Life is a beautiful adventure; but it can also be overwhelming, especially when we try to manage many things at once. The incredibly advanced world in which we live today often comes with over-stimulation, traffic and noise.
It is not often that we are still, or do not have something going on. In our busy lives, and stimulating environments, we can easily get lost amongst the chaos, and sometimes before we even realise it we have let our health and well-being take a back seat.
You cannot pour from an empty glass. It is vital to take care of ourselves, as well as our mental health, and by doing so we will then have the capacity to be there for others. We may feel that we do not have the time, however there are simple ways to improve our mental health and well-being, and still be able to have the time to show up for our responsibilities.
Sleep is fundamental to our overall well-being, and getting enough sleep is an essential aspect that is often easily disregarded. Simply getting a full night’s sleep – of approximately seven to nine hours each night – can enhance your mood, memory, energy and productivity.
Going to bed around a similar time every day creates a regular sleep cycle which allows the mind and body to rest and heal. A healthy amount of sleep allows for a balanced number of hormones to work through the body, resulting in a healthy appetite, body and mind.
When we are sleep impaired, we cannot function properly. Our stress response is exacerbated as the body releases high amounts of cortisol – the stress hormone – which can lead to insulin resistance, hunger and anxiety.
The mind and body require certain nutrients and vitamins to function, and the best way to get these is from the food we eat. What we eat also feeds our brain – choose foods that make you feel good, inside and out.
Enjoy being creative as you explore the delicious flavours and learn what these foods can do for you. This knowledge will help you make conscious and informed decisions about what you are eating, and why.
When we feel heavy, bloated and lethargic our mood and functionality is negatively impacted. A simple way to improve your well-being is to choose wholesome, rich and natural foods that support your mind and body.
Life is about balance, and so this does not mean cutting out foods that you enjoy which may not be completely nutritious. Instead, it is about becoming more connected and aware of what we are putting into our bodies, and how these foods make us feel.
This is so simple, but so important. Water is a key aspect of our functioning – you need water to digest your food and to get rid of toxins and waste in the body. Each of the cells in your body – in your brain, muscles and organs – require water to function. Water protects our tissues and joints, it stabilises our heartbeat, and normalises blood pressure.
It is generally advised that we drink six to eight glasses of water each day. Again, it is about balance and moderation, and therefore we need to listen to our bodies, and be careful to not to overdo it either.
Moving our bodies is an incredibly simple way to improve our mental health. This does not mean you have to go for a 21km run, or take up CrossFit.
Moving your body – be it through walking, dancing, cycling, surfing, doing any cardiovascular exercise, reduces stress and anxiety, and enhances our mood. Staying active boosts your immune system, increases memory, and helps us stay in the moment; also giving your brain a workout.
We are social creatures by nature. Socialising allows us to learn from others, it allows us to become more aware of ourselves, and to share with those around us. Surround yourself with positive and happy people. Interact in relationships that enrich your life and bring you joy.
When we face complex and conflictual relationships and dynamics, we can become overwhelmed and stressed. Try and avoid drama by practicing honesty, communicating, and learning to say no, with love and kindness.
When we spend time on our own it is empowering, and can be very valuable. However, developing connections and having a community and supportive relationships are also key to our well-being. Spending too much time alone can lead to loneliness and depression.
So, remember, even when you are occupied and have a lot going on, ensure to keep in touch, stay in contact with friends, and take a moment to share with those around you. Human interaction enhances our happiness, and stimulates growth.
Get some rays. Exposure to sunlight cues certain areas in the retina of the eye which triggers the release of serotonin – the happy hormone -, boosting our mood and helping us feel relaxed and calm.
With just a short five to fifteen minutes of exposure to sunlight we are able to gain great benefits of vitamin D. Vitamin D strengthens our bones, helps to prevent cancer, and heals skin conditions. Too much sun exposure, however, can have negative effects, so ensure to keep a balance.
Slow down. In this ongoing, stimulating world we often forget to just breathe. By taking a moment to stop, and take a breath, and come into the now, we are able to ground and centre.
This short moment of stillness and silence allows us to come into the present, being mindful and quieting the mind. This is an easy and incredibly beneficial tool to use throughout your day – be it when you are sitting in traffic, waiting in a queue, or even between meetings.
Just stop, breathe, and focus on something in your space, in that moment. This slows down our nervous system, centres us, and allows us to return to the day with a calm and more focused energy.
It is easy to fall into the rat-race of life, carrying on, non-stop, with all the things we need to get done. When we are constantly on this hamster wheel our mind and body go into overdrive, which can lead to burnout.
It is so important to ensure that we continue to enjoy life, and to have fun. When we do something that brings us joy it enhances our mood and reduces stress. This can be going on an adventure for a weekend, exploring a new sport, or learning to play an instrument; but it can also be something short and sweet.
By taking a short ten to thirty minute break during the day to play and have fun – be it to listening to music, going for a bike ride, dancing, drawing, cooking or gardening -, we stimulate our creative side of our brain. Embracing our playful side reduces stress and enhances our mood, allowing us to have more joy and to be more proactive when we return to our daily responsibilities.
Take time out. It is so important to allow ourselves to relax and rest. By adding a calming and grounding activity into our day we can ground and release stress, and slow down our nervous system.
This does not have to be a long activity – practice a short meditation, do some yoga or tai chi, practice some breathwork, journal, stretch, or take some time to sit in silence outside in nature. This short moment of slowing down allows us to recharge so we can be present, and have the energy and attention required during our day.
Technology is an extremely beneficial tool. We have an increased access to resources and networks, we are able to learn more, connect more, and do more. However, spending too much time behind a screen can negatively impact our well-being.
The more time we spend on our devices, the less time we spend in reality. Technology can expand our access, but it can also isolate us. Ensure to find balance. Limit technology and screen time during parts of your day, and allow yourself to be present in the physical world.
Be present when you are with others, when you are enjoying your meals, and when you are taking some down time. Technology has become an easy escape and distraction which has shown to reduce self-esteem and well-being. Next time you find yourself going to your device, consciously check-in, and ask yourself if this is necessary, or if this is in fact not serving you.
Screen time can also negatively impact our sleep and reduce the duration and quality of sleep. By switching off all devices for an hour before bedtime, we limit the negative impacts of screen time on our sleep.
Having a routine allows us to feel prepared and motivated. Planning and time management help us balance our professional and personal lives so we can have the time to be with ourselves and others, take care of our physical and mental health, and work toward our goals.
However, it is also important to understand and accept that often things do not go as planned. Become comfortable with uncertainty. Learn to become comfortable with change. Rather than trying to control things and make them happen, try to be open, and willing. Let go of the fear of the unknown, and when things do not go as planned, rather than backing away, be creative and see the change as an opportunity.
Through this mindful approach stress and anxiety lessen, and we are able to see new possibilities around us. As one door closes, another one opens.
This article is written by Bianca Aimée Kramer.