This month is Mental Health Awareness Month and the theme is “Back to Basics”. After over two years of dealing with a pandemic – oh wait, we’re still dealing with it!! – and trying to rebuild our lives in somewhat of a new world, our mental health has suffered. It is time that we start to refocus, rebuild, and get back to what really matters, and this starts with the basics.
When I think of getting back to the basics, I ask myself these questions…
What is it that I need?
What gives me purpose?
What doesn’t fulfill me anymore?
Can I get rid of anything in my life that no longer serves me?
Can I add anything in that does?
These questions can help weed out the unnecessary things in life, and help you focus on the things that truly matter. The basics of life start with nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress management, and a healthy support system to name a few. Think about these areas of your life, are there improvements you can make? Below are some ways we can get back to the basics and create simplicity around these areas of life to help us build skills and a lifestyle to support our mental health.
When we’re stressed out or feeling anxious, depressed, or even excited we may turn to food for comfort. These choices may not always be the healthiest, which can then lead to regret and self-sabotage. According to Mental Health America, People who eat a diet high in whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, legumes, fish, and unsaturated fats (like olive oil) are up to 35% less likely to develop depression than people who eat less of these foods. On the flip side, those that consume highly processed, fried, and sugary food can increase their risk of developing depression by 60%.
Getting yourself back to basics with your nutrition can help you feel better all around. In fact, your gut health is imperative to your brain function which in turn can help keep your mental health in check! Here are a few tips to get a clean slate with nutrition and get back to feeling better!
Try not to reinvent the wheel here, focus on the foods that you already know (that are healthy of course) and start there.
Try to incorporate vegetables in most meals
Drink water – half your body weight in ounces
Try and make a few healthy swaps where you can at a pace that feels right for you
Focus on one meal at a time so you don’t get overwhelmed
Our bodies were meant to move, and movement lights up all those feel-good hormones in our bodies making us feel better and happier! In fact, just one hour of exercise a week has been shown to lessen mood, anxiety, and substance disorders. Although it is recommended, we get at least 150 minutes of activity a week (broken down to 30 minutes 5 times a week), start small, and work your way up!
When it comes to the basics of exercise, especially if you’re just starting out, remember to start where you are. Just move your body, you don’t have to take a formal class if that doesn’t work for you. There are so many ways to incorporate exercise into your world. Here are a few tips!
Find something you like that you can incorporate into your life
Just start walking, it’s one of the best, easiest, and safest ways to move your bodies
Get a buddy that motivates you to exercise with you
Start small and work your way up
Sleep is something we all need but can’t seem to get enough of! The stresses of life keep us awake, or we simply can’t find a routine that works for us. Getting good quality sleep is important for our bodies to restore and repair from the day, it’s like plugging in your phone. Our batteries need to recharge. Sleep can be frustrating, but with a few tweaks, you can get the restorative sleep you’re dreaming of! Check out our blog on sleep hygiene for more information! A few tips to get started.
Go to bed and wake up at the same time. Give yourself a bedtime and stick to it.
Power down an hour before bed.
Get rid of any light that may filter into your bedroom. Keep it dark and cool (65 degrees is ideal but this varies by personal comfort)
Stress Management and Support
Stress is a huge contributor to many mental health issues and disorders. It can wreak havoc on our lives and cause disruptions in our everyday. If we don’t manage it properly, it can affect our health mentally and physically. When it comes to stress, it’s important to know WHAT is stressing you out. To find a solution we need to find the problem first! Breaking this challenge down into bite-size
pieces to navigate a solution can help make it less scary and overwhelming. Stress is a normal part of life and we’re all going to experience it; the difference is in how we handle it. Get back to the basics with your stress and move forward with grace!
Be realistic with yourself. Are you taking too much on?
Let go of perfection and be patient. Change takes time.
Stop multitasking. Take it one step at a time, one task at a time.
Meditate and breathe. This triangle breathing is an excellent resource when you just need to take a time out!
Identify all your healthy coping skills and use them! Here’s a great resource to get you started.
Identify your support system and rely on them to help you through the tough times and celebrate your small victories along the way.
Say no to things and people that do not serve you or that you simply do not have time to do. You can’t do it all!!
Focus on what you have control over, and let go of what you don’t.
When it comes to getting back to the basics of life, it is important to try to simplify your life. Where can you make some changes? What are some small steps you can take towards those changes? If you can’t make any changes, can you change your attitude towards them?
Remember change doesn’t happen overnight, and it takes some adjusting and grace, but if take the time to really figure out what needs to be done to simplify your life, a whole new world will open for you.
And remember at the very core of everything in life … just breathe.
Author: Melissa Dupuis, MPH, CHES