Let’s be real: Sometimes, it can be hard just to be a human, let alone navigate all the many challenges that come with being a human. And learning how to properly take care of yourself is its own tall order of a task, especially if you feel constant tolls on your stress levels, or even contend with mental health issues like depression or anxiety. But there are little ways to protect your mental health from day to day that make it a little easier to feel like yourself. The first step, my friend, is simply recognizing that caring for yourself and your emotional well-being should always be regarded as a huge priority in your life.
And while the reality of this certainly isn’t ideal, anxiety and depression are becoming more and more common — or, at least, more people appear to be recognizing these issues within themselves these days. A new poll released by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), in which people were asked to rate their anxiety in the areas of health, safety, finances, relationships, and politics, showed that the national anxiety score came out to a 51 on a scale of 100. According to the APA’s report, this is a five-point jump from where we were in 2017 — so yeah, that’s not great.
While the increase in anxiety was seen across people of all races, genders, and ethnicities, when it came to breaking the results down by age groups, millennials were found to be the most anxious of all. In other words, if you’ve been grappling with anxiety issues a lot lately, you’re far from alone. And the good news is, there are so many little ways to take care of yourself each day, and I promise, it’ll all get easier from here.
1. Take A Step Back To Look at The Bigger Picture of Your Stress
According to David Bennett, a counselor and relationship expert, “most of us just take our daily stress for granted, without realizing that many of our accepted routines and choices may be causing significant anxiety.” This might include job changes, juggling work and school, long commutes, lack of sleep, or even moving to a new place where you don’t know anybody, he tells Elite Daily.
It might be hard to see the bigger picture of it all at first, but Bennett says these little things can all easily add up to create a bigger struggle for your mental well-being. However, he explains, once you take a beat and recognize that you genuinely feel stressed out by all of these things, you can accept that the next step might be seeking out some help from a professional or a group — and that that’s OK.
2. Make Sleep and Food Your Top Daily Priorities
“The mind and body need sleep and good nutrition to support both mental and physical health,” Heather Senior Monroe, MSW, LCW, director of program development at Newport Academy, tells Elite Daily. Sure, these are basics, but that’s kind of exactly why it’s worth reminding yourself about these things: They’re part of your everyday routine, and it can be easy to take them for granted, or assume you don’t need to think about them that much.
However, Monroe tells Elite Daily, “it’s essential for everyone to carve out a daily routine of self-care that includes adequate sleep and nutritious foods.” Try including foods that are proven to support mental health in your daily diet, Monroe says, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, and anything high in folic acid or omega-3 fatty acids.
3. Go Outside and Spend Some Time in The Sun
According to Monroe, getting outside during the day is an absolute necessity. “Many of us have personally experienced how a walk outside or a swim in the ocean can shift our mood,” she tells Elite Daily. However, this isn’t just anecdotal: “Research has repeatedly proven that [spending] time outdoors reduces levels of stress, depression, and anxiety,” she explains. “In fact, being outside in nature actually lowers levels of the stress-associated chemical cortisol.”
Even if you’re stuck inside of an office all day, with fluorescent lightbulbs constantly beaming down on you, make it a point to eat your lunch outside, or when you have any free time at all, instead of spending it on Twitter, get up and go for a quick stroll around the block.
4. Wait 20 Seconds Before Posting or Responding on Social Media
Sure, social media has a lot of positives to it, but according to Bennett, “it also allows us to get engaged in discussions that often create anxiety.” He points out that, sometimes, when something upsets you, your immediate response may be to fire off a tweet that will only lead to stressful, back-and-forth arguments with strangers for the rest of the day.
“Instead, count to 20 slowly before posting anything,” he tells Elite Daily. “This will give the emotional parts of your brain time to cool down, and allow the more rational and sensible part of your brain, the frontal lobe, to activate.”
5. Get On That Daily Meditation Habit
“Try using an app like Headspace or Calm to establish a daily meditation routine,” Monroe recommends, adding a helpful reminder to “turn your phone on airplane mode to avoid distractions.” Mindful exercises like meditation, she tells Elite Daily, are proven to boost feelings of positivity, clarity, and calm. And seriously, you can meditate for as little as five minutes, if that’s all you have time for. A little meditation is better than none at all, and five minutes may be all you need to feel a difference in your mental well-being.
6. Don’t Bottle Things Up
Talking about how you feel can be all kinds of difficult, but according to Ashleigh Edelstein, LMFTA, a Texas-based therapist who works with teens, couples, and young adults, it’s a whole lot better than bottling everything up. “Don’t bottle things up until they become unbearable,” she tells Elite Daily. “If you’re having a bad day, it’s OK to tell someone.”
This also means that setting healthy boundaries with people is crucial: “We all have people that drain our mental energy,” Edelstein explains, “so it’s crucial to put up protective boundaries. This may mean limiting contact by giving yourself permission to end a conversation when it’s too much.”
7. Opt Out of Toxic Conversations
Are you scrolling through a long Twitter thread of petty memes, or sitting at lunch with people who are throwing some major shade on a mutual friend? Seriously, Edelstein says, just opt out altogether, for the sake of your mental health. “Protect yourself from toxic [people] by opting out of uncomfortable or gossipy conversations,” she tells Elite Daily — and leave all of it at the door when you go home. That Means no G-chats, texts, or phone calls about that one person no one can stand at work.