It's Mental Health week of the 2018 Balance Challenge! Mental health is so much more important than most people realize. It impacts how we think, feel, and act. It also factors in to how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. I actually like to call it mental “wealth,” because if your mental health is in a positive state, it does wonders for your wellbeing.
Unfortunately, mental health has developed a “stigma” around it, and we don’t talk about it with each other the way we discuss exercise and diet. Most of us know that if we aren’t exercising, we will feel sluggish and tired. We physically exercise to take care of our heart, strengthen our lungs, manage weight, destress and to give us more overall energy. But what most of us don’t realize, is that if we aren’t exercising our mind as well as our bodies, we aren’t fully taking care of ourselves. We need to be able to discuss our mental health needs with each other and actively work toward improving our mental state, just like we would our diet or exercise plan.
Mental health has been an issue for me my entire life. As a kid I was always active and knew the importance of taking care of my body physically, but never understood what it meant to exercise mental health. Emotions and stress ran high for me by the time I was in high school and I didn’t know how to deal with it or even talk about it. I went into a dark pit, one that I hope to never return to, and it has been something I have had to be conscious of ever since. I’ve since learned that just as you can manage your weight by exercise and a healthy diet, it’s also possible to manage your mental health through very tangible ways.
I would love to help you find balance mentally by giving you a few tips that personally help me. Check out some suggestions below and stay tuned to the @true40studio Instagram story this week - I’ll be sharing more mental health tips.
- When you are feeling stressed, stop and breathe.
This is a simple step you can take no matter where you are, and it will only take seconds of your day. Try this breathing exercise:
Sit upright, melt your shoulders away from your ears and close your eyes. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound. Close your mouth and take a deep inhale through your nose to a mental count of four. Hold your breath for a count of seven. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight. This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
- Having trouble sleeping because your body is tense and your mind is wandering? Progressive relaxation is one of my favorites, give it a try!
Comfortably lay down with your palms facing up and close your eyes. Start by drawing your awareness to your toes, focusing on tensing them as hard as your can and then relax them. Next, move to your entire foot, flex and create tension in both feet, then relax and let them fall to the side. Move up your body slowly, tensing then relaxing each muscle group for two to three seconds each. Progress from your feet to the calves, knees, thighs, glutes, chest, arms, hands, neck, jaw, and eyes—all while maintaining deep, slow breaths. The best part is when you get to your face, tense your jaw then completely relax, feeling your cheeks melt. When finished you should feel totally relaxed!
- For me, writing things down causes me more stress, but for many, journaling their thoughts is beneficial for balancing mental health.
Give journaling a try! Grab a notebook or piece of paper, sit down and start to write. Focus on your internal experiences, thoughts and feelings. Writing these experiences and feelings down will help you receive mental and emotional clarity, validate your experiences and come to a deeper understanding of yourself. It can also help track day-to-day symptoms so that you can recognize triggers and learn ways to better control them.
- My 2017 New Year Resolution was to take better care of myself mentally. I went on a journey of learning to meditate and I am still practicing today!
Just like overall mental health, there’s a stigma around meditation. It felt foreign to me at first, but I did a lot of research and learned that meditation is independent of any specific religion and can honestly be very personal and unique to you. I feel like it has really helped me stay true to me, which is something so important to me and something I prioritize in True40’s culture.
Want to give meditation a try? Download our mindful meditation guide here. Tell us how your first mediation session went and earn an extra sticker during the True40 Balance Challenge!
These practices have helped me in so many ways and I am excited to share them with you. Remember, your True40 family is here for you and wants to work with you to make you more aware of your mental health!
XOXO, Allie Weingarten; True40 Founder