With everything going on in the world today, it can be difficult to maintain a positive outlook. In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, I want to dedicate this week's email to addressing mental health in respect to overall health.
Everyday-stress has become normalized for many of us, but when mild stresses turn into chronic stress, our physical AND mental health suffer.
The good news is that there are tools at your disposal to cope with difficult situations that cause chaos in the mind. Fortunately, science and research have shown us that there are certain practices that can essentially rewire the way our brains operate and help us build healthier, more productive thought patterns to embrace positivity.
When it comes to being aware, and in control of your mental health, mindfulness and self-care go hand in hand. Before you start taking steps to control the way your mind reacts to difficult situations, it’s important to be conscious of the chaos and how it affects you. Then, you can take measures to mend or re-direct your cognitive process.
Historically, we haven’t—as a society—been taught to give our mental health the attention it deserves. As a result, we’ve learned to sweep issues under the rug, grin and bear it through toxic relationships, and overload our schedules because we’re afraid to say ‘no.’
Take a moment to consider different factors, people, and situations that could be causing you excessive and unnecessary stress.
Whether we’re born into families with difficult people, or we find our way to them through friendships, partners, or co-workers, it’s challenging to know how to best respond to someone who brings negativity and unhappiness into our lives. One of the first things you can do is realize that the behaviors being presented to or reflected at you are NOT your fault. The way that others cope with their feelings is part of their mental health and is not a reflection of who you are. While we can’t control every interaction we have, it’s our job to develop firm and clear boundaries about what we will and won’t tolerate. Not all friendships are meant to last forever, and that’s fine. While you shouldn’t casually discard friendships over minor arguments or inconveniences, you should grant yourself permission to move on from relationships that no longer nourish and support you. If you feel exhausted just by the idea of hanging out with someone, it’s probably a sign that you should move on. Friends are hard to part ways with, but family members are even harder. One of the best recommendations I can offer is to set limits on the amount of time you spend interacting with toxic people. Make sure to keep any conversation positive, pleasant, and focused on that person. By keeping the focus of conversations on them, you’re purposefully keeping yourself safe from unwanted drama while maintaining the relationship – if that’s what you want to do. Now that we’ve covered the difficult relationships, I’d like to take a moment to remind you how important it is to keep people close who love and support you. Any positive connections you can curate will help bring peace to your mind.
Overloaded Schedules: In order to cut down on chaos in your life, make it a priority to keep your plate filled with the right amount of work that your mental health can handle. Many times, this means learning how to say ‘no.’ Sure, you might feel guilty the first few times you turn down the people who ask you for favors, but it will get easier with time. As you practice, remind yourself why you’re saying no. Offer those reasons to the person if you feel comfortable doing so, and remember that by saying ‘no’ you’re in turn saying ‘yes’ to things that you DO want to spend your time and energy on – because there’s not enough time to do it all! Your Space: Now let’s focus on you and your space. If you’ve ever watched a home-makeover show, you know how much a physical space can impact mental well-being. From a cluttered bedroom to a poorly-lit office space, the spaces that you spend time in directly impact your psychological health. My three favorite ways to make a space feel better? Ditch the clutter, add more light, and bring life to your space with plants. While you’re refreshing your space, bring in colors, pictures, quotes, and anything else that brings you a little bit of joy when you look at it. Tools for dealing with the chaos: Exercise is great for the body, and if you want to take an extra step to connect the body and mind, yoga is a great option because the practice focuses heavily on the breath. The asanas—or movements/poses—turn the whole practice into a kind of moving meditation, which is proven to combat stress. If yoga’s not your thing, that’s okay! Find something that serves as an outlet to focus your mind in the present moment that you can turn to when you’re feeling stressed. Whether it’s cooking, crafting, coloring, petting a cat, tending to a garden or a houseplant, taking the time in your day to bring your mind back to the present moment is what mindfulness is all about. While it’s important to learn ways to cope with stress, your goal shouldn’t be to distract yourself. Instead, find ways to release your thoughts, worries, and anxieties. If you have the means to connect with a mental health professional, do so. We are our own worst critics, and after decades of bullying ourselves, our mental health takes a toll. Next time you start thinking destructive thoughts, stop and list out a few things you’re grateful for or appreciate about yourself. You can also try writing your thoughts in a journal – getting them out of your mind and into solid thoughts will help you gain some new perspective. Speaking of journaling, one of the best ways to train your brain to think more positively is to practice gratitude regularly. Gratitude rewires our brain, so we become more likely to focus on the positives than the negatives. We’re not going to become ignorant of danger if we appreciate the positives for a little while, but we will become more open to the good. Check out Firefly's Recharge Your Body Battery online course, which includes yoga practices, guided meditations and journaling practices. Use coupon code MAY25 to get $25 off when checking out.