Let's face it, our world is nerve wracking. We live in such a fast-paced lifestyle that gives us little time to recover or respond. The upshot is that many of us find day to day life exhausting as we've not developed skills to manage or deflect the onslaught of disturbances. We feel a ceaseless peppering of insecurities, fears and impending doom. Panic attacks, anxiety, and stress-related symptoms are on the uptick. So during this Mental Health Awareness Week, are we each questioning if we might be silently suffering mental illness?
We have a biologic instinct for survival with an inborn aptitude to perceive threats and dangers. However, with our sped-up surroundings, our brain circuits are literally overloaded. We struggle to manage negative thoughts and can't discern if incoming information is fact or fiction. We’re just too busy reacting to the assaults which create a stressed state. When this occurs over prolonged periods, we end up feeling frazzled and nervous and ready to do anything to feel better. All too often a diagnosis of mental illness is made and the treatment is medication. But it isn't always necessary.
Are we being duped into believing that a pill will be the fix? In some situations, we may indeed need a prescription, but in many cases we have more natural options available. The challenge with these simpler approaches is that they require responsibility on our part to do them and to cultivate our own sense of accountability. They also require a certain level of trust in our human evolution. We have built-in tools to activate for our recovery. We can access our inner powers rather than mask them with drugs.
So here are 6 simple techniques to consider:
1. Take time-out for your brain. Incessant mental chatter prevents you from being present in your life. If you’re forever thinking, examining, interpreting, you’re chronically sending the brain into high alert. This releases stress hormones impacting brain activity which when relentless can cause exaggerated fears and panic attacks. Plus it’s exhausting. Instead, consciously take a break. A few times a day, practice what I call "Productivity Pauses." Merely take a few minutes to close your eyes, breathe deeply, or do some gentle yawning or stretching to relieve tension and quiet your mind.
2. Get adequate sleep. Adults normally need 7 to 8 hours of rest, otherwise memory and good judgment suffer. Lack of sleep can cause irritability, ill-humor, weight gain, and an inability to cope with daily tasks. This can cause anxiety and lead to depression, Be mindful of sleep patterns and make sure you have good pre-sleep routines to ensure more restorative nights.
3. Make time for exercise. It's critical to keep the body fit and the mind functioning optimally to improve overall health and well being. Fitness is necessary and can reduce--even eliminate--depression. For instance, a brisk, outdoor walk for 15 to 20 minutes can get your energies flowing and change your whole attitude.
4. Choose nutritious foods. Food is significant fuel. If you eat poorly, you’ll feel rotten. If you choose wholesome, quality foods, your body and mind are nourished and you'll feel more balanced and perform better. Food choices impact how you feel about yourself and your reactions to the world. If you’re not eating the proper balance of nutrient-dense whole foods and healthy fats, you may experience nervousness, fatigue, lack of focus, poor memory. As an example, sugar--which has no nutritional value--can cause unhealthy cycles that mimic signs of depression. So your diet can contribute to overall health and you must be mindful about your choices.
5. Notice feelings and emotions but don't let them control you. We all face challenges and have tough days. Observe your fears and let them pass. If you have unmanageable worries or feel paralyzed to manage every day activities, seek help. Find a professional—mental health expert, physician, life coach…or even a shaman—to explore options.
6. Limit your intake of digital information. Especially reduce your news consumption. It's one thing to stay informed about local and international events but it's another to become a junkie which can contribute to nervousness and a feeling of overwhelm. We have also become digital addicts and cannot help but mindlessly check our phones, emails, etc. which is distracting and fragments our focus. In fact, studies have shown it's not good for our brains and harms our memory. So carve out at least one hour during your day to shut down your exposure to all digital data. Give your mind and your brain a much-needed rest. Ultimately, you'll find you expand your productivity and end up accomplishing far more than you imagined possible.