When things in the world get difficult and seem a little hopeless, it can be easy to forget about self-care. Things in the political world are in flux right now and that can make some of us pretty worried and stressed out about the future. In situations like this, it’s important to put self-care first so that we can be our best selves when facing the world. Here are some of the techniques and habits you can use when life gets overwhelming.
1. Meditation and Mindfulness
Mindfulness meditation, or really any type of meditative exercise, can do wonders for your psyche when you’re not feeling your best. When you have a spare moment, try taking a few deep breaths and taking inventory of your body. Notice and acknowledge how it feels to breathe in and out. Are you hot or cold? Tired? What do you hear and smell in your surroundings? Sometimes slowing down like this can help you to manage stress and existential dread alike, and can also help nip illnesses in the bud by allowing you to manage symptoms early.
2. Adequate Sleep
Lack of sleep is one of the biggest obstacles on the path to good health. I know I’ve been surprised by how much a good night’s sleep can help if I’m feeling down or have a pesky illness that won’t go away. The CDC recently called sleep insufficiency a public health problem. And not only does it affect the able-bodied population, but when you have underlying health issues, sleep is affected even more. This means that most of us cannot afford to lose anymore sleep than we already do.
3. Spend Time Outside
When was the last time you sat outside and read something? Or even done some people-watching? The internet is filled with studies aplenty that indicate how much time with nature can positively affect your mental health, but outside exposure can help with your physical health as well. Vitamin D deficiency is caused when you don’t spend enough time outside. It can lead to osteoporosis along with a whole host of other issues and disproportionately affects those with limited mobility who may be home bound. So spend some time in the sun and reap the benefits!
4. Eat the Right Amount
From binge-eating to starving yourself, being stressed can wreak havoc on your metabolism and your appetite. Sometimes, emotional eating habits can manifest in ways you don’t even notice. When you’re in a stressful situation, your body releases hormones that both increase your appetite and burn your calories faster, and it also prevents your body from effectively absorbing all the nutrients it needs. It’s important to stop emotional eating before it becomes a problem, so make an extra effort to control your portions when stressed.
Whether journaling means writing music, writing what happened to you today, or creating art, keeping track of your day-to-day life can be very beneficial to you in stressful times. It’s good to create the habit when things are less stressful so that writing in a journal becomes a good resource when you really need it and it doesn’t seem to be a huge sacrifice of time. Even if you don’t do it every day, keeping a journal to track important things (like an awesomeness journal to keep track of good news) can really help to organize your thoughts when stressed.
6. Support groups/therapy
I am a big advocate of both support groups and talk therapy. Support groups can be very helpful by allowing you to relate your experiences to others who truly understand what you’re going through and can give you honest feedback about your experiences. Sometimes it can be intimidating to talk to strangers but doing so can help you learn new ways of thinking and maybe help you feel more empowered to solve your problems. Talk therapy, on the other hand, is usually a one on one meeting with a professional. This can be good if you would rather establish a quality connection with someone who has earned your trust. If you are interested, Psychology Today offers a search function in which you can find a support group and/or therapist in your area that accepts your insurance and may be helpful with your specific needs.
Whether you dread reading or love getting lost in a good book, the benefits of reading for pleasure (as opposed to reading for work or school) a huge when you are stressed or troubled. Scientists at the University of Sussex found that reading silently for as little as six minutes can decrease your stress levels by 68%. It can decrease your heart rate and even ease tensions in your muscles. Over time, reading can even slow cognitive decline that comes naturally with age. So you can stay smarter and more mentally healthy for longer!
Music has been shown to decrease cortisol – the stress hormone – in our blood. Its clear effect on our emotions when used appropriately can cause higher levels of contentment, a sense of control, and more recently, hope. In a recent study, it has even been shown to affect one’s physical state. People with fibromyalgia who listened to positive music more often had a drastically less prevalent sense of pain and depression, two major symptoms of the disease. So turning those tunes up may help to you both physically and mentally!
9. Physical hygiene
Sometimes a lack of appropriate physical hygiene, also termed self-neglect, can stem from feelings of apathy or lack of self-confidence. When you don’t think it’s worth it to bathe or brush your hair, it can easily spiral into feelings of it not being worth it to do anything. When you think you may be slipping into self-neglect territory, start to do little things to invest in yourself. Invest in your capacity to do more, which is only possible if you take care of yourself.