunch dates, and other responsibilities can negatively affect your mental health.
Therefore, it’s crucial you learn the art of saying no. Limit yourself to a few yesses each week. As your schedule becomes less cramped, you’ll notice your anxiety and stress levels begin to drop. Remember, you don’t have to see everyone today. Your friends can wait. Your mental health cannot.
6. Be Realistic
Making a to-do list can minimize stress and give you an actionable way to achieve your daily goals. However, if you add too many things to the list, you set yourself up for failure. Putting unrealistic expectations on yourself in this way can send you into a mental tailspin and leave you feeling burnt out.
As you plan out your week, consider how much time and energy you have to commit to various responsibilities. Be honest with yourself and plan accordingly. Then, if you still don’t manage to accomplish everything, give yourself some grace and an opportunity to try again. Treating yourself kindly can do wonders for your mental health.
7. Avoid Drugs and Alcohol
When things aren’t going your way and it seems like the whole world is against you, it can be easy to dull your emotions with a bottle of wine or a little pill from your medicine cabinet. While these substances may distract you from your situation for a short while, the effects will soon wear off and you’ll be even worse off than before.
Chronic use of drugs and alcohol can lead to short and long-term changes in the brain, which can cause mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and paranoia. Roughly 7.7 million adults have co-occurring mental and substance abuse disorders. Since these two illnesses directly influence one another, it’s wise to forego drugs and alcohol and find a healthier alternative like exercising or journaling.
Knowing When To Get Help
While the tips above may successfully treat your mental health and restore your good mood, others may need a bit more help. If you find you need professional advice or a listening ear, reach out to your friends and family or contact a therapist. Thanks to advances in telehealth, you may still be able to book an appointment with a specialist, regardless of where you or they live. Just don’t be afraid to reach out.