By Kristen Harris
I am a big believer in mental health, mental wellness, brain health. Whatever you call it, I think it’s important. We exercise to keep our bodies healthy, why not our brains? I mean, I don’t want to lose any brain capacity, do you? Of course not!
So here are a few ways I work to reduce stress and maintain mental health:
Work It Out. Exercise has many proven benefits–what’s good for the body is good for the mind. My doctor told me the best type of exercise “is the one you’ll do”. Run, walk, lift weights, yoga, dance, jump rope, just get moving. And make it convenient; we’re much more likely to stick with something if we like it and it easily fits into our routine. Personally, I have found that I need a lot of variety because I get easily bored doing the same thing every day or week. I mix it up with yoga, boxing, running, walking, pilates, cardio machines, weights, and yes, hula hooping. Other people love to just run every day. You do you, just do something.
Breathe It Out. Meditation has become uber-popular, to the point that it might seem complicated or off-putting to some people. Don’t stress out about meditating! Keep it simple by just sitting quietly and taking a few deep breaths. If you want to take it further try an app (I like Headspace), guided meditation, or a class. Regardless of the method, slowing down for a few minutes does wonders for my stress, anxiety, nervousness, frustration, anger and more. Sometimes I go into a conference room for a few minutes to decompress before a big meeting or after a challenging conversation.
Talk It Out. Sometimes we need to verbalize our fears, worries, frustrations or concerns; it really helps me to talk through things. Depending on the issue, I might reach out to a friend, spouse, trusted colleague, or mental health professional. I’m totally up for talking to anyone who can help me, and have no qualms about calling in a pro when I think that’s what I need. “Therapy” can sound intimidating like there’s an assumption that something is wrong with you. Just think of it as a really smart friend who is trained and wants to help you.
Write It Out. Whether you keep a daily journal, write in a notebook to work out an issue, or dump all your frustration on a piece of paper then burn it, writing can be very cathartic. It helps me work out issues, solve problems, come up with new ideas, and understand frustrations. Sometimes I just have to get it out so I can let it go. Which leads me to...
...Let It Go. If I can’t fix a problem or change the situation, and it’s just continuing to upset me, at some point I have to ask myself if it’s worth it. Do I want to keep letting this person or problem take up space rent-free in my brain? Am I spending more effort and energy worrying about it than they are? Is this really going to matter 20 years from now, or even 2? It can be easier said than done but often the best course of action for me is to...sing it with me...Let It Go!
Mental health and wellness are at least equally as important as physical health. Take a little time for yourself; you need and deserve it. My experience is that slowing down and doing these activities makes me a better, kinder person.