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In October 2022, the American Psychological Association conducted their annual Stress in America™️ survey and subsequently revealed that “more than a quarter of U.S. adults are so stressed they can’t function.” Yikes. A seemingly ever-present global pandemic, racial discrimination, civil unrest, and a nauseating inflation rate have resulted in a decline in mental health in a stressed-out, traumatized society struggling to keep it together.
However, self care and the practice of mindfulness have never been so popular. There are currently 3.6 billion videos posted under #mindfulness on TikTok, where everyday people share the ways they handle the most turbulent times and process their human experience. More often than not, we believe that the struggles we face are ours to bare alone. We often leave ourselves to sit in struggle, not knowing where or who to turn to – until now.
We compiled a list of 15 science-backed tips that are sure to turn even the most belligerent frowns upside down.
Add a daily walk to your routine
According to research, the average person needs just 20 minutes of outdoor aerobic exercise a day for the body to release the endorphins needed to keep you feeling calm, less anxious, and happier overall. Getting a daily dose of fresh air has been scientifically proven to greatly improve brain function, concentration, and the body’s production of Vitamin D – both instantly, and when made a part of your routine.
If you can, try incorporating a walk into your morning routine. Otherwise, next time the office makes you feel like you want to tear your head out, take a break and get those steps in. Your brain and body will thank you.
Listen to songs that make you happily nostalgic
Listening to music is equivalent to exercising your brain. Blasting your favorite tunes – at a safe volume – can lead to a reduction in blood pressure, pain, and feelings of anxiety while greatly improving the quality of your sleep, mood, mental alertness, and memory, according to a study conducted by John Hopkins Medical School.
Interested in taking it one step further? A study by St. John Fisher University found that “Playing a musical instrument has been shown to increase cognitive ability through enhanced neuronal communication between the left and right hemispheres of the brain, resulting in positive effects on learning, memory, fine motor skills, verbal and non-verbal reasoning, resulting in an overall more capable brain to apply in a multitude of settings.”
Slap that bass!
Take a deep breath
For so long, meditation and anything related to mindfulness were considered “woo woo” or something that could only be enjoyed after decades in Tibet and a cupboard stacked with orange robes. But, now that we’ve passed that, millions are being awakened to the staggering benefits of even a few minutes of intentional, deep breathing, and mindfulness meditation.
Meditation, described by UC Davis Health as “a path to self-awareness and compassion,” has been practiced for centuries. It involves finding a quiet space and anchoring yourself to the present moment through deep breathing – that’s mostly it. The intention is to clear your mind of anything and everything that you cannot control or change in the present moment and give yourself the gift of a peaceful mind.
If you’re new to meditation and feel intimidated by those who are able to sit with themselves for hours on end – remember that it’s not a competition. Start slow. There are a plethora of guided meditations if freestyling is not your jam. One example is Headspace, which offers free guided meditations on their YouTube channel if paying for the app is not feasible.
Pick a room, set a timer, and get cleaning
You are a product of your environment. A cluttered, messy space is bound to manifest into a cluttered and messy mind.
Cleaning is therapeutic not only because you gain pride in yourself and your home, but it can also be a great distraction. Research shows that living in a cluttered environment can communicate incompleteness, leading to feelings of stress and contributing to depression. A messy space can overwhelm the visual cortex, making it difficult to concentrate on any given task. It’s just bad business.
So, set a 20-minute timer (or however much time you’re able to allocate), pick a room or spot in your home, and get to cleaning.
Cleaning cheat sheet: what album are you able to listen to in its entirety? I’m talking NO skips. Turn it on, and give the performance – and wipe down – of your life.
Far too many of us don’t make time for ourselves to process the happenings of our lives. Journaling is a beautiful tool that can lead one to understand their emotions, thoughts, and feelings from a different perspective. Actually seeing the words written down can lead to mental reframing.
Taking the time to journal has been proven to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and increase one’s overall greater well-being. Physically writing down your feelings can help you to create space from negative thought cycles, and help you develop tools to better help yourself process your emotions. The journey of rediscovery you’re bound to take with yourself is also greatly beneficial.
Keep in mind that no one is watching and that there is no wrong or right way to journal. It’s just you giving yourself the space to feel and process the very real emotions that life tends to invoke.
Write down five things that you’re grateful for
Take a step back. Take a deep breath, and look around – is there anything you can be grateful for in this moment? Your home, your job, your car, your friends, and hot, clean water are all things that we often take for granted. Next time your mind sticks you into a loop of lack and failure, ask yourself, “But, what’s going well?”
Eventually, we get to a point where gratitude exists in the struggle and suffering too as we acknowledge the lessons needed to be learned. But, baby steps.
We’re all adults. For some reason, there’s this weird stigma around discussing masturbation … even though we’re all doing it – or should be.
Countless studies have shown that one healthy, happy session of self-pleasure can boost your mood, lead to better sleep, and relieve feelings of anxiety, depression, and stress. The human body releases a cocktail of chemicals when experiencing pleasure – two of which are dopamine and oxytocin. Dopamine is known as the ‘feel good’ chemical, while oxytocin is said to lower levels of cortisol when released during orgasm. Isn’t science fun?
It is very normal and healthy to pleasure yourself through masturbation. Not only for the physical stimulation and release but the deeper understanding you’ll gain of your body and what makes you feel good will only bring you closer to yourself. It’s a win-win.
Get some sleep
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the average adult needs at least seven hours of regular, high-quality sleep to function optimally. The amount and quality of sleep you get greatly affect how often you get sick, your weight, your ability to think clearly, make good decisions, and avoid injury. Not to mention, a greater reduction in stress and an overall improvement to your mood and patience.
The Sleep Foundation notes that a midday nap can be “restorative, and improve cognitive functions such as memory, logical reasoning, and the ability to complete complex tasks.” The best nap tip is to aim for no more than 30 minutes, as any longer will see you dipping into a deep sleep. Being woken up from a deep sleep triggers grogginess and actually makes you sleepier.
Write yourself a ‘Thank You’ letter
We are often the hardest on ourselves during moments of stress and uncertainty. Showing gratitude for the things going well in your life is crucial in allowing yourself to be happy and present – but when is the last time you thanked yourself for anything?
In moments of unease, write yourself a ‘Thank You’ letter. It could go something like this:
Thank you for another day. Thank you for waking up and getting the day started, even though we didn’t want to. Thank you for giving me a place to live, by paying your rent on time. And for that time you couldn’t, thank you for trying anyway. I am so grateful for your resilience and determination to keep going. Thank you for keeping me alive, fed, and (well) nourished.
I am so grateful to be you today and every day.
Reach out to someone who feels safe
It is really hard to reach out for help because we’re all convinced that we’re just supposed to “get it.” No man is an island, and the people who have been on Earth for longer than us have most likely survived and triumphed over the very thing you’re convinced is going to end you. Though all relationship dynamics manifest themselves in different ways for different people, human connection is a fundamental part of the journey. In times of struggle, reach out to a friend, family member, or colleague that you trust and allow them to gas you up in the ways that you deserve. Allow them to remind you that you’re stronger than your current situation is trying to convince you of.
Watch the bloopers of your favorite TV show on YouTube
Sometimes you need a giggle, and laughter has been said to be one of the best medicines around!
Experiencing a genuine, hearty laugh has incredible short-term benefits, including, but not limited to: enhancing your intake of “oxygen-rich air,” while also stimulating your heart, lungs, and muscles. The increase of endorphins that takes place greatly softens your stress responses, bestowing a well-deserved feeling of relaxation and overall wellness. Long-term benefits of the naturally occurring drug will also see an improvement in how your immune system functions, and greater relief from physical and mental pain.
Eat a meal that brings you joy
According to Beck Health, “consistently failing to provide your body with adequate dietary energy (kilojoules/calories) and the nutrients it needs over a prolonged time can have serious physical, psychological, and behavioral effects.”
Your brain is the first organ to go into panic mode when your body is undernourished! Not eating enough food, effectively not giving your body the energy needed to function properly, triggers your brain to go into survival mode. Survival mode “switches off the parts of our brain responsible for conscious, intellectual, and logical reasoning. This has a massive impact on the way you think and feel – leaving you much less resilient to stress and unable to be spontaneous and relax.”
Ideally, a nutritious meal would be the top choice, however, sometimes you just need to eat something. Sugar is fine in moderation, but try reaching for something that will make both your mind and body happy. You deserve it.
Move your body
For centuries, scientists have told us that regular exercise is known to prevent several chronic diseases, including but not limited to: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, hypertension, obesity, depression, osteoporosis, and even premature death. If your relationship to the word ‘exercise’ is riddled with anxiety, try thinking of it this way – science says that just 30 minutes of movement a day makes you a healthy person. Turn on your favorite playlist and move your body through the pain. Or, instead of catching up with your friend over coffee, take it to-go and explore a new neighborhood together.
Sometimes things just suck. We have no idea what we’re doing, but we’re trying our best. Forgive yourself for the role you played in a misaligned moment, and move on. Forgive your accuser for the role they played in causing your anguish, and move on. No, that lady did not mean to step on your toes on her way off the train. And if she did, what kind of weirdo wants to hurt a complete stranger? She’s not worth the energy, sis! You are more deserving of a peaceful mind than you are of gripping on to hurt. Forgive in abundance and like your freedom depends on it – because it does.
Plan on making tomorrow a better day
Like our girl Glorilla said, on “Tomorrow 2,” — “Every day the sun won’t shine, but that’s why I love tomorrow!”
You only know what you know when you know it. So, now that you know what you know, what are you going to do with it? Learn from what didn’t work today and map out the ways you’re going to triumph over those obstacles tomorrow. Didn’t have time to eat breakfast because you were running late for work? You gotta wake up earlier tomorrow, babe! Bad time management can really wreck your day, and the guilty feelings that sit in your chest don’t help either. Being intentional with your time is a surefire way to not only ensure you get sh*t done but the feeling of satisfaction in yourself you’ll feel is worth giving it a shot. Set alarms for tasks and actually stick to them. Are you dreading that dentist appointment you needed to book three months ago? Set an alarm to get it done in the morning, and don’t give yourself the option to say no to yourself and the things you really want anymore.