8 Good Mental Health Tips for When You Feel Ready to Lose It
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You aren’t alone if you feel like you’re barely holding on by your fingernails these days. Rates of anxiety and depression have skyrocketed since the pandemic, and they were high before the news from Wuhan broke. Good mental health tips can help you relax.
Please take a second to pause, breathe and let out a sign. Your struggles aren’t all your fault or merely in your head. Consider this: millennials and Gen-Zers are worse off financially than their parents, with soaring student loan debt and ever-rising inflation pricing many out of the American Dream.
However, you still have to take care of yourself. Ignoring the issue only makes anxiety and depression worse, as mounting stress leads to emotional dysregulation and poor choices that exacerbate already tough situations. What can you do? Here are eight good mental health tips for when you feel ready to lose it.
1. Learn to Breathe
Yogis know that pranayama or breath work can calm the mind and induce a serene state. However, you don’t need to unfurl your mat to get the benefits. You can practice slow breathing anywhere to get a grip when the panic monkey threatens to hijack your brain.
You have several styles to choose from — any that works best for you will do the trick. The secret lies in your autonomic nervous system. When your sympathetic or fight-or-flight side takes over, your breathing becomes shallow and rapid. Slow, deep breaths activate your parasympathetic or rest and digest side, tricking your body into gradually returning to a calm state. Give one of these patterns a try the next time you feel ready to lose it:
- 5:5 breathing: An easy one to remember — inhale for a count of five and exhale for the same length.
- 2-to-1 breathing: In this pattern, you exaggerate your exhales, making them roughly twice as long as your inhales.
- Boxed breathing: This pattern, popularized by the Navy SEALS, entails inhaling for four, holding for a 4-count, exhaling for four and pausing again at the bottom.
2. Take a Break
There’s tremendous curative value in vacation and recreation, but sadly, most Americans don’t get enough of either. The U.S. is one of only seven nations worldwide that doesn’t provide a single day of mandated parental leave — or PTO for any purpose, like sickness or holidays.
If you’re one of the many whose employer says, “Pshaw” to your basic human need for rest and recreation, you may have to get a bit creative. For example, can you work out an arrangement with a colleague so that your schedules allow you both a few consecutive days off? Can you play hooky early on a sunny Friday and take an impromptu weekend road trip?
If you have any energy to spare, advocate for change. What should you do? Write letters and contact your representatives. The lovely thing about democracy is that the people can create new rules if enough of them care.
3. Sweat It Out
Exercise is perhaps the best stress buster around and can serve as a holistic anxiety remedy. That’s because it mitigates your cortisol levels, a stress hormone that impacts your neurotransmitters. As your cortisol levels rise, your serotonin and dopamine levels decrease, making you feel miserable and edgy, crave fatty and sugary comfort foods and sap your energy like a vampire.
To find the right workout for you on any given day, get a little mindful:
- Are you angry or frustrated at your life or the state of the world? Choose something high-intensity, like wailing on a punching bag in a cardio-kickboxing class or sending your heart rate on a roller coaster ride in HIIT. These activities mimic the “fight” response.
- Do you wish for an escape? Go for a nice, long run or bike ride to tap into that “flight” response.
- Do you want to unplug and unwind? There’s a form of yoga for everybody, from athletic Ashtanga to relaxing yin.
4. Work Those Boundaries
How often do you find yourself putting up with things that you know you shouldn’t? Instead of approaching the issue calmly and rationally, you let your frustration and resentment simmer until you explode — perhaps damaging your career or close relationships in the process.
Setting effective boundaries can help prevent this phenomenon and safeguard your mental health. However, doing so isn’t easy, especially if you didn’t have good models of appropriate boundary setting while growing up. Here’s a crash course on how to handle delicate situations to get your needs met while respecting those of others:
- If your boss keeps putting too much on your plate: “I want to give my full attention to each project. Here’s what I can reasonably handle with my current load. Can you please help me prioritize these tasks so I can first manage the most important ones?”
- If your kids clamor for more of your time while you WFH: “I can’t play with you right now. Here’s what you can do instead, and I promise to take you to the park when I finish.”
- If your partner won’t help with bills or household chores: “Let’s work together to divide the household tasks/expenses. Here’s what I think is fair. What are your ideas?”
5. Or Find a New, Supportive Tribe
Unfortunately, it’s a fact of life that some people are difficult. What can you do if you find yourself with an unsupportive boss or partner?
Online forums scream, “just get out,” but real life isn’t that easy. Still, you can find new, supportive tribe members who can help maintain a grip on your mental health. A workplace BFF can commiserate about unfair working conditions but tread carefully here. Finding someone who works in the same industry but with a different employer might be better. A support team outside of work can help you sort through relationship problems and make an exit strategy if yours is too toxic to continue.
Please remember your job is to uplift and help each other find solutions. Avoid those individuals who only want to complain and find fault in every suggestion for making things better.
6. Go Self-Care Crazy
Self-care isn’t selfish and doesn’t necessarily entail pricey day spas. It’s so vital that the World Health Organization defines it as activities that promote positive health and help you manage existing disease. It entails taking care of your physical and mental needs, including the following four categories.
A Healthy Diet
Fast food is convenient when you’re stressed, but physiologically, it makes matters worse. Foods laden with white flour, sugar, salt and additives spur inflammation, making you feel icky physically and mentally.
Instead, get your meal prep on point — the hour or two you spend is worth it when you have a healthy meal in minutes on busy days. Furthermore, snack smart. Nuts and seeds are chock-full of minerals like magnesium and selenium that nurture positive mental health, so nosh on those instead of salty chips or processed snacks with ingredients you can’t pronounce.
According to the World Health Organization, your body needs movement for roughly 30 to 60 minutes each day. However, you don’t have to get it all at once. If longer workouts don’t fit your schedule, investigate apps or free YouTube videos with shorter programs of five to ten minutes and do them on your breaks.
Quality sleep is vital to positive mental health. Reserve your bedroom for slumber and sex and keep to a schedule — it helps train your circadian rhythms. Ban electronics, as the blue light from such devices, can keep you awake by disrupting melatonin production, a vital sleep hormone.
Everyone needs unscheduled downtime to do what they please. Write this crucial self-care item into your weekly planner, giving yourself at least 30 minutes daily to do what you like. Read, crochet, chat with friends and family — whatever helps you decompress.
7. Make Lists
Much anxiety springs from having too much to do and not enough time to complete it. The problem only compounds when stress makes you forgetful — and you end up returning to the grocery store a second time.
Instead, make friends with lists. Create a daily to-do for the next day as each one draws to a close, tackling your toughest projects first when you have more energy. Use an app like Our Groceries to coordinate shopping lists across family members, making it easy to know what to snag when one of you stops.
8. Embrace Fresh Air and Fur
Finally, it’s impossible to understate the mental health benefits of spending time outdoors. Do so whenever you’re able, escaping to a park or another location with gorgeous natural surroundings to submerge yourself in fresh air and sunshine.
Pets also have stress-relieving properties. It’s so powerful that heart attack survivors who have a dog have a 33% lower risk of death in the year that followed than those who were fur-free. If your lease says, “no pets allowed,” consider volunteering at a local shelter — or getting a two-for-one deal regarding your money woes by starting a side hustle as a neighborhood dog walker.
Good Mental Health Tips
You aren’t alone if you feel like you’re dangling by a thread. It’s tougher to make it these days, and the added pressure has accelerated the rate of mental health disorders.
Be proactive and follow these good mental health tips when you feel ready to lose it. You can sail life’s stormiest seas with the right approach.