Two thousand and twenty has been one helluva year. And the pandemic has just been one part of it, albeit the most fear-inducing part that has literally changed how we live. Add to this, massive civil unrest, political turmoil, global demonstrations and a huge loss of civil liberties.
It feels like the world will never quite be the same again
Many people have suffered incredible loss and grief and many others are suffering real hardship. It’s enough to make even the most resilient person seriously depressed and anxious. And what about all the many people who were already suffering from anxiety?
The challenges of 2020 make it the perfect time to cultivate mental resilience
How the hell is that possible I hear you ask? And trust me, I do hear you. How easy to fall into despair right now. And how easy to self-medicate with alcohol and food. We’ve all done it and that includes me. I’ve often found it very challenging over the last few months and some days have been harder than others.
I do know that on the days I nourished my body with nutritious food and laid off the wine, I felt better. I had more energy, slept better and my mood lifted. But there were also days I couldn’t manage that and it left me feeling pretty awful, as well as tired and anxious.
But I decided to be kind to myself, to not judge or expect perfection
And I knew I had to be vigilant with my mental health. I thought I’d share with you some of the methods I’ve used to cultivate healthy mental habits.
This is neurally linked with happiness. Strengthen one and you boost the other according to Dr Mercola. It helps regulate stress while also improving your sleep, heart health and immune function. It further boosts a positive mindset by triggering the release of antidepressant and mood-regulating chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine and oxytocin.
A great way to practice gratitude is to keep a journal and jot down the things you’re grateful for every day or even every other day. If I’m lying in bed feeling a bit anxious and unable to sleep, I’ll think of at least three things I’m grateful for and it always relaxes me. And it’s often the simple things. Walking my dog in the park regularly features high on my list.
Without doubt a daily meditation will have a profound effect on how you’re feeling and I’ve written about the difference it makes to the brain several times. I highly recommend downloading an app like Headspace. It makes it so easy even if you’ve never meditated before. You can choose the amount of time you wish to meditate for. Even 3 minutes will do. I usually just go for 10 minutes but if you can do longer even better. It will slow down your breathing, tame your thoughts and calm your system.
See my article on the power of meditation: Anti-age your brain
It has a similar effect to meditation in that it will calm a stressed mind or even help if you feel a panic or anxiety attack coming on. The general advice is to breathe in deeply and breathe out slowly. So you could breathe in for 4 and breathe out for 6. Even a couple of minutes will help calm down your system. Five minutes would make a real difference and 10 minutes will hopefully leave you in a state of Zen. So simple and can be done anywhere, any time.
How you think:
This is about mindfulness and has been a big one for me this past year. After reading some books on the subject and doing a few sessions with a cognitive behavioural therapist (CBT), I learned how negative thinking can be learned and unlearned.
We so often catastrophise things
We let our minds rush off on a drama focusing on the absolute worst that can ever happen and probably will NEVER happen. Once you are aware of the process you become able to catch it and choose to stop this way of thinking. Switching on your gratitude helps as it diverts your mind to something positive. Another helpful thing which will take you out of your mind as it dwells on the past or the future and bring you into the present moment, is to concentrate on all the sounds around you. Then all the smells and then what you can see. I suggest finding some books on mindfulness. Just google it and go for the one you are drawn to. The first one I read came for free in a magazine.
Here’s a full article on mindfulness: The power of mindfulness
I do love my exercise and even through lockdown, I found a way to keep going. I invested in some weights for the house, started doing workouts on YouTube, did yoga by Zoom and walked my dog every day. Do not underestimate the endorphin rush from any form of exercise. And with all that lockdown eating, you better keep moving baby.
I also discovered the joys of house cleaning
Words I never thought I would say. But it focuses the mind, is a form of exercise and the end result is a sparkling and fragrant house.
See my previous article on this: Cleaning-better than prozac
If you are feeling lonely, isolated, depressed or anxious, I urge you to consider getting a pet. Or even if you just want to inject more love into your life. I got a puppy a year ago and the joy she has brought into our home is priceless. We all love our little Gigi to bits. Every single dog owner I know is completely besotted with their pup. Whatever you decide on, you’ll get countless hours of entertainment and something to make you smile every day. As I’m writing this, Gigi is curled up on my lap, making typing a bit tricky. But I don’t seem to mind at all.
You may be doing all (or perhaps none) of the above and are feeling fine in which case good on you. Or perhaps you know about these things but can’t quite find the motivation and are not sure it’ll work for you. Well, until you give it a try you’ll never know. Maybe start by trying one of these things? And if it’s too hard to decide which one, then print out this page and throw darts at it. Wherever the dart lands, that’s what you start with. Deal?