The past few years have made us think about our mental health. It’s hard to deal with the news cycle and the details of your own life without feeling exhausted. Journaling has been a great way to find clarity in times of uncertainty. When I am able to take a few minutes for myself at the end of each day, I open my journal to begin the process of writing everything out. These pages cover daily life and small moments in my day that, when I finally read them all together, may or not have any meaning.
Sometimes I search for patterns in my past, even though it may not reveal much. It’s a great way to get rid of all the worries and just be able to move my thoughts onto paper. No matter if you journal or use another way to process your environment, everyone has their own ways of coping. Here are four tools that will help you prioritize your well-being.
When I was making dinner for my family a few weeks back, it became overwhelming. My six-year-old and five-year old sons started arguing over Lego pieces, while my toddler began throwing food all over the floor. I saw toys all over the place, there was a sink full of dishes and construction noises from across the street. As I tried to get away from the situation, I said to my husband that I needed time for myself. The next fifteen minutes were spent in silence as I wrote in my journal. This was a big improvement in my emotional well being and how I presented for my family the rest of the evening.
Caroline Given, a licensed clinical social worker and therapist, says that journaling allows us to feel the emotional release that comes from expressing ourselves unfiltered. Sometimes it can be difficult to process what you are experiencing. Journaling allows you to look at things from a different perspective. Given states that there is no wrong way of journaling. It’s easier for beginners to start journaling if they have prompts. These prompts can be found via a quick Google search. Given recommends journaling to be done as if it were a letter written to someone or yourself, if you have unresolved feelings.
It is possible to find a time each day that you write, so it becomes a routine. A blank notebook can be used to jot down your thoughts. You don’t have to achieve perfection. Instead, you should be honest and raw with your thoughts.
Given recommends the creative exercise, Morning Pages, from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, which involves stream-of-consciousness writing for three pages and placing them in an envelope without re-reading them. She adds that this helps you to get into the habit and not judge yourself. You might have heard of gratitude journaling. Given believes it is a great way to reflect. She says that psychologists have found that intentional reflection on who or what we are is one of the best mood boosters.
Exercise and Mental Health
My stress levels have improved by attending a boot camp class at the local gym. When I am in class, my mind is focused on the task at hand, whether it be running outside or doing burpees. My sneakers are the only thing I think about. When class ends, the tension in my body and mind is gone. Regular exercise has been shown to have an impact on your mental health and overall well-being. Regular exercise can improve your memory, reduce stress, improve sleep, and increase your psychological and physical energy.
Physical activity can help release endorphins in your brain and relax your muscles. Meital, a 41-year-old pharmacist from Philadelphia, says that “hopping on my Peloton or going for a walk outside helps me disconnect and focus on my wellness. It makes me feel energized and ready to face the day. When I exercise, I feel more at peace and a better mother. I am more patient and happier.”
Jessica, 32, is a New Jersey teacher. She tells that the gym helps her relax after reading news and current events. She says, “I spend a lot time looking at the news and discussing with my family and close friends. The current news has been affecting me mentally and feeling anxious and stressed, so I go to the gym or take a walk when I feel overwhelmed.”
You don’t need to go to a gym to exercise. You can move your body and mood by turning on your favorite music and walking around your neighborhood.
Finding new interests
Although many of us haven’t been interested in hobbies since art and craft were part of our grade school curriculum, there are important benefits to exploring new hobbies as adults. A 2020 study found a link between hobbies and depression symptoms. Study found that adults who took up new hobbies had a 30% reduced chance of developing depression. Hobbies offer a great way to express yourself, relax, and create creativity.
“These past years have required me to consciously find ways to unwind. Joanna, 38, a Philadelphia attorney, told me that she started playing piano during the pandemic. This was something I hadn’t done since childhood. She says, “It puts you in a different mindset.”
Hobbies don’t have to be a part-time hobby. They can also open doors to new professions and learning opportunities. Elina has been a certified Botox and cosmetic-filler administrator since the outbreak. She finds joy in learning new things. She says that she finds learning new skills and helping clients to be rewarding. It’s not about finding a hobby, but about finding what gives you joy and satisfaction.
Rely on Your Community
Although processing emotions can feel lonely and isolating, it can be beneficial to reach out to your community for help if you are able. Given says that mental health is a very important topic. It is important to recognize that not everyone has access to support. She adds that a support system is a luxury that’s not always available in today’s increasingly divided and isolated society.
Research shows that a sense of community is vital for humankind. Humans cannot survive in isolation. Given states that not one person can meet all their needs sustainably. Stephanie, 40, is a senior market manager and tries to be present with her children at the end. She says, “I lay down with my children while they sleep and I put them to bed. It grounds me and reminds of the important things in my life.”
Given believes that having a support network is crucial for trauma recovery. She says that trusting that someone is there for you and will care about your well-being is a great stress reliever and wellness booster. Joanna is reliant on her parents to help her stay grounded during stressful times. She says, “When all else fails I call my parents.” “They are both very wise and listen to me, and help me see the bigger picture.”
It can be difficult to identify the right support system, but once you do, it will serve as a reminder that life is not all ups and downs. It’s a sign that all that matters is at home.