If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that poor mental health can wreck your quality of life if gone unchecked. We worked hard to improve our mental state during the lockdown, now that things are slowly going back to normal, complacency is not an option.
What’s still an option though is doubling down on the work we’ve put in and adopting even better habits moving forward. To keep you on track, this guide will take you through some mental health practices you need to take advantage of today.
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If you’re not familiar with ego work, this is a phenomenal practice that, among other things, helps protect your energy. Dr. Nicole LePera (@the.holistic.psychologist on IG), a clinical psychologist who teaches a lot about ego work, describes the ego as the part of us that takes people’s behaviors personally, makes everything about ourselves, and creates stories to form an emotional response. The ego often creates an “Us” vs. “Them” defense mentality.
Example: A new love interest isn’t texting back.
Ego story: They don’t like me. They met someone else. I know how this will end. I’ll never find love.
Someone did something that hurt you or triggered an insecurity. Ego story: They did this on purpose. They knew this would upset me. They’re so inconsiderate.
Awareness and understanding of the ego prevent us from playing into the (often exaggerated) ego stories about ourselves or those around us and prevents unnecessary suffering.
Tips for beginning ego work
- Pay attention to the steady stream of thoughts in your mind (ego stories)
- Notice that these stories have a theme of comparison and assigning fault
- Name your ego, identify her without judgment
- Take a deep breath and say, “I am not the ego.”
SPEND TIME IN A HOBBY (With no strings attached)
Immersing yourself in a hobby that you genuinely enjoy for no other reason than pleasure is therapeutic. Hobbies are known to prevent anxiety, depression, chronic stress disease and alleviate burnout. Unfortunately, hustle culture convinces us that our hobbies HAVE TO serve as a stream of income on top of our day jobs. This creates a toxic mindset of “grinding,” where there is no rest, even in your relaxation time, and contributes to a strained mental state. Even worse, it can leave you with a bitter taste about doing things you love.
A hobby doesn’t have to be complicated. It could be as simple as watching TV, playing games, baking, doing crafts, thrifting, or beating your face to take pictures. If it sparks joy, relaxes you, or boosts your mood, dedicate some time to it.
Tips for improving mind-state through your hobby
- Carve out time each day or week, strictly dedicated to your hobby. This means, give yourself to it with no thought of anything or anyone else.
- Practice removing judgment or guilt for completing an act that doesn’t bring monetary value. Your peace and mental health cannot be bought at a price.
- Remind yourself that your hobby is productive if it provides an escape for you, no matter how small.
Positive self-talk, a.k.a affirmation, is the practice of repeating positive and uplifting statements to ourselves in order to challenge negative or counter-productive thoughts. Affirmations have been popular within the past year and are a relatively simple practice to begin today.
It starts with active awareness of our internal conversations, catching any negative thoughts, reframing them, and reaffirming ourselves. Remember, if you say it to yourself enough times, you start to believe it. If you wouldn’t say it to a loved one, then don’t say it to yourself.
Positive affirmations don’t always have to be done in front of a mirror, you could do it literally anywhere – in the shower, while you eat breakfast, during your commute, in the parking lot, there are no rules to it. The goal is to allow yourself receive and truly absorb these positive beliefs.
How to affirm yourself:
Create a list of positive phrases and statements that reflect who you are/who you hope to be. Recite them to yourself and visualize your ideal self.
Tips for maintaining positive internal conversations
- Check in with yourself throughout the day and note the thoughts running through your mind. Are they negative? Do they serve you? How can you reframe those thoughts?
- Identify triggers. In what scenarios are you likely to slip into self-deprecation? How can you prepare for these situations?
- Surround yourself with positive things and people that uplift you.
Preserving and improving our mental health should be an everyday priority. You won’t win the battle everyday, but having the right tools will recenter and get you back on track. What are some mental health practices you implement in your day-to-day life? Share with us in the comments, we’d love to hear what helps you.