Let’s be honest. The last couple of years have been hard, and at times, a little strange. We’ve rung in the new year, survived the holiday rush, and made plans for 2022. But, is maintaining your mental health included in your plans?
GIVE YOURSELF GRACE
It’s ok not to be ok. Life happens. Things happen out of your control. No one expects you to be strong all the time, so why pressure yourself to live up to that unobtainable standard?
“Recognize that if you’re not ok, then you’re not ok. Be kind to yourself and give yourself the opportunity to feel the distress, but not stay with the distress,” explained Dr. Robin Lee, professor, and director of Middle Tennessee State University’s Center for Counseling and Psychological Services.
Whether it’s breathing, meditating, taking a bath, writing – whatever – it’s important to know what healthy coping strategies work for you and how to execute those strategies.
“Being sad about things is ok, but establishing some coping strategies, and recognizing what those are, and putting that plan in place ahead of time is important. Knowing strategies like breathing techniques and grounding techniques for when distress is exacerbated, you know how to use those tools,” Dr. Lee said.
“Just find a starting point; there is no right starting point,” MTSU Assistant Psychology professor Dr. James Loveless said, adding, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Just one bite leads to the next, which leads to the next. It doesn’t matter where you begin so as long as you find a starting point.”
GET PLENTY OF SLEEP
We all need it, but sometimes it’s hard to catch eight hours of Zzzz’s every night but getting a full night’s sleep – seven to nine hours a night – plays an important role in maintaining mental health.
“It’s always a good recommendation that before bed people go through some sort of soothing routine – like getting in your pajamas and brushing your teeth. It can also include things like relaxation training skills like diaphragmatic breathing or some type of meditative exercise just to slow your mind as your body prepares to rest,” said Dr. Loveless.
Dr. Lee added, “When a person is sleep-deprived, then any symptoms of anxiety or depression are exacerbated and to the point where we’ve seen situations where folks have almost become unstable – not because of any distress – but because of lack of sleep and because they simply were not getting what they needed.”
GOOD DIET AND EXERCISE
While a good diet and regular exercise can help boost your physical health, it can also help maintain and improve your mental health, too.
“It’s important to make sure people are doing activities they find meaningful or important and pleasurable, or ideally, both. They can be big things or little things, but making them a regular part of someone’s routine is important,” Dr. Loveless explained.
“Eating right and exercising is a coping mechanism. It can be a strategy for helping deal with stress,” Dr. Lee added.
It’s important to take care of all aspects of your life – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Be kind to yourself and be willing to seek help.