“Mental Health” and “Mental Wellness” have been hot commodity topics for the last year or so. The concepts of loving yourself, talking about what’s going on in your own life, and getting vulnerable have become more and more socially acceptable (thank. god.). But these “trends”, of expressing your truth about mental health and wellness should not be trends at all. Living this way should be a lifestyle lasting for the rest of time. Because almost every single one of us will go through something at some point of our lives, it is important to keep this conversation open. Not just for girls, not just for teenagers, but all of us.
One of the most difficult parts about these concepts and trends, however is how they are portrayed in the media. Mental health, or mental unhealthiness, should not be glorified or deemed “trendy” like it has been. So to avoid falling into the media-hype around the topics without actually changing the ways we interact with each other and the world around us, changes must be made in our own lives.
Though mental health can absolutely not be fixed by ‘faking it until you make it’ or simply acting happy in order to feel that way, there are some actionable steps we can take to facilitate real change on a daily basis.
Here are 10 tips and tricks to work on your mental health daily. Though they may not be the be-all-end-all of mental un-wellness, they are great ways to get your body and mind moving in a healthy and productive way each day.
1. Yoga, Stretching or Meditation Every Day
As a certified yoga instructor, avid yoga do-er, should-stretch-mor-er?, and definitely one working on my meditation, I can personally attest to the fact that these. Things. Help. Getting up in the morning and moving around- even if it’s just stretching your arms to the sky or trying to touch your toes- for at least 10 minutes can make a huge difference.
Yoga is a fun and active way to calm your mind and body at the same time. Much of yoga is centered around breath. And when a yoga teacher (online or in person) tells you to take a breath in and then exhale, it isn’t just for fun. These breaths are often cued with movement and specifically placed throughout the sequence to facilitate a slowing of your breath and therefore nervous system. Once these functions both slow down, it is natural for your body to calm down too. Plus, getting a nice yoga flow in in the morning helps to feel like your body has moved in a healthy and productive way- perfect way to start any anxiety provoking day.
2. Drink Lots of Water & Avoid Too Much Coffee
Now, I’m not going to sit here and tell you to not drink coffee. Because 1. Coffee is literally delicious and I love nothing more in the world than cozying up on a Sunday morning with my cup o’ joe. But 2. Because it really does help many people muster up some energy to start the morning. However, coffee is extremely dehydrating and can cause an upshot of anxious feelings for many of us. Without a healthy dose of water beforehand and after, a cup of coffee has the potential to be slightly detrimental in terms of mental health and stability. So instead, try tea some mornings and always drink plenty of water to stay satiated and hydrated throughout your mornings.
You might feel like you absolutely need coffee to function, but just try it for one day. And then try it for two. Slowly wean yourself off the caffeine addiction so that you can still drink coffee in moderation when you’re in the mood for it. But try your best not to rely on it because any sort of reliance can be harmful in working on your mental health.
3. Set a Schedule For Yourself
Especially in the completely uncertain world we are living in, any sort of structure can be very helpful for your mental sanity. Each morning, write out a schedule of what you will do that day. Note: it doesn’t have to be what you’ll “accomplish” that day, but simply what you will do. Will you go on a walk? Will you meet up with some friends? Will you finish that homework assignment due next week? Whatever it is, setting a daily schedule will help you stay on track, remembering what to do, and inspire you to keep the day moving. With a list of things you are excited (or sometimes not super excited) about doing, laying in bed all day will be less enticing.
Setting up a daily schedule for little tasks can make all the difference for getting yourself out of bed on the right foot. So start it with something at least a little bit fun (okay, fine. This can be coffee sometimes) so you’re hopping out of bed SANS the anxiety that might want to follow you.
4. Create a Routine
Along with the daily schedule you will set for yourself most mornings, having a weekly routine is also a great way to stay calm and collected no matter what life brings you (… mostly). Plan out your week in advance if you have any big things coming up. If you have classes on Monday, try to make every Monday similar. Though life obviously changes week to week, knowing that most Mondays you’ll go to class from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and then do your laundry around 3 is a good way to stay productive and keep the week moving.
In setting up a routine for yourself it is much easier to settle into whatever life you’re living. If you’ve just moved to college, are starting school again or maybe searching for a new job, the life changes constantly surrounding us can be super overwhelming. But try your best to settle into a comfortable routine so you feel productive and prepared for what’s to come.
5. Nightly To-Do List
Something that has been extremely helpful for me in terms of anxiety and the fear of not being productive is creating a nightly to-do list. Each night, jot down on a sticky note, piece of paper, or in your planner a to-do list of the things you need to get done the next day. If you write these things down, you’ll be sure to see them again in the morning. That way you don’t have to go to sleep telling yourself to remember it when you wake up. Without the pressure to keep something on your mind for hours until you wake up the next day, it’ll be much easier to sleep- something those of us with anxious brains definitely need.
6. Stay Busy with a Creative or Active Outlet
Staying busy is key when working on mental health. As many online classes, social media apps at our fingertips, and so many more factors constantly call our names to retreat to our phones, computers (and oftentimes beds while using these devices), it is super important to stay busy in a different way. “Unplug”, my mom used to always tell me. It is crucial for our own wellness to get off social media and technology for a while. So take some time during each day to stay busy with an activity you LOVE.
Running, painting, neighborhood walks, singing, and so many other activities can be great alternatives to (usually) anxiety provoking black holes on social media. Plus, like stretching and breathing in the morning, doing something active with your body is a great way to let out some endorphins and feel good throughout the day.
And if you absolutely hate exercise like walking or running, 1. Try it with a bomb a$$ playlist and then get back to me, or 2. Try a different creative outlet. Painting, for example, is a super fun way to let your emotions out without barriers… key to staying sane.
7. Self-Love Night Every Week
Schedule at least one self-love night every week. Whether that is on a Tuesday or Sunday, take the time to treat yourself to a healthy night routine. This special one-person-date occasion can include a face mask, a movie night, a cup of hot chocolate or a gourmet take-out dinner from your absolute favorite restaurant. Whatever you decide to do, just remember it is a time for you to unwind. Let the stressors of the next day or the rest of the week (or your life) subside for just a few hours as you take a bath, paint your nails and enjoy The Real Housewives in peace. Taking this single night to allow your mind, body and soul to calm down is a great way to remember just how special life is when you fill it with what you enjoy.
8. Read & Write
Last but most definitely not least on the list of things to try when working on your mental health is to read and write. Reading and especially writing are super therapeutic ways to calm the mind every day. Reading is a great way to learn a little, envelope yourself in a story, or simply relax without turning to social media or a show for entertainment. Reading is calming to the mind and extremely effective in slowing down your day.
Writing can be (but doesn’t have to be!) a bit more invigorating. Try and write at least 4-5 times per week, whether that’s in a journal, on a novel you’re working on, or in any capacity at all. Allowing your thoughts and feelings and experiences to flow out on a page is so satisfying. It allows you to release so much of what you might have been holding on to and create something beautiful in the meantime. If you aren’t typically a writer, just try it for a week. If you don’t like to journal or write about yourself, write a fictional story, research something and write an article. Whatever your reason for writing may be, it will act as a productive and soothing way to start or end your days.
Mental health is hard. That much is definitely true. But that doesn’t mean we can’t take steps to help ourselves find what makes us feel better. So do just that. Find the activities, tips and tricks that work for you. Don’t be afraid to try something totally different, and remember that it’s for yours (and no one else’s) benefit. Working on mental health is an extremely personal thing. So take it seriously, and customize it to what will actually help you. And don’t forget, if you are feeling sad or scared or overworked or overwhelmed… you are most definitely not alone. So talk to those who are willing to help, and help yourself too by finding what you can do to work on your mental health daily.