12 of the Most Effective Strategies for Protecting Your Mental Health

Wellness News

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May is Mental Health Month, so there’s no better time to pause, take a step back, and pay attention to our own well-being. At Thrive, we talk a lot about stress and the impact it has on our bodies and minds. And while identifying and addressing the root causes is extremely important, it’s also helpful to have a few mental-health-boosting techniques at the ready too.

We asked our Thrive Community for their best tips for protecting and maintaining their mental health on a daily basis, not just this month, but throughout the year. Here are some of our favorites:

Establish an effective morning routine

“When my kids were young, I realized I could influence the day they had at school by the way I structured their morning routines — up in time to eat breakfast, clothes laid out, homework completed, and most importantly, my cheerful, loving attitude from the moment they awakened. It’s ironic I never took care of myself in the same manner until my kids were successful adults. Now I begin my day with meditation, a nature walk and at least 20 minutes of yoga. When my day begins on a positive note, it positively influences my attitude about everything that follows.”

—Debbie C., marketing and communications professional, Fountain Hills, AZ

Be kind to yourself

“Treat yourself with the kindness you would extend to a loved one. Give yourself permission and room to feel the things that you are feeling and don’t get angry with yourself.”

—Gideon Dunster, Doctoral Candidate, Seattle WA

Take a deep breath (or several)

“I breathe in and out to the count of six throughout my day to keep me calm. I use it at the dentist. I use it when I feel my anxiety rising about daily events. I use it to help me go to sleep at night.”  

—Natalie Bonfig, writer/speaker, St. Paul, MN

Get your mental load down on paper

“Parents, especially mothers, are overwhelmed and even physically exhausted by a burden we hold inside our heads. Our ‘mental load’ is the ‘largely invisible work of remembering and noticing,’ as referred to by Marie Levey-Pabst. In order to release this mental load and keep it from compounding day after day resulting in stress and the feeling of drowning in our tasks, we must transfer these tasks, schedules, and commitments onto paper. Get the list out of our heads so that we are able to physically check them off once complete and therefore release them from our mental load.”

—Kelly Schott, wellness lifestyle design, San Diego, CA

Don’t forget to move

“For me mental well-being is my top priority. When I’m in the office, I make a point of getting up every one-and-a-half to two hours to move my body and move stagnant energy before jumping into a new task. It helps keep me present and aware of how I’m feeling.”

—Tash Pieterse, life and mindset coach, Auckland, NZ

Don’t be so available

“This goes hand in hand with saying ‘no’ more often to protect my precious time, but to complement that, I intentionally choose to make myself less available. With little hesitation, I usually raise my hand and set aside my priorities to help people as much as I can. But lately, instead of actually having to say the word ‘no,’ I’ve been blocking off my personal and work calendars to dedicate time to meditate, self-reflect, or act in any way I might need that given day. People that know me well have started to adapt to my routines and with that, I’ve been blessed with more commitment towards my mental wellbeing.”

—Melissa Muncy, content marketing, San Francisco, CA

Take a nature break

“Instead of going straight home from work, I stop by my local botanical garden and take a walk by myself to decompress. I can actually feel myself relax as I walk through the hills. The smell of the flowers, the beauty of my surroundings, and the sound of birdsong is better (for me) than meditation or yoga or other similar activities. During those activities, my mind starts to wander and I can’t relax. But when I walk through the gardens, I am able to be mindful and simply enjoy the moment.”  

—Katie, blogger, Los Angeles, CA

Create a daily de-stressing ritual

“We must create and be disciplined to a daily ritual that connects us to the truth of who we are.  We must protect our mind from any form of non-supportive input — reaffirm why we are here and what our purpose is, while being girded by our non-negotiable values. For me, I meditate, exercise in nature, write a daily gratitude journal, be of service to whomever I can, keep up with my supportive relationships, and love and laugh a lot. These simple lifestyle choices have been the key to keeping me mentally strong and resilient.”

—Valerie L. Youngblood, M.D., integrative/functional medicine specialist, Lajolla, CA

Plan your day

“As I am prone to anxiety, nurturing my mental health is absolutely vital. I also happen to be an introvert, so time alone is paramount! I find that rituals give me a sense of grounding and safety. I wake up 30 minutes before the rest of my family, make my favourite tea, and spend time downloading all my thoughts in writing before sitting quietly for a few moments. Then I plan the day ahead. Clearing my mind and knowing what’s coming keeps my anxiety at bay. When life seems to be taking me down the exhaustion funnel, I take 15 minutes to make a list of my ‘sustainers’ (activities that nurture me) and my ‘drainers’ (those that suck the energy out of me). I often realise that I have let drainers take over. Where I can, I make a plan to reincorporate activities that spark joy or peace into my life.” 

—Isabelle Griffith, Mindfulness and Resilience Coach, London, U.K.

Volunteer your time

“Being a volunteer/advocate for suicide prevention and heart and stroke health has certainly helped me channel my negative thoughts and memories by using them to empower and help others.”

—Craig Dubecki, author, speaker, musician, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada

Delegate whenever possible (including your commute)

“I’ve started taking Lyft to work and back. I live in Los Angeles and parking is expensive. Oddly enough, I’m a mental health professional and I have found that I don’t need to ‘decompress’ in the same way when I arrive home. I finish up my notes, read a book, clean out my inbox while I sit in traffic. I didn’t realize how much sitting in traffic was putting me on edge until I wasn’t in the driver’s seat. I was only going to do it for the month between car leases and the holidays but five months later I’m still without a car. I highly recommend it for urbanites, and expense-wise, it’s less.” 

—Kristie Holmes, psychology clinician, Los Angeles, CA

Make time to play

“Engaging in activities surrounding humanity, arts/awareness, travel and sports/fitness, led me to discover my own personal acronym and mantra, ‘H.A.T.S. Off’ — daily rituals rooted in self-compassion that nurture my mental well-being. I now share these practices via my writing and speeches. Sometimes playtime can seem gratuitous given all our responsibilities. By engaging in play and accessing ‘flow,’ we can learn a lot about ourselves. What are our needs, desires, and dreams? Finding space for play is the best way to ‘level up’ to better well-being.”

—Paula Toledo, speaker, writer & mental well-being advisor, Montreal, Canada

Thrive Global

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