I’m going to be honest: My mental health has been struggling for the past few years. I’ve always prioritized therapy, stress relief, and general mental health since my first panic attack at 13 years old, but it feels like an extra challenge RN. Like most of the world, a pandemic, an overpacked holiday season, scary headlines, and an extremely busy work schedule have left me feeling drained, exhausted, and anxious. Throw in the added guilt of ditching resolutions or the sadness of post-holiday blues, and it’s no wonder the most depressing day of the year is on Jan. 17.
I urge you to focus on your mental health even more than you typically do right now: take your sick days when you just need a break (and don’t feel guilty!), schedule extra sessions with your therapist, and make small changes to your routine to give yourself grace and extra care. If you’re looking for some inspiration, I’ve made some recent changes that have drastically helped me through this bleak time of year. Read on for five minor changes that have majorly improved my mental health:
1. Incorporating CBD into my daily routine
Important PSA: If you have not hopped on the CBD bandwagon to improve your focus, energy, stress relief, and even anxiousness, you are seriously missing out. CBD has made a huge difference in promoting a sense of calm and stress relief without making me tired or have lower energy. Whether I’m stressing about an overpacked schedule or huge meeting at work or just feeling a little extra anxious lately, CBD is my secret ingredient.
We love Equilibria because their products are high quality, organically grown, and made without GMOs, heavy-metals, and pesticides—it’s basically like the farm-to-table version of CBD. I’ve been adding the Daily Drops to my morning coffee for about a year now, and it has made a huge difference in my overall stress relief. Also, when I’m feeling moments of stress or anxiousness come on (like before big meetings or when I did too much doomscrolling on social media), I rub the Calming Roller onto pulse points .
2. Practicing self-love (actively)
At the risk of sounding dramatic, you should know that I transformed my confidence, stress, and energy levels when I realized that self-love is a practice that requires work, not something that happens when you achieve a pants size or job title. Self-love is a skill, not a circumstance. It’s a muscle that needs to be worked repeatedly in order to make it stronger, and once I started working that muscle, my mental health changed.
For examples of “working the self-love muscle,” I view every negative thought, moment of self-doubt, or criticism that comes up like a practice round to improve self-love by recognizing the thought and choosing a more positive thought instead. I also pick one new affirmation every day to repeat to my reflection in the mirror and keep an ongoing list of things I love about myself. Most importantly, I make an effort to act in a way that I’m proud of: eating and moving in the way my body deserves, being genuinely kind to other people, and finding more passion in my work life. When I genuinely care and love myself, my stress and anxiety levels are so much better.
3. Making a daily list of top stressors and then fixing what I can
Many people avoid facing their stressors or sweep them under the rug until it comes out in moments that wouldn’t typically cause a ton of stress, like your roommate leaving dishes in the sink or your boss scheduling an extra meeting. I’ve found that spending a few minutes every day or week identifying and writing down my top 10 sources of stress drastically helps me feel more in control. When I know where my stress is coming from, I can find solutions. I also take my top stressor and come up with five things I can do right now to minimize it (and then actually do them). If some of my stressors aren’t solvable, it’s also helpful because I can begin to accept what cannot be changed. Accepting life circumstances as they are can also help ease stress, even if you can’t actually change them (because you can always change mindset).
4. Getting outside more often
Full disclosure, of all my other mental health changes, this one was more so forced upon me. Getting a dog changed my life in a lot of ways: Besides the obvious unconditional love, I’m getting outside more (nature calls!). B.L. (“Before Louie”), I went days without stepping outdoors (especially in wintertime). Now that the temperatures have dropped and the weather is gloomy, we’re all less inclined to go on walks during our lunch break or drink coffee on our balconies, but getting outside can drastically boost mental health. Besides the fact that less time outdoors and a lack of sunlight cause seasonal affective disorder, being outdoors can have restoring effects in general.
Forest bathing is a Japanese practice that has been around for thousands of years and is known for its mental benefits, and one study even found that participants felt restored when they just looked at pictures of nature. Whether you’re walking your own dog or just walking yourself (or sipping coffee by an open window—whatever floats your boat), try to spend more time outdoors. If it’s cold where you are, bundle up and take a brisk walk when you feel stressed or get some sunshine first thing in the morning. If it’s too cold where you are, try a light therapy lamp that mimics the effects of the sun (safely) to improve the low energy or seasonal effects you might be feeling due to lack of sunlight.
5. Focusing on enjoyment instead of just survival in moments of anxiety
In the past, my response to anxiety was just to take deep breaths and focus on getting through it. Sure, it kept my anxiety from going into panic attack mode, but it still kept me in a steady anxious state and definitely never relieved negative feelings altogether. Whether it was the fear of getting carsick while on a road trip with my family, stress about waking up early the next day taking over a night out with friends, or even a stressful to-do list at work that seemed to have no end, my default was to focus on just getting through until it was over.
A year ago, I was describing one of these said situations to my therapist when she answered, “But why not focus on enjoying the moment rather than just getting through it?” Mindfulness is a tale as old as time, but I never associated enjoyment as a cure for anxiety. Since I started asking myself “How can I enjoy this?” instead of “How can I get through this?”, my outlook on anxiety has changed. Of course, it doesn’t work for every situation when anxiety gets the better of me, but constantly reminding myself that the purpose of life is to enjoy it provides the shift in perspective I need to get through any workday stress or minor life worry.
This post is sponsored by Equilibria, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board.
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