Although National Mental Health month is long past by the time September and October roll around, there is never a time in the year when your mental health should be anything less than a top priority.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in every five adults experienced some struggle with mental illness in 2018. While these illnesses range in type and severity, there is no arguing that any experience with mental health is not enjoyable. Furthermore, mental health battles have shown to increase the likelihood of physical diseases such as cardiovascular and metabolic diseases and substance use disorders.
In case you can still, somehow, convince yourself that mental health is not that big of a deal, think about it this way: leaving your mind in an unhealthy place can also force your body into a much more unhealthy place. Not only is your mind the center of your consciousness, but the center of your very being as well. If you don't take care of your mental health, things can start to go downhill even faster.
Take a nap
While mental illness is definitely a real, psychological issue, a lot can be said about the way that your physical state can affect your mental state. That's right, it's a two-way street.
If you find yourself feeling more upset, anxious, or irritable than usual, try taking a quick cat nap. For most people, this will not be a cure-all but it can help the day go a little smoother.
Listen to music
Music therapy is one of the newest approaches NAMI has advocated as an effective form of treatment for individuals struggling to keep their mental health in an optimal place.
While you may not necessarily need to enter treatment for one not-so-hot day, popping in some earbuds and going for a walk (or laying on your bed, if that's what your body wants at the time), can boost your mood.
For a calming effect, look for tracks that have little to no lyrics and soft melodies before you flop onto your bed. If you just want to tune the world out for a little bit, find your favorite playlist and hit the pavement. If you have no idea what you need right now, I highly recommend flipping through Spotify's recommended playlists until you find one that jives with your soul.
As cliche as it sounds, meditation and other mindfulness practices are one of the best ways to fight through a rough day.
Realizing your body's importance in and interaction with the space around it can help your mind recenter by forcing you to think about simple and necessary things such as breathing. It's an old trick, but there's a reason that this practice has been alive since at least the 6th century BCE.
As if there weren't enough trends going around the Internet today, now we have decided to upgrade journaling by adding doodles, stickers, charts, decorative tapes...
But this might not be such a bad idea for people that feel that they have lost all control. Some people find tracking things to be a very stressful thing, but others like to have that grasp on their lives. If you often find yourself thinking that one little thing has thrown off your whole day, start tracking that one thing. When you have a little bit of data from that, ask yourself what made that one little thing happen and why it bothered you so much. In the future, you will be armed to battle that little thing before it has a chance to ruin your entire day.
Not only can you get your feelings out, but you can also write about things that make you happy. Start a bullet journal of quotes, puppy pictures, daily gratitude, movies you want to watch...whatever you want! It's your treatment, tailor it to your life.
Crack open a coloring book
Bust out your colored pencils and your crayons, folks; coloring books are back in style!
At what point in your life do you remember feeling the most relaxed and the least concerned about what anyone else thought? If you're like the majority of adults, you have not allowed yourself to be entirely carefree since your childhood.
All hope is not lost for that feeling, you just have to look between the pages of a coloring book. You may feel a little silly, but science proves that it will be worth it.
Do something nice for yourselfCup Motivation Emotion Self Love Confidence Coffee
I kind of hate that the phrase "treat yourself" has almost become a joke in our society, because it's not a bad way to approach life from time to time.
More often than not, the people that feel the most overwhelmed and anxious get into precarious mental states because they have neglected themselves. Sometimes we get so busy thinking about things we have to do to make other people happy and keep up a positive image that we forget that our bodies need attention.
Of course, I'm not saying you should go on a wild shopping spree and find yourself bankrupt in a ditch, but take a little time to splurge. Buy yourself a cozy pair of socks, enjoy a cup of hot chocolate in a warm bubble bath, or just watch a show on Netflix. Deadlines and responsibilities can wait for at least thirty minutes.
Do something nice for someone else
Alternatively, you can always "feed off of" the happiness of others through random acts of kindness.
Buy your neighbor a nice card and leave it on their windshield, bake cookies for your significant other, offer to lend a hand with yard work. You'd be surprised how amazing you can feel just knowing that you have made someone else's life a little bit better.
Take a hot bath
Perhaps this is another way of treating yourself, but it certainly deserves a special spot on this list because it is one of the simpler approaches.
A candle-lit bubble bath is also the most immersive experience. While the hot water relaxes your muscles, soothing tracks and dim lighting coax your mind into a serene silence. Bonus points for the frothy bubbles because, well, who can resist the fun of clouds of swirling soap.
Eat something you like
Again, this may be another way of treating yourself, but I would be doing a disservice to everyone that struggles with their mental health if I did not remind you that, no matter how terrible you feel, you have to eat.
As someone that struggles with anxiety, I know that food is the last thing on your mind when you begin to feel the world closing in on you. Nevertheless, eating even a quick snack can be one of the best ways to stave off an anxiety attack. Your body will only grow more defensive if you do not supply it with the energy that it needs and some foods even have mood-boosting properties that can get you on the path to a better day in just a few bites.
Not to mention the fact that everyone loves eating their favorite foods.
To quote Reese Witherspoon, via Elle Woods: "Endorphins make people happy."
While it may not be as simple as that, exercise has been one of the most highly recommended treatments for mental disorders such as depression and anxiety for years. Not only will it give you a task to focus on, but it will boost your heart rate and get your blood flowing to make you feel refreshed (yes, even if you sweat like a hog). The sense of accomplishment and the mind-body connection established from exercise can be one of the most effective and inexpensive ways to boost your mood, even just a little bit.
Much like many of the other items on this list, it is also very easy to tailor. If you don't like to run, you can always pick up yoga, weightlifting, pilates, CrossFit...the world is your oyster!
Write it out
It sounds like a no-brainer for writers, but writing about the things that you are feeling can help you understand why you are feeling that way.
Whether or not you enjoy writing "for fun", I highly recommend that everyone try to sit down and wrestle with their thoughts on paper every once in a while. You never know what you are really feeling and how it is affecting you until you see it come to life on paper.
Talk to someone you love
Just like you may not know what's going on in your mind until you write it down, you may not fully understand what's going on until you talk about it.
Whether it's just hearing yourself say something out loud or hearing someone else's perspective, talking to another person about what you are going through can help you find your way back to a peaceful state of mind. Ask someone that you trust and care about to listen to what you have to say. If they care about you, they will take the time to lend an ear. I promise you will get something out of it, even if it's just a good cry.
Meagan Pusser (via Pinterest)
Seriously, think about where you go when you want to learn how to do something new or get ideas.
That's right, most of us go to the Internet. And if you're a female in your early twenties to mid-forties, more often than not, you find yourself on Pinterest when looking for inspiration.
Use this tendency to your advantage! Not only does Pinterest offer a forum for people to share the things that they have found from around the Internet, but to share original ideas and collect them in a neat little digital box as well. Try it out, you never know what new ideas you may find.
Work your green thumb
Some people like to stay indoors when they begin to feel overwhelmed because they can control our environment better that way. But, hear me out: this is probably the worst thing you can do if you want to make yourself feel better. To find an escape from whatever ails you, venture into the great outdoors!
A hefty dose of fresh air and Vitamin D can do a lot of good for anyone, but it's especially important for people that find themselves in a mental funk. If you struggle with nervous and fidgety hands, stick them in the dirt.
Well, maybe do a little more than just play in the dirt (unless that works for you). Hit up your local gardening shop and pick out some of your favorite plants. Planting a pretty bed of flowers will give you a sense of purpose and remind you to smile once the flowers have taken root and begin to bloom. Planting fruits and vegetables will give you a sense of accomplishment and a wide variety of nutrients once your plants are ready to harvest. It may not provide the most instant gratification, but everyone can benefit from exercising their green thumb from time to time.
Read a book
Reading offers a variety of benefits, ranging from improved cognitive ability to, yes, stress relief.
Heck, it has even been shown to help with symptoms of depression. While many studies encourage people to read self-help books to help with their symptoms, it can also be worthwhile to crack open a fiction book as well. Reading allows you to step out of your mind and into the mind of the characters. Sooner or later (if a book is worth its salt), you will find yourself immersed in the plot and turning each page on the edge of your seat, waiting to see what will happen to the characters. Guess what you aren't thinking about while all of this is going on?
That's right. Crack open your favorite book and start to feel your mind wander a little more freely.