Mental health is always an important topic and something I don’t believe we talk about enough.
We all have to regularly manage and be mindful of our mental health, and even more so during these wild times we’re living through collectively.
Having to stay home, wear masks, stay away from people and communities we love, and spend more time online has been challenging for all of us.
Personally, I’m not a highly social person… I’m a highly productive introvert. This pandemic took place when I was already feeling a need to be less involved with people, events, communities, and the world at large. So it hasn’t had as deep of an effect on me as others, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t impacted me.
Not being able to go to the gym…
Not being able to travel to visit family and friends…
Not being able to go explore new places and have new adventures…
Not being able to attend events for inspiration or networking…
Not being able to…
You get the picture, and we all have different things to complete that sentence.
“Not being able to” has dampened the mental health of so many. Even before pandemic times, it was far too easy to fall into depression, anxiety, apathy, or worse. This world is constructed of systems that strip us of who we are, disconnected us from nature, and ask us to give away our precious time in exchange for the money needed to pay for things that never seem to quit getting more expensive.
Phew! Being human is hard.
Everyone needs to tend to their mental health.
Personally, the last few months have been challenging for more reasons than one. Lots of transition, loss of stability and security, moving, and some health issues knocked me off-kilter, and I’ve begun to see the effects of that.
When this happens, I go back to the basics…
Here are 7 things I’m doing (and always do) to manage my mental health:
1. Eating clean.
Diet is always one of the first things I look at when my mental health feels less than optimal.
What am I putting into my body? Is it causing inflammation and agitation like sugar and processed foods tend to do? Or is it nourishing my mind and body, like leafy greens, fresh organic produce, and clean foods do?
It’s easy to turn to sugar, carbs, or overeating when we’re feeling stressed. Food is a form of comfort for many of us and is also an easy way to “stuff” and avoid our feelings. I’ve dealt with emotional eating my whole life (though Acupressure has been a HUGE factor in my letting that go entirely), so if I’m feeling not awesome, I’m usually not eating particularly awesome either.
While I’m not a nutritionist and can’t recommend what’s right for you, I’ve studied food quite a bit over the last decade and know what’s right for me. That includes:
- More leafy greens, big salads, and kale in everything I can
- Green juice, green smoothies, green, green, green
- Cutting out all sugar, sweeteners, processed foods, and gluten
- As much water as I’m able to get in my body
- Vitamins and supplements to round out my nutrition (like adaptogens!)
These things always gives me a near-immediate boost!
2. Sleeping as much as I need.
This is a balance.
When depression creeps up, I tend to want to sleep more, so I’m not talking about napping the days away. I’m talking about going to bed before 10:00 pm each night and letting myself sleep until I wake up (usually around 7:00 or 8:00 am). I also take some herbal remedies to help me sleep more soundly and read books before bed, so I’m not on screens.
When we’re stressed and anxious, it taxes our adrenals which can (and has for me!) lead to adrenal fatigue. Because it stole so much of my life after loss and trauma, I don’t mess with my adrenals. Even if a ton is going on, I make sure to sleep. For me, sleeping until I wake up (an absolute privilege as an entrepreneur, I know) is one thing that helped me heal.
Sleep is critical to our mental health!
3. Movement and exercise.
Honestly, this is the hardest thing to do when we’re not feeling great.
But it makes a world of difference. So many studies show that 20 – 30 minutes of movement every day works wonders for depression, anxiety, and more. That can be walking or running, lifting weights, doing some yoga, or anything else that gets your heart rate up. Breaking a sweat makes me feel so good. I find a way to move, even if I’m fussy and it’s hard.
Back to the adrenals, though, if you think you have fatigue going on there, stick to walking, easy hikes, and gentle yoga. Lifting weights and running can further fatigue the adrenals, which doesn’t help you feel better or heal!
4. Fresh air and sunshine.
Always, always, always.
We’re not meant to be locked up inside all day and night; it’s unnatural. Getting outside and even just sitting in the sunshine for a bit helps tremendously. Breathing fresh air, listening to the soft sounds of nature, and taking our shoes off to ground back into the earth really does reset our nervous system.
Seriously, go outside and take your shoes off.
Lay on the grass or sit on a rock.
Swim in a lake or wade in a stream.
Reconnect to nature and get some vitamin D from the sun. Humans (more specifically colonizers) have worked SO HARD to wall ourselves off from nature. And we’re so ridiculously proud of it too… look at how thick my walls are, how sealed my windows are, how cemented my city is! Massive fail on our part. We need to connect with the elements and the natural world so much more frequently than we do.
Going outside is a must for me, and I make the time for it.
5. Talking to the people I love.
I’m blessed to have a handful of dear friends who are so wise, compassionate, and brilliant. Talking to those friends is healing. We need people in our lives that can hold space for ALL of us—the magic and the madness. We’re human! We all have messes. Messy experiences, messy mistakes, messy feelings and thoughts.
Choose these people wisely.
They have to be people who understand what you’re going through (or let it be what it is even if they don’t)—not trying to fix or change anything about your experience. Not bypassing, brushing it off, or bringing all the attention to their story or experience. People who simply hold space are a gift. You need to be allowed to FEEL FULLY… no matter how confusing, chaotic, or contradictory it is.
If you don’t have that space, join us in Coaching + Community. That’s exactly what I created it for, and we do some cool coaching and healing things too!
6. Self-care to the max.
Self-care is the first thing to go when things feel hard or upside down.
But this is when we need it most!!
I focus on the little things. Wearing comfortable clothes. Lighting candles. Taking bubble baths. Reading. Self-massage. Meditation. If I can, and it’s not pandemic times, I may also get a massage, see a chiropractor, or get some energy work. Anything that settles and nourishes my body and nervous system.
It’s easy to think eating chocolate and comfort food is self-care, but it’s not. Self-care in the food category would be making a delicious and nutritious meal.
7. Clean up my stressors.
There are always things we can clean up!
Energy leaks. Loose boundaries. Excess calls or plans we can cancel or postpone. People who wear us out. Things we don’t enjoy that we don’t absolutely have to do.
Drop it or pause it!
Eliminate as much from the calendar as possible that doesn’t bring joy.
And another thing: stress is a choice.
And nobody understands more than me how annoying and frustrating that statement is. Yet, it’s still true.
Yes, some things are out of our control.
Yes, some days are wildly overwhelming.
Yes, there are awful things that happen to us.
Yes, there are people, obligations, and bills galore.
But stress is still a choice. It’s still a response we choose to have.
Granted, it’s a response we may not be fully aware of making because it’s woven into our programming on a deep, subconscious level. It’s such a normal, expected, and even coveted way of being in our world and society. It makes us feel important and busy or elicits a response of care and support from others. It’s a false “badge of honor” we tout with pride when really, it’s just killing us, our joy, and our peace.
DECIDE not to stress about anything that isn’t literally life or death.
It’s not worth it, and nothing is worth dying over. Stress kills.
Those are my 7 “go to’s” for mental health.
What are yours? What works best for you?
Share below so we can all benefit from each other’s experience!