by ANN DOUGLAS
The past year has been a tough one, which is why it’s more important than ever to spot the warning signs that your mental health is suffering. That means being on the lookout for physical symptoms (like headaches or stomachaches), as well as any persistent changes to your eating habits, sleeping habits (which could mean sleeping more or sleeping less), activity level, energy level and mood.
If you feel like you’re no longer functioning at your best and your mood is interfering with your overall enjoyment of life, it might be time to make some changes. Here are five simple yet powerful things you can do to start feeling better right now.
1Pay attention to the physical health fundamentals. Ensure that you’re getting adequate sleep, participating in regular physical activity and eating well. When you’re sleeping well, you’re more likely to feel energetic and less moody. When you’re exercising regularly, you’ll sleep more soundly and feel calmer and more alert during the day. When you’re eating well, your blood sugar will be more stable, which can help to minimize fatigue and mood swings.
2Have your own personal toolkit of strategies for managing stress. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to stress management. It’s a matter of figuring out which strategies work best for you. You might want to experiment with relaxation breathing, positive visualization and mindfulness meditation.
3Know how to put the brakes on unproductive worry. Instead of endlessly spinning your worry wheels, either find a way to take action on that worry or give yourself permission to take a mini-vacation from the worry by losing yourself in an activity that you find pleasurable and engaging.
4Learn how to treat yourself with self-compassion. When you’re treating yourself with self-compassion, you’re treating yourself with at least as much kindness as you would extend to a friend who is struggling. It’s a powerful and science-backed strategy for silencing the inner voices of self-criticism and self-blame that only serve to make life harder and can actually fuel feelings of anxiety and depression.
5Tap into support from other people. As humans, we’re wired to turn to one another for support in times of struggle. Let friends and family members know that you’re having a hard time. And if you’re finding things are really tough, don’t be afraid to seek support from a mental health professional. You deserve to feel happier and better.