It’s no secret to anyone in my life that I love the Holidays. I love decorating my home, listening to Christmas music, attending parties, and shopping for the perfect gift. But all of this requires A LOT of work and social interaction, and that can be exhausting!
In years past, I didn’t take the time to care for my mental health. But now it’s a must. It’s taken me a few years to make my mental wellness a priority. I’ve listed a few things I do to stay well during this chaotic time of year.
1. Identify the exact emotion.
This sounds simple enough right? But I’ve noticed that I’m often feeling more than just the basic emotions like, sad, mad, or anxious. My emotions are often more complicated and layered. It can be so hard to know exactly what you are feeling, I use the feelings wheel to help me determine what I’m experiencing in the moment. I’ve found that once I identify exactly what I’m feeling I find it easier to handle.
2. Move my body.
I try and get in physical activity a few times a week. Lately, I’ve been taking walks and then doing a few minutes of running after. To help me run, I use the free Nike Run App. It’s incredible and has tons of audio guided runs. If I’m not in the mood to run, I log my walks using the Map My Walk App. I find that logging my walks helps keep me motivated. I love getting my 10,000 steps in.
3. Connect with a peer.
One of the things that’s helped my mental health the most is chatting with someone who understands what I’m going through. That’s why the WhiteFlag App has been an incredible find for me! This app connects you to other people who share your lived experiences. You simply download it, create a profile, and you are immediately matched to people who will understand you and are ready to listen and support you without judgement. The app is free and can be found in the Apple Store or Google Play Store.
4. Meditate/get still.
I live with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and that means my mind races a lot. My thoughts sometimes spiral out of control. One of the things that helps me manage my anxiety most is taking 10-20 minutes a day to mediate. I love doing guided meditations using the app Calm. I also use from the app Insight Timer for free meditations.
5. Set boundaries.
Learning to set boundaries has taken me a long time, but it’s truly been life changing. There are all kinds of boundaries we can set. The most helpful boundaries I’ve set so far are between family, friends, and work. I check in with myself often. I’ve learned to say no often. It was hard at first, but so worth it.
6. Schedule down time.
All of us are busy this time of year. It’s easy to stay busy from the minute we wake up to the minute we lay down to go to sleep. I review my calendar for the week on Sundays and find small blocks of time to schedule time for rest. I physically block the time off on my calendar as well. During this down time, I try and take a nap, read, or go for a walk.
7. Watch what I consume.
I love coffee and tend to over caffeinate, which unfortunately makes my anxiety worse. I try and limit myself to one cup of coffee a day, and I do the best I can to avoid sugar. (It’s hard given all the delicious food this time of year, but so worth it!)
8. Go to therapy.
I go to therapy once a month even when things are going well. I find that going to therapy on a regular basis helps to keep my mind in the right place. It’s helpful to have a safe place to share my thoughts and frustrations.
9. Identify triggers.
I’ve been living with a mental health diagnosis for almost ten years now, and in that time, I’ve learned to pay attention to my triggers. I know what situations, or people may trigger me, and I work to avoid them. I’m also in tune with my body and know when I’m on the verge of an anxiety attack. This has taken time and practice but has been life changing.
I stretch a few times a day, and make sure I do a short yoga routine once a week. There are some amazing yoga routines that help alleviate my anxiety. Here’s an easy routine I use frequently.
11. Connect with a friend.
I have two friends that I am in regular communication with. We text or call and check in with each other. I try and call or see one friend a week even if it’s just for an hour or so. I’ve found that interacting with my friends for even a small amount of time really boosts my dopamine levels.
Managing my mental health is hard work that I try and do daily, and I don’t always do it perfectly. But, I’ve found that when I do most of these on a consistent basis my mental health is in a much better place, and my overall quality of live improves.
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