Written by Meg Metzger
We can all agree on one thing: prioritizing our mental well-being is tricky. While some of us are better equipped than others to handle the ups, downs, and unknowns of evolution and adaptation, we all struggle at some point or another, along the way. So, what drives us to want to better ourselves if it’s so dang difficult? Well, the specifics vary for each individual, but what it boils down to is leading a life of purpose, fulfillment, and equanimity.
When we can find peace and joy in our day-to-day routine, we thrive. We tend to be nicer, more productive humans when we prioritize our well-being, which then creates a ripple effect on our children, our humanity and our environment. Don’t think for a second that your self-care routine is a selfish act - by taking care of yourself, you are impacting the world as a whole. No pressure!
Recognizing that the broader topic of mental health is incredibly complex, for the purpose of this brief article we will be focusing on natural ways to manage chronic, mild to moderate stress and anxiety.
In our busy, overwhelming society, where our attention is constantly being pulled in 100 directions, it’s no wonder we are suffering. Between keeping up with multiple social media and news apps, to unrealistic career expectations, to the constant pressure to look perfect all the time, we are often lead down a lonely rabbit hole. But don’t worry, you are not alone, and it IS possible to find calm amongst the chaos.
So, let’s really break this down. The first step in developing a mental wellness routine is gaining awareness of our thoughts. More often than not, we are functioning on auto-pilot, going through the motions of our daily routine and ignoring everything else. Have you ever driven to work and forgotten how you arrived there? Yeah? You’re not alone.
Spacing out is a comfortable place to go when we are inundated with reality. It’s important for you to be curious. What is really going on up there in that beautiful brain of yours? Sit with yourself in silence at least once a day and observe the thoughts that come pouring through. No need for judgements here, observations only.
Notice the emotions that pop up. You may feel anxiety, joy, sadness, irritability, or others tied to the thoughts that arise. That’s okay, that’s why they are called feelings - we are supposed to feel them. When you are done, take a moment to journal your experience and see if you learn anything about yourself.
Befriend Your Thoughts
After we gain self-awareness, we can practice self-acceptance. It’s normal to want to avoid tough emotions such as anxiety, and when it comes a knockin’ we often close and padlock the door to try to get it to go away. Next time it re-turns, try inviting it in for tea. You can even give it a name and an identity.
It may sound counterintuitive, but when we befriend our toughest thoughts and emotions, we can better compartmentalize them, making it easier to find solutions. And don’t forget to offer yourself some compassion. This stuff isn’t always easy.
Nourish Your Mind
Some other ways you can feed that sweet mind of yours include getting back to nature, connecting with loved ones, eating whole, nutrient-dense foods, moving your body and getting adequate rest. Our brain is an organ, so physical nourishment is just as important as tending to your soul.
Remember, we are aiming for progress here, not perfection. Take things one day at a time and be gentle with your-self as you explore the depths of your mind. This recipe of awareness, acceptance and compassion is the essence of a mindfulness practice. Practicing every day, even for five minutes at a time, will eventually lead to a routine. And one that you may even start to look forward to.