Tips for Healthy Living

Mental health can and should be a daily practice, taken into consideration more often than “when something is wrong” or when going through a particularly difficult time. Taking care of your mental health is a preventative form of care and by incorporating daily rituals and practices into your life, you can give your mental health the attention it deserves.

Here are nine things you can do to take care of yourself so you can take care of others:

Take a mental health day. You know yourself best. If you feel that you need a break, take one. If you don’t have vacation or paid time off, consider taking mini breaks throughout the day to renew your energy and spirit. It’s okay to slow down and not feel rushed to cross everything off the to-do list at once.

Switch up your evening routine. Try winding down in a different way than you typically do if you’re feeling particularly stressed or “off.” Think about what relaxes you and adopt that into your routine: reading a book, taking a long bath, chatting with a friend.

Adopt a vacation mentality. Put your phone setting on do not disturb between 9pm-7am. Go swimming instead of sweating at the gym. Walk in the park with a friend during lunch. Ignore emails after you’ve clocked out for the day/week. Whatever you do on vacation that feels relaxing and rejuvenating, try bringing some of that into your daily life.

Meditate for five minutes every day. Perhaps you’ve heard this advice before, but the science doesn’t lie! Meditation eases stress and anxiety, calms your nervous system, helps with memory and so much more. There’s no need to put pressure on yourself to gain some important insight or enlightenment. Sit quietly, focused on your breathing with no judgment of the thoughts in your head. With regular practice, you’ll begin to feel the benefits.

Be mindful of what you eat and drink. It’s a common coping mechanism to comfort our emotions with food, drink or other substances. We all have different nutritional and lifestyle choices, but we suggest being extra mindful when experiencing stress, anxiety or depression as sugar, junk foods and alcohol will make you feel worse (even if you feel better temporarily).

Consider reaching out for professional help. There is no barometer, specific feeling or event that warrants a person to “need” or want professional counseling. We all have varying life circumstances and coping strategies. If you feel like you “shouldn’t be this upset” or that “others have it worse” we suggest allowing yourself permission to seek help. We all deserve it.

Prioritize rest. Our culture values the “hustle” and though hustle has it’s time and place, we also need rest. You know your body and mind best—if you need a morning off work, take it. If you need a long weekend alone, take it. If you need to sleep in just a little bit longer, sleep in! The to-do list is not going anywhere and you’ll need your physical and emotional health in top shape to do your best.

Write down as many inspiring messages as you can. They can be lyrics, affirmations, reminders to move your body, drink water, have gratitude—any message that uplifts you. Keep them close by, such as in a desk drawer, a large jar or your phone’s notebook app. If you need a pick-me-up, reach for one. Alternatively, download an app that sends positive affirmations to your phone daily. It’s proven that we bring to life the thoughts that we tell ourselves (even unconsciously), so let yourself think positive thoughts!

When we feel that we are in control of our thoughts, feelings and emotions we’re bound to continue the work that allows us to feel that way. However, if you think you may need professional help, reach out. Everyone needs help at some point in life. It takes courage and strength to recognize when help is needed and seek it out.

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This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on April 29, 2021, by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine.  

Question: I recently found out my 17-year-old is smoking marijuana. He said he does it to help with anxiety and that he finds a lot of relief in it. I don’t love the idea at all, but I also feel powerless to stop him. How can I talk to him about the risks but also be supportive if I lose this battle?

Answer: This is a difficult time for parents. At 17, your son is on the cusp of becoming a legal adult. This can give teens a feeling of not needing guidance or permission. Passing the milestone of 18 will not suddenly make him mature enough to all make decisions that are in his best interest. However, if your son is just starting to use at 17, studies show he is less at risk than a teen who starts at a young age, who smokes/vapes for years. A University of Montreal study says that the more teenagers delay smoking marijuana (cannabis) until they are older, the better it is for their brains, but there may be little ill effect if they start after age 17. That may give you some comfort. However, the human brain takes 26 years to reach full development so introducing substances does have risks when it comes to full potential.

That being said, I find a troubling issue in your question. What is causing the anxiety at age 17 for him to self-medicate with marijuana to relieve it? Many people have found cannabis calming, yet at seventeen or any age really, understanding the underlying cause of the anxiety is key. There are many non-drug ways of treating anxiety worth exploring.

Teens have lots of reasons to feel anxious and the pandemic has increased this anxiety. Life looks uncertain, relationships and future plans may be on hold, decreased social activity can add to general unsettledness and hopelessness. Under normal times, this age is challenging—adult responsibilities and major life decisions loom and teens question themselves. They are also developmentally pulling away from parental influences which can sometimes cause problems at home.

I commend you for wanting to address his marijuana use, but an overall conversation needs to include healthy coping and understanding of what is contributing to his anxiety. Living with anxiety can be a lifelong struggle and he should seek help at an early age to prevent this. Assure him that he does not have to talk to you about it, but a counselor might be a great help to him. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based successful treatment for anxiety which many therapists use in their work.

I urge you to do more research to give you what you need for the discussion. For parents with younger children, talking about marijuana and substance abuse needs to happen before they start using and should be an ongoing conversation. Here are some talking points (taken from the references below) for you and other parents to begin a conversation about marijuana use.

Marijuana can affect driving. It is extremely important that teens who drive understand how dangerous driving under the influence of marijuana can be. Reaction time and judgment can be impaired coupled with inexperience behind the wheel.

Importantly, marijuana is illegal. The fact that many states have legalized recreational marijuana has given a lot of young people the idea that it is legal and okay for them to use. It is not. Recreational marijuana is only legal for adults age 21 and older. Legal trouble can be incurred by a teen for possession and/or dealing.

Marijuana is not good for teen brains. Studies have shown that early marijuana use (16 and younger) causes problems with judgment, planning, and decision-making that may lead to risky behaviors. Some studies show problems with memory, motivation, and academic performance. Not the best situation with which to step into adulthood. The teens who may have a predisposition (possible family history) to mental illness and/or addiction may find themselves struggling with depression, psychosis, or further substance use.

There are very real health reasons not to smoke/vape cannabis. A 2017 study in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine states that teens who vape are twice as likely to experience respiratory problems along with coughs, bronchitis, congestion, and phlegm than peers who do not vape.

Lastly, I like that you want to have a conversation with your son about marijuana. This is hard for parents who are often confused themselves or have mixed messages on the subject. I also like that you want to be supportive no matter the outcome. It is a conversation worth having and it will show your love for him.

Here is further information about cannabis use in teens and about anxiety:

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/emotional-problems/Pages/Anxiety-Disorders.aspx
https://www.verywellmind.com/marijuana-use-by-teens-statistics-2610207
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/01/170125214606.htm#:~:text=2,Delaying%20marijuana%20smoking%20to%20age%2017%20cuts,teens’%20brains%2C%20new%20study%20suggests&text=Summary%3A,they’re%20less%20at%20risk.

Click to access evidence-brief-youth-13-17-e.pdf

Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine.

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Are you feeling busy, distracted and exhausted? Even after the emotionally overwhelming year we’ve all just experienced, we haven’t slowed down and taken time for ourselves. Further, our society doesn’t value the practice of introspection, the observation of one’s own mental and emotional processes. Introspection, or self-reflection, is the willingness to recognize and determine your “old programming” that no longer serves you so that you can build new “programming.” How this can be done? With a calm mind to start.

How do I calm my mind?
Having a calm mind will allow you to concentrate and feel more relaxed. This practice will vary person to person, but here are some suggestions:

  • Take a few deep breaths; practice breath work
  • Stretch your body
  • Go for a walk; move your body
  • Journal, meditate, pray

How do I practice self-reflection?
When your mind is calm, allow yourself to draw inward and think deeply on the issue, emotion or memory at hand. To help, ask yourself:

  • What does this make me think?
  • How does it make me feel?
  • How does it hold me back?

It’s important not to judge yourself. Be honest with yourself so that you’re not tempted to imagine how you should feel. Don’t be afraid to dig deeper! You’re trying to access the root of the issue and you will most likely come across resistance. This is your ego/mind trying to protect you from uncomfortable and harmful emotions.

Additionally, you can ask yourself questions in order to get to know yourself better whether or not you’re currently working through an issue. Start with these:

  • What am I really scared of?
  • Am I holding on to something that I can let go of?
  • When did I last push passed my comfort zone?
  • What do I want most in life?
  • When was the last time I made someone smile?

Why should I practice self-reflection?
With self-reflection comes self-awareness. You’ll begin to see your thoughts, behaviors, emotions and reactions in real time as you experience them. You can determine which ones bother you, don’t serve you or harm you and learn to let them go. By slowing down, calming your mind, and asking yourself substantial questions to draw on old issues, you can then learn to shift your behaviors, thoughts and reactions to ones that better represent you, your values and beliefs.

The more you reflect, the easier you’ll be able to hold yourself accountable. This not only benefits you directly, but it also benefits those you surround yourself with. You may even inspire them to be more introspective!

What are benefits to introspection?
A self-aware person can expect myriad of benefits, but here are some that may be true for you:

  • Clarity
  • Self-control
  • Less stress and anxiety
  • Higher self-esteem and pride
  • Increased emotional intelligence
  • Easier time coping with challenges
  • Appropriate reactions to situations
  • Realize their potential and become more aligned

Remember, slowing down, calming your mind and regular self-reflection may come with resistance­­­­ from your mind, your family, even your job. Stay strong­­–this time is essential for your mental health. It’s okay to start small and always be gracious and patient with yourself. You’re in the process of changing how you think, feel, and behave. You’re changing your life!

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Have you found yourself at the beginning of a new year with good intentions and hefty resolutions, but ended up falling off track? We’ve all been there! Although it can seem discouraging, it is possible to make changes for the better. By having a growth mindset, you know that with time and effort you can stay on track with your goals and grow mentally and emotionally. Use these simple affirmations to start 2021 off confidently.

I failed vs. I learn from my mistakes. When we change the narrative from failure to growth, we’re more receptive to learning from our mistakes rather than fearing making them in the first place.

I can do it alone vs. I ask for help when I need it. There is a difference between independence and being self-sufficient and knowing when you need support. The key is learning when and to whom you should ask for help.

I’m not as good/successful/purposeful as they are vs. I focus on my own progress. Comparison has its place, but it can also be very dangerous to your mental health and your personal growth. When you focus on your progress, you learn more about yourself and what you need and want in your journey.

I’m not smart enough for that vs. I can do hard things. Strong, confident, and mentally healthy people know that a challenge can be a good thing. When you overcome difficult situations, you become more confident and resilient—and ready for the next challenge.

I’ll never understand it vs. I haven’t figured it out yet. When we have limiting thoughts, we are indeed limiting ourselves. It’s okay if something is taking you time to figure out or work through. Life is full of those situations! Giving yourself the empathy and understanding that certain things take time to work through will be beneficial in your growth.

I’m just not meant for this vs. I am on the right track. When you focus on yourself, learn from mistakes, and give yourself time to work through things, you’ll come to know yourself better on a deeper level. Your intuition is powerful and can guide you through many of life’s uncertainties especially if you’re equipped to learn to listen to it. It’s just as important to realize when you’re not on the right track and to change course until you know that you are.

It’s important to recognize that the way you communicate with yourself is just as important as the rest of your emotional and mental health. With societal pressures, family pressures, and internal pressures, it’s crucial that we heal the relationship we have with ourselves in order for us to truly progress and thrive.

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We hear a lot about gratitude and its effects but what does it really mean and how can it help us? Gratitude is showing appreciation for what we have and the goodness in our lives. It’s giving thanks on a substantial level—it’s not superficial. An old French proverb claims that “gratitude is the heart’s memory.” By recognizing what we’re grateful for we can move forward in life with renewed spirit, optimism, and a higher quality of life. 

What are some benefits of gratitude?

Improved mood: those who focus on positive things tend to be happier overall. Surround yourself with like-minded people for a contagious gratitude side effect. It’s a win-win!  

Increased optimism: when we are happier, we also have a more positive outlook on life for ourselves and our loved ones. With a positive outlook, we’re more encouraged to take (healthy) risks and pursue our dreams.

Enhanced social bonds:when we show our appreciation for close friends and family, it not only makes them feel cherished, it reminds us of the connections we have in our lives.

Improved physical health: typically, when we’re happier and more positive about our lives, we take better care of our physical health. Exercise and eating healthier result in better sleep, more energy, decreased blood pressure, and a healthier immune system.

Connects us to a higher power: When we recognize that the source of gratitude goodness comes from outside of ourselves, it helps to connect us to other people, nature, and a higher power.

Elevates empathy: when we’re more gracious and practice showing thanks, it increases our sensitivity to others and motivates us to naturally support one another.

Better self-esteem: when we change our perspective and see the good in life, it can reduce our need for social comparisons. In today’s culture, this is highly beneficial for our wellbeing. 

Increased mental strength: studies show that gratitude can help us overcome trauma, grief and anxiety and can increase our resilience in tough situations.

Better mental health: showing gratitude can help to reduce toxic emotions like anger, resentment or jealousy. We feel more inclined to take care of ourselves by going to check-ups and attending therapy when needed. 

How can I show gratitude?

There are many ways to show appreciation in your life. For instance, we can show gratitude by reliving joyful past memories, appreciating the present and not taking it for granted, and by maintaining a hopeful attitude when looking towards our future. Here are a few approaches to try:  

·       Every day write down something that went well and why.

·       Take breathing breaks and envision something positive.

·       Create a new family ritual by explaining how gratitude makes you feel.

·       Give out genuine compliments—even if you don’t know the person.

·       Volunteer in your community.

·       Perform random acts of kindness.

·       Shift your perspective. Recognize how much you’ve grown in your life. 

·       Slow down and try to be more present.

·       Notice things and relish in the small (and big) things that bring you joy. 

 

With an unstable and stressful year nearly behind us and the holiday season approaching, it’s important now more than ever to adopt a gratitude practice into your life. Remember that it’s okay and normal to not feel grateful all the time. But when those feelings do arise, amplify your optimistic outlook and appreciation of others, and help cultivate a community of gracious, grateful people.

Sources: nationwidechildrens.org, health.harvard.edu, psyhcologytoday.com, livescience.com

 

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Mental and emotional resilience takes continuous practice. It’s a commitment to yourself that you will always show up and do the hard work. Being mentally healthy and resilient will allow you to feel more confident, in control, and able to tackle life’s ups and downs.

What is resilience?

Resilience is the ability to recover quickly from difficulty or a tough situation. It’s a skill that takes constant care to develop. It’s a conscious choice to improve your response or reaction to something that was very hard for you to experience. In other words, resilience is the ability to “bounce back.” It sounds like a superpower, but we can all practice resilience with self-awareness and the decision to improve. 

What does resilience look like?

We all have different life experiences, stressors, and issues that we work through on a daily basis. Therefore, a resilient person does not have one specific quality, look or personality trait. It’s all of us. However, there are some characteristics to look for in a mentally healthy and resilient person:

Sense of autonomy: individual autonomy is the notion that you are your own person. You live your life based off your own values, ethics and motivations.
Rational thinking: the ability to consider and analyze facts, opinions and judgements of a situation to determine a reasonable conclusion.
Regulate stress: the use of coping skills to manage daily stresses.
Self-esteem: the attitude you have towards yourself; self-respect, self-worth. 
Sense of optimism: can also relate to one’s happiness and the meaning and purpose they have of their life and life in general.
Good health habits: this includes proper sleep and personal hygiene, nutritious eating and regular exercise.
Sociability/social skills: being sociable with others; the way you communicate and interact with others.
Adaptability: the ability to change and adjust to new situations or experiences.
Altruism: the moral principle of being concerned with the happiness and wellbeing of all other living beings; compassion, love for others.

On the other hand, those that are lacking resiliency may show these traits:

  • Irritability or anger
  • Low immune system or illness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Overreaction to normal stressors
  • Easily upset/depressed or crying
  • Lack of hope

It is not out of reach or impossible to strengthen resilience and our mental health. We all have the natural ability and capacity to grow and improve our quality of life.

Why is it important to be resilient?

To be resilient is to have developed, and continue to develop, a means of self-protection against difficult situations using self-awareness and coping strategies. Also, being resilient will allow you to maintain balance during stressful times and protect us from developing possible mental health issues. It can also offer the following:

  • Improved learning skills, improved memory
  • Improved physical and mental health
  • Reduced risky behavior (excessive drinking, smoking, illicit drugs)
  • A sense of belonging and giving back to community and/or family
  • Experience more positive emotions and better able to regulate emotions

It’s important to note that those practicing resilience are not immune from mental illness or mental health issues. However, when effective coping skills are in place, mental health illnesses or issues can be more manageable.

How can I be more resilient?

There many ways that you can practice resilience and mental strength in your life. We are all our own person with individual thoughts, emotions, and life experiences and so our coping strategies will vary. Here are a few to try:

  • Let yourself feel emotions as they come and go
  • Find a support system that you can trust
  • Lean on self-care strategies; listen to what your body and mind need
  • Find a therapist or professional counselor
  • Maintain a routine of wellness (meditation, eating, exercising, etc.)
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Cultivate a sense of purpose
  • Embrace change and your reactions to it
  • Develop problem solving skills; take action to solve problems as they come
  • Face your fears; this begets self-confidence which will affect your perspective
  • Practice self-compassion; be mindful of the words, thoughts, actions toward yourself
  • Learn to forgive; this allows you to process unfavorable experiences by changing your mindset and relieving yourself of toxic, negative emotions and thoughts.

 

The uncertainty of the past year and upcoming months may have lead you to feel isolated, lonely, stressed or overwhelmed. Being aware of your mental health and coping strategies now and working towards strengthening them will better prepare you for any challenging times ahead. Remember that it is okay to need and want help. Reaching out to a professional takes courage.

 

 

 

 

Source: payneresilience.com, positivepsychology.com, psyhcologytoday.com

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Social media was created for a sense of community—and now, more than ever, we all need interaction with other humans, even if it is over the internet. Through social media, we are able to find like-minded people all over the world and easily interact with them, learn from them, and be friends with them. In fact, 75% of all internet users are on social media. These users are spending 2.5 hours daily on an average of seven different social network accounts. We use social media to connect with friends and family during these (physically) socially distanced times, but is it making us unhappy?

Short answer: yes. Some studies are showing that teens and young adults are reporting higher rates of depression than those who spend less time online, rising from 13-66 percent.1 However, studies are showing a correlation, not a causation between social media usage and our mental health. Because it changes and evolves so quickly, and the history of social media is so short, not enough studies on the topic have been conducted. Therefore, long term scientific effects are not yet known. Below are some effects people have reported from using social media frequently:

Perceived isolation Feeling FOMO (fear of missing out) when we scroll through friend’s accounts. Thinking “Why didn’t they invite me?” when constantly looking at the activities and lives of other people online.

Lowered self-esteem Constantly comparing our lives with those of our friends, celebrities, and influencers with the personas that they display online. “Facebook envy” has been on the rise and is a recognized term by health professionals.

Less healthy activity Not leaving enough time for exercise and outdoor activity. Always having phones at the ready while at the gym, running, or otherwise focused on the activity. Exercise is necessary for both mental and physical health.

Disrupted concentration Attention spans are shorter than ever, and now more than ever we’re completely distracted. We crave the dopamine hit from notifications, “likes,” and comments from our social media apps. This instant gratification is “addicting without being satisfying.”2 according to Dr. Alexandra Hamlet of the Child Mind Institute.

Sleep deprivation The blue light from our device screens discourages melatonin production making it difficult to fall asleep each night. Being anxious, envious or otherwise distracted is also keeping us from getting enough sleep. Proper sleep is critical for mental health.

Making memories Not being present in the moment. Always trying to get the “perfect” photo or looking at the “perfect” photos of others. When we look back on our lives, we should have authentic memories that we can cherish and not forgotten photos and “likes.”

Comparison culture is toxic and pervasive on social media and shows us in real time how we’re keeping up (or not keeping up) with others. We look at celebrity and influencer profiles that have the “perfect” aesthetic and we compare them to our own hair, makeup, physique, vacations, jobs, homes—our entire lives. Jerry Bubrick, PhD, is a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute in New York City. He states that “the more we use social media, the less we think about being in the present moment.”3

On the other hand, the human connection aspect of social media makes us feel included, heard and that we belong. Human connection is essential because it encourages compassion and empathy for others which the world needs more of right now. For anyone that finds socializing in-person to be difficult, social media can be that link to human interaction. For instance, those with anxiety disorders, Asperger’s, or physical disabilities rely on social media to feel connected to others.

How can we continue to use social media without harming our mental health? Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Designate specific times for social media usage and for non-social media times (e.g. phone-free Fridays)
  • Stay physically active! This helps your body and your brain stay
  • Model behavior for your kids. If the rule is no phones at the dinner table, mean it!
  • Be mindful of how you really feel online. Do certain people, pages, or posts make you feel bad about yourself? Unfollow them
  • Taking a hiatus from social media can help you reconnect with yourself, your family and your
  • Refrain from social media 1-3 hours before your
  • Seek a professional if you’re feeling signs of depression or if you’ve noticed any severe changes in your mood or daily

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources: psycom.net, pewresearch.org, blog.hootsuite.com, psychologytoday.com Caroline Miller, Does Social Media Cause Depression? New York: Child Mind Institute, 2020 https://childmind.org/article/is-social-media-use-causing-depression/

1 Caroline Miller, Does Social Media Cause Depression? New York: Child Mind Institute, 2020 https://childmind.org/article/is-social-media-use-causing-depression/

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What are boundaries?

There are two types of boundaries that you should create for yourself: external and internal. External boundaries are guidelines that determine how you allow others to behave towards you. Internal boundaries maintain balance, exhibit self-discipline and allow you to manage your time, thoughts, emotions and behavior. Both types are meant for your protection and well-being and should be based on your values.

Where to implement boundaries

Healthy boundaries should exist in all aspects of your life. Consider the following areas:

Physical: applies to your personal space, privacy and your body. This includes sexual boundaries and determine the what, where, when, how and with whom of sexual activity.
Possessions: determines whether or not you lend or give away personal belongings.
Spiritual: relates to your beliefs and experiences with God, a higher power, nature, etc.
Mental: relates to your thoughts, values and opinions.
Emotional: applies to your emotions, feelings and behaviors.

Do I need boundaries?

Yes, everyone needs boundaries for good mental health. If you’re able to take accountability for your feelings and actions, especially as they relate to other people’s feelings and actions, it’s a sign that you have strong internal boundaries. If you often feel resentment, anger, anxiety or feel taken advantage of it could indicate weak external boundaries and that you’re consistently being pushed past your own limits and values.

In order to set boundaries for yourself, you need to know what they are. These are determined by your core values. Are you unsure of what your values are? Now is the perfect time for self-reflection. Tune into your feelings, your past experiences and how you want to show up in the world. What matters most to you? What are you unwilling to compromise on? Use meditation, prayer, journaling or being in nature to allow for a space of self-awareness. These realizations may not all come immediately. That’s okay—have patience and continue showing up for yourself.

Why set personal boundaries?

Creating, setting and following through with personal boundaries will help maintain your mental health. Boundaries can also help you grow, save your emotional and mental energy, and act as a form of self-care.

How to set boundaries

Making boundaries for yourself can be difficult to do at first, but it shows that you take responsibility for your mental health. Try the following:

  • Look to your core values
  • Follow your instincts
  • Be assertive and consistent
  • Learn to say “no”
  • Communicate clearly
  • Start small
  • Seek support if needed

Being consistent with implementing external and internal boundaries will increase your self-esteem, conserve emotional energy, and create more independence in your life. Once you’ve made boundaries known in your life, it’s natural for people to test them. Don’t falter. We all have different values and boundaries and we all deserve to have them respected. Honor your needs and make yourself the priority.

 

 

 

 

Sources: psychcentral.com; mindbodygreen.com; healthline.com

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This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on May 14th, 2020 by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

This quote brings me comfort when I am restless and sleepless over my worries. You can think of it anytime your mind is troubled before sleep; it might be especially helpful now. We have lots to be concerned about, as we are now weeks into the Coronavirus shutdown, with uncertain ends in sight. We worry about our loved ones, our country, our businesses and jobs, finances, and daily food. Some parents are suddenly in the role of schoolteachers to their children, on top of their many other work and home responsibilities. Even when experiencing a job loss at this time, some have had to spend many hours of navigating to access benefits—a job in itself!  

It is important to understand that worries and anxiety are about the future “what ifs.” Learning to sort out which of your thoughts really deserve your attention and which are simply creating more anxiety, staying in the moment, addressing those things that are right in front of you–helps keep worries manageable.  

Here are the lessons found in Emerson’s quote:

1.  Finish each day and be done with it.

Reliving it doesn’t change anything. Berating yourself over things done, and not done, is useless spinning. Allow yourself to close the book on today and stop reviewing the “woulda, coulda, shoulda” moments, or the things you cannot control. In the morning, they will not seem as bad.  

2.  You have done what you could.

Celebrate your full day, as weird and uncommon it may seem, and the things you were able to do, big and small. Try to remember a moment from the beginning of the day. You managed, and you got through it.  Perhaps your day had some moments of fun. Perhaps you reassured your child, reached out to a friend, or cooked a good dinner–good for you. Perhaps you shuffled the kids outside, and took a moment for yourself—good for you. Right now it is about putting one foot in front of the other and navigating what changes come—one day at a time. Today, you have done what you could.  

3.  Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in. Forget them as soon as you can.

We are not perfect. We make mistakes, forget things, get tired or even angry. Give yourself permission to have a moment, or many moments of struggle. Some days run smoothly, others are just, well, not smooth. It is human to have to keep trying, and right now there is a lot being asked of you. If you are trying under these unusual circumstances, then you are doing the best you can. So try not to be the first one to cast judgment on yourself. 

4.  Tomorrow is a new day.

Thank goodness for that! We get a new chance every day. This virus will end or at least we will find a way to manage it. The world will keep spinning and there will be many new days.

5.  You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered by your old nonsense.  

That’s the pledge. After sleep, the worries that keep us up can seem trivial in the morning light. Living in these strange conditions created by the virus has given us gifts and lessons in the midst of our concerns. So tomorrow, you will wake up anew, ready to embrace what may be a really great adventure in life.

Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine.

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Studies have shown that a daily routine alleviates feelings of stress, anxiety and other mental health issues. It’s also proven beneficial for those working through addiction, insomnia, and helps give structure to children who may otherwise experience anxiety. Though our daily lives have been upended in recent weeks, this can be a powerful time to establish our priorities through routine.

Here are some reasons why and how routine can enhance your mental wellbeing, as well as some examples to try in your own life.

Ease stress: With so many decisions to be made each day, it can become overwhelming quickly. Having the majority of daily decisions planned in advance can lessen stress. It’s okay to start small with one decision and work up to planning more. Try: Put together your outfit the night before or pack tonight’s leftover dinner as an ready-to-grab lunch for tomorrow.

Provide structure: Children aren’t the only ones who benefit from structure. Even as adults, we perform better when we expect predictable and controllable moments. When our day has a rhythm, we feel grounded and focused. Try: Write down all the things that you need to do during your day. Once these priorities are met, sprinkle in what you want to do.

Better coping skills: When most of our daily tasks are repetitive and expected, it gives us the confidence to make it through our day. This will help to establish better coping skills for life’s curveballs. Try: Allow yourself time each day to process your emotions. Write in a journal, meditate, or express your feelings creatively.  

Forms habits: It takes 21 days to form a habit—why not use a routine as practice? The more consistent you are, the better established your routine will become. Try: Go to bed and wake up at the same times each day. A proper sleep schedule reduces stress, anxiety and gives you the energy to power through your day.

 

Your routine should represent your lifestyle and meet your responsibilities. This means that if waking up at 4am is impossible for you, don’t make yourself do it. Set yourself up for success! With this being said, a daily routine should never feel like a prison. Leave room for flexibility and the opportunity to adapt to life’s changes.

We all rely on each other for support and encouragement. If you are experiencing severe stress or are having difficulty performing day-to-day tasks reach out to a loved one or professional.

 

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