May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and CCANO’s Clinical Director of Counseling Solutions, Dr. Mark Taliancich, has a few strategies you can implement right now to better cope with the stressors we all face in life. Drop your shoulders, unclench your jaw, and take a deep breathe while reading through the following suggestions:
- Get up, Get outside. – Both exercise and being in nature are two of the best stress relievers out there. Daily exercise can boost your mood and reduce stress and anxiety. Spending time outside can lower your blood pressure and heart rate. Take 15 minutes today to walk around your block and get a boost of endorphins.
- Practice mindfulness – When it comes to increasing your happiness, improving your health, and coping with stress practicing mindfulness is powerful. Pick a time in your day such as during your morning coffee or while you brush your teeth to list five things you appreciate from the very significant (the support of a loved one) to the everyday (the comfort of air conditioning).
- Go to bed earlier – Sleep is essential for mental and physical health. Set a nightly alarm to remind yourself to step away from the work emails, turn off the tv, and begin a nighttime routine. We sleep best in cool, dark, and quiet environments, so consider using room-darkening curtains and turning on a fan next time you catch some z’s. You’ll thank yourself in the morning.
- Cut down on screen time – We live in a digital age, so completely ditching our devices is not possible when work requires emails, your kids’ school sends text notifications, and your bills are online. However, increased screen time can lead to a higher incidence of depression, struggles with communication skills, interrupted sleep, and an increase of sedentary behavior. You can now adjust the settings on your smart phone to limit access to certain times of the day and set a timed limit on social media apps. Commit to no devices including television an hour before bed, and try a no phones meal with family and friends to focus on quality connection.
- Journal – Taking 10 minutes to write down your thoughts can help you find meaning, view things from a new perspective, or see the silver lining in your negative experiences. If a blank page keeps you from starting, try a simple list of things that made you smile today, actions you made today that you can be proud of, or things you were brave enough to try today.
- 5 Minute Breathe Break – It may seem hard to carve out five minutes from our schedule of juggling work, family, and personal responsibilities, but it’s worth it. Set a timer for five minutes, sit still, close your eyes, and breathe slowly. As you breathe, notice the air going in and then notice your breathe leaving your body. Meditation may seem intimidating, but inhaling, holding your breath, and then exhaling is the same pattern that occurs when you meditate, which releases endorphins, lowers blood pressure, and relaxes muscles.
- Small Acts of Kindness – Much of what makes our lives better are the small demonstrations of care that people express through their everyday actions. Too often, we can feel unconnected from others, so giving back in small ways reminds us of the potential of humanity. Take time today to hold the door open for someone else, call a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while, leave change in a parking meter, let someone go ahead of you in line, or compliment a coworker on their job performance.
While these small steps can lead to improved mental and physical health, they should not be used to replace therapy for those of us facing difficult issues. If you need help, contact Counseling Solutions at 985-785-2113 to schedule an appointment at one of our six locations.