This is my “toolbox”, if you will. I turn to at least one of these strategies on a daily basis because I’m the best version of me when my mind is clear, content, focused, and peaceful. Over the years, I’ve developed these six strategies by simply observing without judgment my reactions to certain situations and my cravings, needs, and wants throughout the day. Without them, I’d be a much less pleasant, less passionate, less productive version of me.
Silence. For at least ten minutes everyday, I need silence. I need no music, no podcasts, no conversations, no lectures. Just silence. This is my time to check in with myself: how am I feeling - both emotionally and physically? What thoughts are running through my head? Am I hungry? Full? Neutral? Do I want to move my body or just sit still and be? Sometimes I don’t even need to answer any of those questions, but rather just listen to myself. Just be present. Doing so, honestly, makes me a better person by keeping me calm, focused, and intentional.
Morning workout. Most days throughout the week, I love a tough morning workout. This feels like somewhat of a controversial topic these days, as many of us discover the joys of intuitive movement. In the five years that I struggled with my body and food and exercise, I tried almost everything - morning workouts, afternoon workouts, evening workouts, 2x/day workouts (I wouldn’t ever recommend those), and none at all. Let me give you my definition of a workout: movement that elevates my heart rate, creates a manageable “burn” in my muscles, stimulates endorphins (remember - joy), and releases energy (which I have a lot of). I love working out. I love high-intensity. I love intervals and push-ups and squat-jumps and burpees and spin classes. They bring me joy. They challenge and strengthen me, and they begin my day with a feeling of accomplishment and empowerment. It has nothing to do with my size or calorie-burn, purely a desire to move and feel good from the inside out.
Movement. Now, this is different from exercise. Here’s my distinction between exercise/workouts and movement: movement is a less-intense version of exercise in which I’m not trying to elevate my heart rate and build muscle, but rather to just get my blood flowing, bring oxygen to my brain, and stretch. I spend quite a few hours each day sitting in front of computer, so movement - walking, stretching, very light yoga (also, Wii Just Dance is a fantastic example) - is sometimes exactly what I need to clear my thoughts, stretch my legs, and stimulate some more effective brain function. This might be all I do for the day, or it might be latched onto a workout. It just kind of depends how I’m feeling on any given day.
Eating well. Have you ever seen a more loaded two words? For me, to eat well is a few things. First, it is to nourish with mostly whole foods like fruits, veggies, whole-grains, and beans, and use animal food sources sparingly - this is both for my own taste preference and for environmental concern. I’ve found that I feel much better with less meat in my diet and more plant-based foods, but I don’t follow any specific vegetarian/vegan diet (because I’ve learned that doing so doesn’t keep me as mentally healthy as I am when I’m just eating without restriction). Second, it is to nourish with foods I LOVE. Things I CRAVE and want and drool over and get (weirdly, some might say) excited about. I’m talking about sweets here - you know, those stupidly good blondies I keep raving about on IG and maybe even some lemon cake if I’m up for making it. But I’m also talking about fruits and carbohydrates because these foods really do make me happy. They make me feel energized, nourished, and satisfied. Again, I don’t follow any one diet and I definitely do not believe in the whole low-carb craze (unless for serious medical treatment).
Lately, I’ve been sipping these Bolthouse Farms smoothies for snacks throughout the day. They’re made with 100% fruit without any additives, so they provide tons of vitamins and minerals just like a fruit fresh from the farm would. Snacks are a careful choice I make because, most days, I’m not stopping for very long between 8 AM and 5 PM, so I need fuel that doesn’t slow me down. These fresh-fruit smoothies fill me up AND satisfy me.
Mindful social media time. I like the internet. I love Pinterest. Love. Instagram is pretty fun, too. Admit it! Behind the pretty filtered pictures and well-thought-out captions, social media satisfies - to some degree - our desire for interaction and connection with others. And for another growing handful of us, these outlets are also considered a part of our job, which means if you think you spend a lot of time scrolling… lemme’ tell ya’. I have found that if, when I open my social media apps, I go into that time with the mindset that I am here to work and/or connect with others (not just mindlessly scroll), my time is not only more productive and efficient, but also just more meaningful. The photoshopped images of fitness models don’t phase me as much. I compare my work to that of others much less harshly (if at all). And social media carries with it a much more positive vibe. This also means that it’s okay and healthy to unfollow or unsubscribe from any posts that do not serve you. You are your own priority. Your mind and heart are precious - guard them.
Food. And lastly, my favorite topic. After four and a half years of blogging, I’ve learned a lot about myself. My work method is kind of all-in, go-hard, don’t-stop-til-you-reach-your-goal (and even then, keep going), which is great in terms of productivity for a while, buuuuut it wears me out. I reach a point of exhaustion and sometimes even frustration and then I’m not productive. So, I know now that I need time away from food - I need a day without recipe-planning/testing, cookbook-browsing, and all that. Doing so helps me on the days when I am working to be more genuinely creative and excited about what I’m doing.
(This isn’t an exhaustive list of steps to take towards maintaining mental health, and I am certainly not a professional in this field. Please do not let this advice stand in place of professional medical help if and when needed.)