Growing up, we have always been taught to take better care of our bodies, our health, our skin, hair, etc. But I believe very few people get advice to take proper care of their mental health. You can see I am adding more and more articles regarding mental health and how to take care of it. As I am not a licensed professional, I have been interviewing mental health advocates and professionals working in this industry. Today licensed Clinical Psychotherapist Erin Wiley, MA, LPCC shares the importance of healthy mental health habits and how to stay on track during a mental turmoil.
Being under stay-at-home orders provides an opportunity to focus on embracing simple disciplines that can change our health and happiness for the long haul, Erin believes. “Refuse to get stuck in the traps of social distancing: staying up late, consuming too much food, alcohol, television and social media, sleeping in, and letting the day go by without a structured plan or schedule,” she advises. “By throwing all discipline out the window in a stressful time, you lose a really unique opportunity to trade unhealthy habits for healthy ones that could change the trajectory of your life for the better.”
By adopting healthy coping skills, Erin knows people can find greater contentment and peace. “Creating and implementing new schedules or sticking to familiar routines can give people a sense of stability and security, thus reducing anxiety,” she advises. “Finding ways to connect with others in meaningful ways electronically can reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness, thus reducing depression symptoms. Practicing mindfulness can lead us to feel grateful and encourage greater levels of happiness.”
Healthy Mental Health Habits:
Self-Awareness with Mindfulness:
Developing greater self-awareness by practicing mindfulness is a great first step for people looking to improve their mental and emotional health. As we become more mindful, learning to identify our emotions and process them is the single most important skill we can master. It dramatically affects our ability to regulate ourselves in times of conflict and gives us a greater ability to affect positive change. Having increased self-control means that we can choose healthier responses in stressful situations, thus resolving conflict and getting our needs met, all while maintaining relationships that are most important to us.
If you are feeling stressed lately, here are the Warning Signs of Stress and Stress Management Tips from the Expert.
Stick to a Schedule:
To preserve sanity and reduce stress during this time, stick to a schedule for sleep, meals, work, and free time. Many of Erin’s patients have found new freedom working from home, but that has resulted in staying up later, eating more junk food, drinking more alcohol, and sleeping in later than normal. Each of these things are disruptive to our bodies, and to our minds. She has been encouraging all her patients to return to pre-social isolation schedules as much as possible and to be mindful of over-indulgence. Getting back to the basics: strong sleep routines, healthy eating habits, and engaging in light exercise are the three most important ways we can re-center during this time of stress and uncertainty.
Take Small Bites:
Often people feel discouraged from the start – as if they are too unhealthy or are too far from a goal they have – to even begin trying to change their behavior. Making small changes and, over time increasing the intensity, frequency, or quantity needed to achieve a long-term goal is the way to achieve the desired result. Breaking a goal down into smaller, more manageable pieces can also be significant in helping us reframe the challenge ahead. Being calm while tacking a stressful situation, is the key! Here is How to Remain Calm When You Are Stressed.
Begin with Intentionality:
Having an intention and a plan for the day helps keep us focused. We can decide to live in a purposeful place of positivity and kindness. Taking some time each morning to be reflective and think about how we want our day to proceed can be very beneficial.
Find an Accountability Partner:
To help stay on track with new healthy mental health habits, she suggests finding a mentor or an accountability partner who is invested in your success and wellness. Asking them to hold you accountable can be an effective way to stay the course when it comes to developing new healthy habits. Keeping track of daily and weekly successes in a habit-tracking app calendar is a tactic that many find useful for creating healthy habits. Suggested read: Calm the Chaos of Overwhelm: How To Reduce Feelings of Overwhelm with 4 Tips
Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is:
Announce to friends and family that you will give a certain amount of money to a group you’d rather not support, like a university sports rival’s athletic program, if you don’t reach your goal. Knowing that your failure will lead to a painful loss can be highly motivating for staying on track.
For those who are struggling, it is important to reach out. You will not be the only one. Sharing our emotions right now, grieving our losses, and talking thigh them with others are powerful tools to help move us through this difficult time.
Erin realizes that creating and sticking to habits can be tough. “Humans like quick fixes and instant results. Creating new habits that last a lifetime will require many attempts, and sometimes failures,” Erin explains. “People find it difficult to stick to routines because they don’t plan for when they will fall off track. Having an all-or-nothing expectation of success or failure when it comes to habits sets people up to quit when they aren’t executing the new habit perfectly.”
Instead, learning to develop encouraging self-talk as opposed to shaming self-talk can make a big difference in creating and maintaining new healthy habits, Erin adds. “Now more than ever we should be adopting and practicing sound mental health habits,” Erin recommends. “Being able to manage emotions at times of high stress is a great predictor of resiliency. In times of stress, people tend to go into survival mode, and they struggle to maintain healthy habits.” Read more on: How to Take Better Care of your Mental Health in 2020.
About Erin Wiley:
Erin Wiley, MA, LPCC, is a clinical psychotherapist and the Executive Director of The Willow Center, a counseling practice in Toledo, Ohio. She leads a team of 20 other therapists in their goal of meeting the counseling needs of the people and families of Northwest Ohio & Southeast Michigan, in addition to clients state-wide through telehealth. The clinical focus of her therapy work is marriage, family, parenting, and relationships. She has extensive training in marriage counseling from the Gottman Institute, located in Seattle, Washington. Her most recent area of research involves the study of the management and regulation of emotion as it pertains to mental health. Visit: https://erin-wiley.com/
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