1. Develop proper sleep hygiene by making sure you get in bed at an early enough hour that you can get a full night’s rest, washing your face and brushing your teeth, not having caffeine after 3pm, and reducing screen time before you are laying down.
2. Find a form of exercise that you enjoy such as bike riding, dancing, walking, or yoga and set aside time every day or a few times a week to engage in this activity which has been proven to reduce stress and aid in strengthening your mental health.
3. Start a daily journal and use this journal to vent about your day, talk about your innermost thoughts and feelings, and express your emotions. You can also write down affirmations in this journal so each time you open it, you are reminded of something motivational and inspirational.
4. Set boundaries in both your personal and professional life since boundaries are an important way of allowing yourself space to deal with your feelings and to avoid being overwhelmed. Set boundaries at work by not working beyond your set hours and expressing when you are overwhelmed with an assignment and need help. Set boundaries in your personal life by telling your family members, partner, or friends what is okay and what is not okay.
5. Set limits on daily social media intake because it can become toxic when consumed in large quantities. Many people express their opinions on social media, and this can lead to anxiety, stress, and depression. Set a specific amount of time that you should spend on social media every day and try your best to stick to this.
When the holiday season rolls around the corner, it can be a very exciting and joyful time. However, despite the positive feelings, negative ones such as stress and feelings of being overwhelmed are experienced as well. Many people experience stress during the holiday season for a variety of reasons but not limited to:
1. Having to see family members that you do not have the best relationship with
2. Dealing with the pressure of having to buy gifts for relatives, children, friends, etc
3. Being reminded of loved ones that are no longer here to celebrate with
4. Decorating your house to be perfect in the eyes of those who are around you
5. Trying to accomplish your end of the year goals, whether they are personal or professional
6. Dealing with a romantic relationship and the thoughts and feelings of “where is this going” and commitment related discussions
In addition, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), can influence how you feel around this time of year. SAD is a form of depression that comes from seasonal weather changes. Most often, you can expect to experience dips in your mood beginning in the fall months and continuing throughout the winter. SAD can be caused by a disruption in your circadian rhythm, meaning the reduction of sunlight can disrupt your internal clock. Additionally, this reduced sunlight can decrease serotonin levels making you more prone to feelings of depression. Finally, the change in the seasons can affect your balance of melatonin, which in turn will affect your mood and sleep patterns. If you are already struggling with SAD, the stress that comes from dealing with the holiday season can be too much for someone to deal with.
So, what can you do to manage this stress during the holiday season and winter months? Here are some tips that may be useful in reducing holiday stress:
1. Allow yourself breaks if you are feeling overwhelmed and buried under the pressure
2. Designate time to be alone and meditate
3. Develop a routine that you can stick to
4. Make sure you get fresh air, even if just to walk to the mailbox
5. Find the strength to set boundaries with people and conversations that you are uncomfortable with
6. Set a budget for how much you want to spend on gifts
7. Say “no” to anything that you do not feel you can mentally or physically handle
8. Set time to read a book or journal everyday
9. Enjoy a nice bath before bed
10. Set time to sit under a comfortable blanket and watch a funny TV show or movie
The vagus nerve, the longest nerve in your body, is also known as a secret weapon that can be used to treat stress, sleep, anxiety, and depression. When you stimulate this nerve, your parasympathetic nervous system is activated, allowing your body and mind both to begin to relax. The vagus nerve can influence your breathing, heart rate, and digestive function. This one nerve has a powerful effect on a lot of your daily functions.
There are specific activities that you can practice to stimulate this nerve. Below are some of the more common stimulation exercises:
4. Inhaling for longer than you are exhaling and breathing deeply from your stomach
5. Foot massages
6. Being exposed to the cold through cold showers or cold temperatures outside
9. Eating fiber
When you stimulate this nerve, your body will relax, and you will experience a sense of calm. Additionally, this will allow for a reduction of stress and enable more of a restful sleep. The power of the vagus nerve is not known by everyone, but the hope is that as more people learn about its benefits, the more we will see an improvement in overall mental health.
When do I need to see a therapist? That is the million-dollar question that many of us tend to ask ourselves.
This answer will vary by person and situation. However, if you are already pondering whether or not you should go to therapy, that means something in itself. I find that most of my clients attend therapy when they are feeling stuck or need help working through a situation. If you are wondering if it is time for you to enter therapy, here are some sample reasons listed below but not limited to:
1. You are losing interest in activities you once enjoyed.
2. You feel disconnected from your partner but are unsure why.
3. You feel unfocused on daily tasks and cannot accomplish simple goals.
4. You find yourself lashing out at those closest to you.
5. You find yourself tossing and turning at night, unable to drift off into a peaceful sleep.
6. You feel overwhelmed by your emotions and do not know where to turn.
7. You are engaging in unhealthy habits, such as excessive drinking, binge eating, not eating, hair pulling, or reckless sexual behavior.
8. You have gone through a recent breakup and need help learning how to be on your own again.
9. You are experiencing a lot of stress at work and need to learn ways to cope.
10. You find yourself constantly crying for no reason at all.
11. You have recently gone through a traumatic experience and find that you cannot leave your house.
12. You fear being rejected by others.
13. You find that you have lost the motivation to engage in daily hygiene.
14. You find yourself questioning your future, next steps, and how to continue to live.
15. You are thinking of harming yourself or someone else.
16. You just moved to another city and have feelings about that.
17. A family member passed away 6 months ago, and you are tired about talking to your friends about it.
Exercise is clinically proven to help people who suffer from both anxiety and depression. When you engage in exercise, you improve both your physical and mental health. Not only does exercise reduce inflammation but it also assists in positive changes in the brain such as neuron regrowth. When you exercise, it releases “happy hormones” such as dopamine and endorphins. Additionally, exercising is a healthy distraction or outlet that can be used to free your mind of stressful thoughts.
Exercise can help with anxiety because it allows you to focus on something other than the anxious feelings you are experiencing. Additionally, it assists in relieving both tension and stress in your body. It can increase your energy levels both physically and mentally. Exercise is correlated with a reduction of anxiety because when you focus on the movement of your body, it allows you to escape from your internal racing thoughts. Think about how you focus on the things around you when you run or the physical feeling of your breath getting increasingly heavier. When you redirect your attention to your body, you are already allowing other parts of your mind to relax and more specifically, the central nervous system.
The following are specific exercises that can help reduce anxiety and depressive symptoms:
1. Walking/Running: This activity is important because the hormone GABA is released. GABA’s main job is to reduce the activity in your central nervous system which is responsible for causing anxiety. The release of GABA brings on a sense of calmness. In addition, when you walk through a park, you are engaging with nature—your mind focuses on the environment and sense of calmness may come over you.
2. Cardio: Cardio is beneficial because it releases endorphins, boosts dopamine and norepinephrine, and releases toxins. These neurotransmitters and chemicals can lead to a feeling of euphoria or happiness.
3. Dancing: When you dance, you release endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine. These neurotransmitters will help you feel relaxed, happy, and calm.
4. Yoga: Yoga can be helpful for anxiety and depression due to its mind and body altering effects. Yoga can be viewed as a form of meditation. Additionally, the body positions you participate in force your attention to be redirected to your body and in turn relaxing your mind.
Each person may find that they benefit differently in terms of the types of exercise and frequency amount—in order to experience relief from their anxiety and depressive symptoms. Some people may want to engage in a daily physical activity while others maybe less so. Each case will be different and dependent on your specific symptoms, level of severity, and other interventions you are practicing. Exercise is not a guaranteed cure for anxiety and depression but can be one of the tools you use towards reducing symptoms.
25 grounding techniques that help alleviate feelings of anxiety:
1. Feel an object around you and evaluate the touch, sight, and scent of this item
2. Take deep breaths inhaling and exhaling
3. Take a small bite of a food you enjoy
4. Sip a drink slowly and focus on the taste and smell
5. Listen to your favorite song and sing along
6. Make a list of your favorite things, utilizing different categories such as books, vacation spots, movies, etc.
7. Sit and play with your pet
8. Tell a joke (if you are alone, tell it to yourself to make yourself laugh)
9. Watch a funny television show
10. Go for a walk outside and note what you see
11. Hold a piece of ice and focus on how it feels and how soon it begins to melt
12. Smell your favorite candle
13. Exercise! This can be anything from simple stretching to a jog around your neighborhood
14. Listen to your favorite song and dance along
15. Remind yourself that the feelings will pass and the anxiety is temporary
16. Visualize a photo of something that makes you happy, such as a friend, family member, or pet
17. Repeat kind affirmations and read different quotes that will inspire and distract you
18. Reach out to a friend and plan a fun activity together
19. Reach out and hold onto something comforting such as your favorite sweater, a comfortable blanket, or your pillow
20. Use the 5-4-3-2-1 technique
5 things you can see
4 things you can feel
3 things you can hear
2 things you can smell
1 thing you can taste
21. Sing along to some music that you enjoy
22. Remind yourself about how anxiety passed previously and that you got through it
23. Clench your fists, squeeze hard, and then release
24. Take a warm bath and focus on how it makes your body feel
25. Visualize that you have a dial in front of you that represents your emotions and picture yourself turning it down