2020 is the year that never stops giving…
…we’re seeing fires up and down the West Coast of the USA right now…
…we’re all well aware of the current pandemic, which has heightened all of our emotions…
…we’re now a few weeks into school, children are off and on quarantines and plenty of parents, and teachers, are overwhelmed with a sense of a loss of control– the question pressed upon their minds “How do I balance the emotional needs of my children, while protecting them physically from the virus?”…
…Fall is coming, and news headlines are reminding us of the need to ‘hunker down’ indoors during the colder flu-season months, which means less time outside in the sun, and probably less socializing with others than we’d like…
It’s no wonder we’re feeling like our head just keeps getting pushed underwater.
In this article I want to share with you five ways to help you get back up every day… even if for only a few minutes a day… It all adds up and has a massive cumulative effect on your peace and serenity . Especially right now.
1) Hobbies: Focus On Activities That ‘Light You Up’
Right now we’re all soaking up as much sun as possible outside. I’ve seen friends and families sharing pictures from out on a scenic hike, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed taking my furbaby Henry out for a long walk every morning around our beautiful neighborhood — enjoying the warm morning sun, and Clark and I just learned about the health benefits of ‘grounding’ (see documentary here).
There is a false belief that lies hidden in the back of our minds, that tells us that we are only worthy if we’re keeping busy with a smile on our face. The truth is, we are worthy even before we wake up for the day. It is vital for our personal well-being that we carve out, in every single day, private time for ourselves to focus on what ‘lights you up’.Becky Cooper
We cannot make every single day only about what we feel we have to do, or need to do. We literally NEED, for our mental and physical well-being, private time for just ourselves. It’s equally as important as the food we choose to eat; we need time to relax, and give ourselves the same love that we so freely give to others. What we truly need to do is find ways to light that inner flame that reminds us that we matter – not just everyone else – we do too! In this way we find a way to keep level-headed and personally satisfied and fulfilled.
These activities are commonly talents or hobbies we enjoy – not necessarily those that make us money. Sometimes they will involve interacting with others. For example, here are a list of activities that help me feel better, and ‘light me up’:
- Drawing & Painting – give yourself a ‘sketch a day’ challenge!
- Writing Out How I Feel (journalling, blogging, sharing a written post on Facebook).
- Spending one-on-one time with my nieces and nephews.
- One-on-One time with family or a friend, talking on the phone or meeting up for lunch – or just a drive.
- Diamond Painting.
- Cleaning (difficult to get started, but feels so good when finished!).
- Going for a walk or play time with my dog Henry.
- Going out for a date with Clark.
- Reading a book.
“Decades of research have demonstrated that in people with dementia and other progressive neurological diseases, the ability to create art remains long after speech and language have diminished. Research has also shown that creating visual art can reduce stress and promote relaxation in people who are hospitalized or homebound due to illness…“The Healing Power of Art” – Harvard Medical School
…Recent research suggests that to stave off cognitive decline, doing creative activities may be more effective than merely appreciating creative works. A 2017 report from the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging indicated that people over 70 who did crafts projects had a lower risk of developing mild cognitive impairment than did those who read books. In a 2014 German study, retirees who painted and sculpted had greater improvements in spatial reasoning and emotional resilience than did a similar group who attended art appreciation classes.”
Your activities of what truly light you up may look different. You may be enthusiastic about working on a puzzle, playing a musical instrument, riding horses, going on a hike out in nature, exercising/fitness, or baking. Maybe you’re into crafting – which is way fun too!
Take a few minutes today to write down some ideas of what you feel you can include in your every day activity, and place this reminder where you will see it later in the day (maybe on the fridge, or next to your pills/vitamins), and then make it a priority to include one of those activities in tomorrows schedule and the following days thereafter.
These activities don’t need to take all day. Most of us all can afford ONE HOUR to ourselves, we owe ourselves that much. Make it a mental health priority. Remember, you can carve out time FIRST in every day, schedule that time in, and make it happen! Make it a normal part of your every day.
There are activities most of us enjoy – namely watching a favorite show or movie, or playing games (neither of which are bad – those are great for ‘cave days’), but I would hope that we focus here on activities that leave us with a feeling like we accomplished something or made a valuable connection with someone else – these are longer-lasting, more substantial emotions that we’ll receive that help uplift us, not just distract us.
2) Weighted Blankets, Ice Packs & Sun Lamps
With the coming Fall and Winter, many of us will be looking for ways to find relief from the stress that will be weighing on our mind having to stay indoors, and the goal is to keep our immune systems as strong as possible. Stress is an enemy to our immune system, so we need to armour up and get ourselves prepared.
“Stress responses increase strain upon circulatory system due to increased heart rate etc. Stress can also affect the immune system by raising blood pressure…“Stress, Illness and the Immune System” – Simply Psychology
…Stress can also have an indirect effect on illness as it is associated with all manner of bad habits (coping strategies), for example smoking, drinking alcohol to excess, poor diet due to lack of time, lack of exercise for the same reason, lack of sleep etc.”
Meditation is a great way to help relieve your body and mind of stress, but sometimes we need some added – immediate help to lower our heart rate and force ourselves to relax – and help elevate our mood.
I have found 3 simple solutions to add to my ‘Mental Health First Aid’ kit, and they have been very reliable as a quick remedy:
Studies have shown weighted blankets to help with not just anxiety, but also for sleep disorders, those who struggle with ADHD, and even Autism…
“Stress and anxiety can cause a sleep disorder to begin with, or they can make existing problems worse. However, you don’t need to have a disorder for stress and anxiety to affect your sleep. Anxiety about the next day’s test or presentation can keep you up at night” explained Martin L. Levinson, MD, FACP, FCCP, physician at Penn Sleep Center Cherry Hill.
Because the pressure from weighted blankets prepares your body for rest by calming your heart rate and breathing, they help your body to calm down enough to get the sleep it needs so you can wake up feeling refreshed.”“More Than Just a Fad: 4 Ways Weighted Blankets Can Actually Help You” — Penn Medicine
ICE PACK ON THE CHEST
Whenever I feel anxious or overwhelmed, I have found a quick remedy to help make it easier to breathe to be ice on my skin. I reach for an ice pack from the freezer (they are less messy than an ice cube) and lay it directly on my skin on my chest.
“This technique can help you divert your attention away from a panic attack, especially if you’re in the throes of a particularly intense attack. Take out an ice cube and hold it to your hand for as long as you can (you can put the cube in a paper towel). Then, place the ice cube on your other hand. This focuses your mind on the discomfort, de-escalating your symptoms.”“How to Halt and Minimize Panic Attacks” – PsychCentral
Sun lamps are often used to help treat SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) / Seasonal Depression.
“The light from a sun lamp is believed to have a positive impact on serotonin and melatonin. These chemicals help control your sleep and wake cycle. Serotonin also helps reduce anxiety and improve mood. Low levels of serotonin have been linked to depression.”“Do Sun Lamps Really Lift Your Spirits and Treat Seasonal Affective Disorder?” – Healthline
“People with vitamin D deficiency may also use a sun lamp. Vitamin D helps the nervous system, muscles, and immune system work properly. It also helps the body absorb the calcium that it needs to keep the bones healthy.”“Sun Lamps: 5 of the best” – MedicalNewsToday
Your sun lamp should be at least 5,000-10,000 lux light intensity. You only need 10-15 min, 30 minutes max, a day of indirect exposure. Place the light above your line of vision to maximize the amount of light that reaches your eyes – but not directly into your eyes.
These are the two lamps that I have, and they have worked great for me!
3) Get Lost In A Book or TV Show
Sometimes we need a rescue remedy when our hobbies are not satisfying us and we’ve reached our max-capacity of stress. Reading a book or watching a TV show can be a great way to ‘check out’ of this world and dive into someone else’s drama or exciting storyline that helps remind us of a better time in life, or ideal life of imagination and fun. Sometimes we need some validation for the way we have been feeling, and a book or show can do that for us. I feel this is important to help give our brains a break from reality – a safe way to escape. 🙂
I’ll share below a list of some of my favorite authors/books, and my Top 10 favorite shows to help you get started making your own list 🙂 Please share your favorite shows and books in a comment below!
- Anita Stansfield – I love all of her books! If you want [clean] romantic drama, she’s a great author! I especially love her First Love & Forever series, and Gable Series books.
- Silent Souls Weeping by Jane Clayson Johnson
- Great and Terrible by Chris Stewart
- Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander III M.D.
- The Message by Lance Richardson
- Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
Top 10 Favorite TV Shows/Movies for Quarantine Escape
- Ever After – there are few movies I could watch over and over, and this is definitely one of them!
- Steel Magnolias
- Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman
- Anne With An “E”
- The Crown
- Call The Midwife
- Downton Abbey
- The Chosen (this can only be watched through an App you install on your phone)
4) Peaceful Music, Bubble Bath, Dark Chocolate
There is an app I have been using to play relaxing music during my Morning Routine, to help me start my day on a relaxing and positive note. I have been so impressed and pleased with this app, because it gives me an endless variety of choices of nature sounds, meditation music, study music, cafe music, etc etc– sooo many choices! It’s called ‘Relaxing Music’ by OuiApps . I love it, it’s been my favorite music app for music to help you focus and chill out. 🙂
My therapist and I discovered in one of our sessions a new ‘tool’ for my Mental Wellness ‘toolkit’ when I have an emotional meltdown — take a bath/shower to symbolically ‘wash off the bad feelings’. If you get to that breaking point and you are just ‘done’, try taking a bath to ‘wash it off’ and also as a way to ‘own your space’ when you feel you can’t get a minute to yourself. 🙂
Did you know that Dark Chocolate is actually good for your mental health?
“Eating dark chocolate may positively affect mood and relieve depressive symptoms, finds a new UCL-led study looking at whether different types of chocolate are associated with mood disorders...“People who eat dark chocolate less likely to be depressed” — Neuroscience News
…it was found that individuals who reported eating any dark chocolate in two 24-hour periods had 70 percent lower odds of reporting clinically relevant depressive symptoms than those who reported not eating chocolate at all. The 25 percent of chocolate consumers who ate the most chocolate (of any kind, not just dark) were also less likely to report depressive symptoms than those who didn’t eat chocolate at all.”
5) Write It Down: Get it Out of Your Mind On Paper
Not only is journaling a proven helpful benefit for your mental well-being, but more important than any other time in our life, right now during a pandemic we need to keep ourselves as healthy as possible – and make sure our immune system is strong…
As mentioned earlier, stress is an enemy to our immune system. Studies have shown that carrying around negative thoughts, our ‘to-do’ list, life goals, and all other repetitive thoughts — in our mind only, stresses our immune system, causes anxiety and depression, and damages our overall well-being. By writing everything down, each day, dramatically reduces the stress-hormones…
“In fact, a study showed that expressive writing (like journaling) for only 15 to 20 minutes a day three to five times over the course of a four-month period was enough to lower blood pressure and improve liver functionality. Plus, writing about stressful experiences can help you manage them in a healthy way.”“5 Powerful Health Benefits of Journaling” – Intermountain Healthcare
If the thought of writing a “dear diary” type journal ignites zero interest to you, or you doubt you’d be able to keep it up, good news is that there are several different ways to journal that are not the traditional ‘Dear Diary, today sucked.’ 😉
Journaling is simply just getting your thoughts OUT of your head – that’s the goal. You can write it out, OR you can audio-record.
There is visual journaling – visual design, or ‘art therapy’. Draw how you’re feeling.
Gratitude Journaling – intentionally writing down a short list every day of what you’re grateful for…
Musical Journaling – tell your story through music…
Other journaling ideas can be found here: Discover 8 Journaling Techniques for Better Mental Health by Psychology Today
Whatever you find that helps keep your head above water, I hope what I’ve shared above can help spark in you some ideas of how you can find HOPE and LIGHT in the coming days, weeks and months ahead. If you have any ideas or suggestions to add to my list, please share in a comment below! If you’ve found my list to be helpful, please feel free to share with your friends and family. 🙂 💚