I think everyone can agree that it's a scary time to be a parent. I know every time "breaking news" comes on the radio, I feel a twist in my stomach. I told my husband the other day that, I never thought I would need to parent through times such as these.
I've been spending much time talking to friends, family, colleagues, and co-workers about everything. And as I discussed these important topics with them, I noticed there was aneedthat they weren't addressing, and I wasn't addressing for myself either: Mental health hygiene.
Just like your teeth need to be cleaned daily, your hands should be washed frequently, and your hair needs a good scrubbing in order for you to stay healthy, your mind needs good hygiene too.
Your mind is a powerful thing, but it needs to be taken care of just like every other part of your body, or it will begin to fall apart. And if your mind falls apart, everything else starts to fall apart with it. So today, I'm going to give you some quick tips for good mental health hygiene so that you can keep marching forward on whatever battle your currently fighting.
What is Mental Health Hygiene?
Mental health hygiene is the act of caring for your mind. Because the mind controls and powers your whole body, failure to allow your mind to rest, recover, and recharge can lead to much bigger physical health problems like high blood pressure and poor immune system functioning.
Poor mental health hygiene can also be a contributor to mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. Needless to say, just like you take care of your body, you have to take care of your mind too. Here are just a few tips on how you can help take care of your mind during turbulent times:
1) Be aware and slow down.These are emotional times. As such, we tend to "speed up" when under stress. But speeding up will only wear you out faster, increase your stress levels, and drain your reserves. Take time to notice where you are at emotionally, and then slow it all down.2) Move your body.Physical exercise is a key ingredient to good mental health. I prescribe exercise to all my clients because the research shows it's that important. Just 20 minutes a day helps tremendously. Walk, stretch, do yoga, or run around and play with your kids.3) Sleep well. Stress attacks sleep. Have you ever noticed that? When you are stressed out, you toss and turn in bed, maybe have bad dreams, or struggle to fall or stay asleep. It's that stress hormone (cortisol) pumping through your system that is making it difficult for you to sleep.
Avoid watching or doing anything that stresses you out before bed. Instead, consider a relaxing activity, such as reading a fun book or taking a nice bath. Go to bed early and try your best to get those recommended 8 hours! Sleep is important to your physical health and helps recharge those mental batteries.
4) Eat healthy & stay hydrated. Remember that the body and mind are intimately connected. As such, what you put into your body will have an impact on your mind. Let's take a simple example: hydration.
If you are dehydrated, you might feel dizzy, headaches, and fatigue. That's going to impact your mood. (I don't know about you, but when I have bad headaches, I'm incredibly irritable.) Give your body the stuff it needs to help keep you healthy. A good diet and plenty of water can really help!
5)Monitor what you're mentally consuming.The reality is, your brain can only absorb so much bad news before you have a total meltdown. But when bad stuff is happening, we find ourselves glued to the news! It's like that super scary part of a movie where you know the victim is going to get whacked by the bad guy, and youdon'twant to watch but you just can't take your eyes off the screen! Well, time to shut it down. It's important to be informed on what's happening out there, but monitor how much you are consuming, and take it in in small dosages.
I was watching the news frequently, and I noticed it got to a point where I was hardly sleeping. My mind was whirling with fears of the unknown, and the 'what's going to happen next?' thoughts. That lack of sleep was affecting my energy levels, my mood, and just taking its toll. I was one cranky momma.... I realized I was consuming too much bad news, and really needed a break.
So, I pulled the plug on it all! I turned the TV and radio off, and I stopped going on social media all together. (If you're part of my Facebook Group, you've probably noticed I've been fairly quiet). I noticed I needed to practice what I preach and so I slowed it all down. Now, I am monitoring what I am consuming. Needless to say, it has helped me tremendously, and I feel so much better.
6) Take time for regular self-care. Use those coping skills! Don't forget to engage in regular self-care. Gardening, meditation, laughing with friends, journaling or just listening to music can help you decompress and recharge. Whatever helps you to relax, make sure you are scheduling that into your routine. If you have kids, encourage them to do it with you!
7) Take more frequent breaks throughout the day.This doesn't mean you have to stop everything you are doing. Rather, take just a minute or 2 to turn away from your work, close your eyes, and just breathe. If you arego, go, goall day long, you let those stress levels rise way too high! That's physically damaging to your body and will make it hard for you to sleep when the night comes.
Instead, take mini-breaks throughout the day to monitor your stress and try to relax. Taking just 5 – 10 really slow, deep, calming breaths every so often helps to avoid the build-up of stress that may happen over the course of your day. Something as simple as this can help!
8) Practice good physical hygiene too! I don't know about you, but when I take a shower, I always feel better. I know my problems are still there, but the ritual of showering has a way of cleansing my soul a little bit and renews my courage to face another day.
Take care of your body and your body will take care of you. Practice good hygiene, from showering to brushing those teeth! Just like good mental health hygiene is an important part to caring for yourself, caring for your body is an integral part of caring for your mind. Remember, it's all connected! So take care of each part so you can go on to fight another day!
I hope that was helpful to you as we continue on through this journey. These tips are useful no matter what comes your way. Whether you are facing divorce, legal trouble, national emergencies, racial injustice, or family drama, do your best to practice good mental health hygiene.
Model these practices to your kids, and help them learn to practice these things too! Good mental health hygiene helps build resilience against difficult times, and I think we are all in need of that now. Good luck on your journey, and for now, stay healthy, physically and mentally. March on!