Key Highlights

  • Proactive mental workouts to help keep you performing at your peak levels
  • All suggestions below can help restore your mental/emotional strength and well-being

Be as Kind to Yourself as You Are to Other

Let’s face it…it’s been a tough year for all of us.  Here are some suggestions from experts to help you create a mental-fitness regime for yourself.

Make Sleep-Time Non-Negotiable

Having a consistent sleep-wake schedule for quality sleep and wakefulness tells your brain that the world is safe and secure.  Your brain feeling safe and secure can help reduce anxiety while fostering resilience, according to Dr. Wendy Troxel, clinical psychologist and senior behavioral/social scientist with the Rand Corp.

Create a regular wind-down routine beginning an hour before your consistent bedtime.  Take a bath, read a book, turn down the thermostat (65-68 degrees is ideal) and disconnect with all technology to minimize your exposure to distressing news and light.

On the waking side, get out of bed and get out of your pajamas. Create a morning ritual for yourself to help create a sense of predictability in a world that feels chaotic and out of control. First thing, write in a journal, and/or set an intention for the day, drink a cup of coffee/tea/glass of water.  Play with/walk your dog and exercise/eat meals at set times.

Calm Your Mind

You can’t cope with stress well if your brain and body are on high alert all time the time.  Carolyn Daitch, psychologist and author of The Road to Calm Workout, recommends starting your day with 15-20 minutes (that’s all it takes) of meditation, yoga or prayer.

Schedule four “mini interventions” throughout the day – four two-minute sessions of breathing exercises or quick tension-releasing techniques.  Try making a tight fist with one hand, imagine holding all the tension in your body for 10 seconds and then release your hand and body. Think of these mini interventions as “stress inoculations,” says Daitch.

Watch Your Languag

The words we use when talking to ourselves definitely color our outlook.  Replace “hot” language with “cooler” language.  Replace “I’m overwhelmed” with “This is a challenge but I can handle it,” says Dr. Patricia Deldin, psychology/psychiatry professor with University of Michigan and CEO of Mood Lifters.  Stop “shoulding” yourself.

Practice Compassion

Again, be as kind to yourself as you are to others.  Talk with and listen to yourself as you would with your best friend. Acknowledge pain.  Remind yourself that everyone experiences difficult times. Unlike ideas, everyone has and feels the same emotions…and emotions are what connect us all to each other.

Move Your Body

Research shows that aerobic exercise reduces tension and fatigue. Aerobic exercise improves alertness, concentration, sleep, mood and self esteem.  Exercising in nature carries even more benefits as it lowers the body’s stress responses, cortisol levels, blood pressure and fosters a sense of awe. Just 30 minutes of daily moderate exercise (even in 5 minute segments) will do the trick.

Create a Media Die

Decide how much media you will consume and think of it as your “news calorie count.”  Turn off your phone at set blocks of time.  Purge negative people from your social media.  Look for positive streams and articles to read/give yourself

Choose Your Down Time Activities Carefully

Research shows that activities that give you a sense of purpose or make you feel accomplished/masterful improve mental health.  “The ability to exert control over something provides a sense of self-satisfaction and contentment,” says Brad Stulberg, executive coach and author of Peak Performance.  He adds “…progress nourishes the soul.”

Cultivate Supportive Relationships

Regularly connect with friends/family.  People with strong relationships are emotionally healthier. Reach out to one person a day. Discuss topics other than the daily news.  Be open about how you’re doing as vulnerability leads to bonding.

Be Grateful

Let your loved ones know you love them.  Even when annoyed with someone, think of five things you love about that person.  You’ll be smiling before you get to five.


Thanks to The Wall Street Journal.


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