People can’t seem to agree on much these days, whether it’s regarding what to watch on Netflix or politics. But, there’s one thing nearly every person has in common: stress. Especially in the face of a global pandemic, we’re all feeling stressed and tired. If we’re not mindful of it, it could take a toll on both our mental health and our physical bodies.
Recognizing Mental Health Awareness Month
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. While 1 in 5 people will experience a mental illness during their lifetime, although almost everyone faces challenges that can impact their mental health. This stat was reported before COVID-19. Considering that stress is at an all-time high right now, one could assume that the ratio may be even higher.
Between 24/7 access to working from home, homeschooling little ones, endless to-do lists, and living in a stormy sea of insurmountable unknowns, most of us are having a hard time finding the time (or energy) to take care of ourselves.
5 Tips to Hack Your Mood
When it comes to diet, sleep, and exercise, having a good and strong routine is linked to improved mental and physical health.
So, the next time that you feel like curling up into a ball on your couch, pulling the blanket over your head, and hiding from the rest of the online world because everything in life is stressing you out, try a few of these natural mood boosters first.
1. Walk it Out.
One proven way to boost mental health symptoms (and one that’s completely free, by the way) is exercise! Easier said than done, we know, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Start small. Changing up your entire routine all at once may not lead to lasting results. So, pick one small thing each week to work on. It could be adding a new, positive habit or cutting out a bad habit. Small changes really do add up.
Tomorrow morning, pour yourself a small cup of joe and head outside for a quick walk before the chaos of your day begins. Exposure to fresh air and natural sunlight has been clinically proven to enhance mood and elevate self-esteem.
In fact, researchers at the University of Essex in England performed a meta-analysis in 2010 on “green exercise.” They found that exercise performed outdoors – for just five minutes – is enough to increase feelings of wellbeing.
Exercise doesn’t have to be long or intense. You may be surprised by how much better you feel once you start moving…and then you may be inspired to do more.
2. Meditate. Don’t Vegetate.
When it comes to “self-medicating” a little happiness, mediation can pay off big time. According to a review published in JAMA Internal Medicine, meditation was proven to be effective at improving anxiety, depression, and even pain.
Add in a dose of gratitude, and the benefits amplify even more. So, why not combine the two?
The next time you have five or 10 minutes to spare, choose to meditate rather than vegetate in front of the TV. Focus on the good things in your life, and you’ll probably end up feeling a little less anxious and a whole lot happier.
3. Sweat it Out
The benefits of exercise are often clear on the outside: lose weight, tone your abs, build muscle, and even improve skin. But, it’s what happens on the inside that is arguably more important.
Breaking a sweat at home can actually make you happier for a number of reasons, but the boost of good ol’ endorphins (those feel-good chemicals) is the most immediate. That intense wave of energy that you feel right after a workout can be addicting. While it may not last all day, scientists have made some pretty interesting conclusions on how exercise can affect your brain over time.
Check out this 2014 study in Frontiers in Physiology that found that regular exercise can help individuals become more resilient to stress. In other words, exercise can help you bounce back more easily from stressful situations.
4. Eat Right.
It shouldn’t really come as a surprise that what you eat can directly affect how you feel. While a giant burger and greasy fries may give you an immediate feeling of satisfaction in the moment, you’re most likely to feel bloated and tired shortly after you’re done.
Intead, when you focus on eating a clean diet of whole, unprocessed foods, you get to not only satisfy your hunger, but also deliver key micronutrients to your body. The result? You get to help keep your body and your brain firing on all cylinders, making you feel better mentally and physically.
If you’re ready to revamp your diet, start with fresh foods that are rich in antioxidants, folate, and B vitamins. Choose foods such as eggs, citrus fruits, and dark leafy vegetables. Be sure to also include fatty fish packed with omega-3s, which can protect against depression.
5. Be Kind to Your Mind
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the outbreak of COVID-19 may be stressful for people. Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in both adults and children.
Here are a few tips to help cope with stress during COVID-19:
- PAUSE. Breathe. Notice how you feel
- TAKE BREAKS from COVID-19 content
- MAKE TIME to sleep and exercise
- REACH OUT and stay connected
- SEEK HELP if overwhelmed or unsafe
Remember to take care of your body and take time to unwind.
- Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate.
- Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
- Exercise regularly and get plenty of sleep.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs.
When life gets hectic, you may be tempted to skip out on the new parts of your daily routine. Just remember, it takes an average of 66 days for a behavior to become automatic (to turn into a habit), but for some people it can take as long as 8 1/2 months. So, don’t give up!
Again, just focus on setting small, achievable goals, and don’t forget to celebrate when you reach them. Stay YOLKED!