Most of 2020 has been awful for so many people, with millions dealing with grief, stress, financial difficulties, job losses and isolation caused in the main by the pandemic means that self-care has not been a priority.
Now Christmas is over and the long dark winter months are here – a time that can be tough for many people even in normal times. Now more than ever mental health needs to be a priority, there are things that many of us can do to give ourselves a lift. Here are some tips.
Getting outdoors for exercise can be difficult in winter, a real push is needed sometimes, but the the benefits are massive, just being out is a great way to boost your mood. It is wwell document over the years that our mind and body are interlinked.
Exercise triggers the release of endorphins into the bloodstream, relieving pain and producing a feeling of well-being. Research has also shown that exercise also increases electrical activity in the emotional processing areas of the brain.
It’s vital to keep active to improve your mental health and stimulate your brain. If you don’t exercise, the activity drops. That’s one of the reasons why a lack of exercise increases your risk of anxiety and depression.
Exercise helps parts of your brain regenerate. Even short periods of exercise – just ten minutes – can help. Anything that leaves you slightly out of breath, like a brisk walk, or something like gardening, or a cycle ride, will do.
Adopting helpful habits to stop you over-thinking is one of the best things you can do.
People often dwell on problems, going over and over the same negative thoughts, and If you’ve been worrying about a problem for 30 minutes or more without coming up with a plan of action, or you’ve been going over questions with no answers, it’s time to stop.
The main thing is to shift your focus from worries to practical problem-solving. So stop and ask yourself what steps you can take to address the problem. It’s not easy, of course, to stop yourself dwelling on problems. Some recommend physical activity to help yourself shift mental gears. In any case, it takes some training.
It’s perfectly normal to worry, but many of our worries never materialise. Patients with anxiety found only around one in 10 worries ever turn out to be real problems. One explanation is the way we have evolved. It has made us highly tuned to negativity and danger, as a defence against threats which led to death or serious injury.
Danger is over-encoded in our brains, You can make yourself feel much calmer if you recognise that you’re over-thinking, stop and focus on facts.
SET A NEW TARGET
Setting a new goal or target, can really help pull you through. That could be a big project like learning a language or something as small as trying out a new recipe. If big ideas are too much, start small.
The point is that if it’s outside your comfort zone, and it’s pushing you forward, it gives you a focus and a sense of control. For many people that’s hugely helpful for their mental state. Learning to do new things is frequently how we acquire self-worth. Goal-motivated behaviour is one of the most fundamental ways that we operate.
TALK IT OVER
Covid-19 has made it a lot harder to be with others in person, and winter can make it harder still. That’s a big issue for millions of people and the mental health consequences for some will be serious. So it’s a good idea to maximise the little social contact that is available.
We’re not really designed to be on our own, we’re socially-oriented. We feel better with social contact. Talking problems over when you can is a good idea, but the key thing is how it’s done. Going over problems again and again, just rehearsing how terrible you feel, may not help at all. Talking things through with someone who can help you reframe your problems, and help you move through them can be much more helpful.
Isolated people are more likely to focus on themselves and that can make things worse. So reach out when you can, and if Covid-19 means you can’t do that in person, make that phone call to a friend, or arrange to talk online. All the virtual media cannot replace a hug or kiss from a loved one, but it can bridge the gap and get you thinking and talking about other topics, which can lift your mood.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE PERFECT
Optimists live longer, have better relationships and better immune systems, and the good news is you can cultivate optimism: an inner sense that you can make a difference to your life, and that it’s not all down to things outside your control. How? the number one tip is the principal of don’t be perfect.
In other words don’t wait to do things perfectly at the right time on the right day. That’s even more important in winter when gloomy weather might make you think twice about doing something.
Our inner voice of criticism continually stops us from doing worthwhile things, procrastination is an easy alternative to take. Jump straight into action. Do things and accept that they might initially be done badly. When you do that, most of the time the results are actually are not that bad – and they’re almost always better than doing nothing.
At the start of the day write down three things that you’re grateful for, and at the end of the day three things that have gone well, to force yourself to focus on what’s gone well and why. It’ll fire up the left hand side of your brain which is associated with positivity.
Emotions are contagious, so if you can, gently steer away from negative, miserable people who are constantly complaining or you’ll find yourself becoming one of those people too.
Here’s to your self-care.
Article By: Lindasage.com