Burnt out. Tired. Exhausted. Stressed. Overwhelmed. Anxious. Fearful. Angry. Blah. These are the words many people are using to describe how they feel in 2022. We've all been waiting for things to get "better" over the past couple of years, and many people are reaching a place of exhaustion from it all. When one thing seems to start improving, something else seems to start falling apart.
If you can relate and are feeling drained from life in general, the following tips can help you take small steps to improve your mental health and emotional wellness.
1. Prioritize what you spend your time on
It's really easy to get caught up in being busy all the time. There are all the regular life things that demand our attention like work, household duties, preparing meals, and taking care of relationships. Then there are also so many important causes working to gain attention and support.
You can't do it all, and you shouldn't expect yourself to try.
Choose the things that matter the most to you and focus on those. It's okay if you're not able to give your time, attention, and energy to every single cause that is important in the world. Instead, prioritize the things that need your attention so you can spend your time on the things that are the most important in your life.
It doesn't mean you're saying the other things don't matter, but you need to show yourself grace that you can't be the hero to everyone and everything. Once you shift your focus from trying to do all of the things, it can help you enjoy the things you choose to spend time on even more.
2. Be purposeful in how you spend time online
There is no denying that the internet and smartphones have helped improve our lives in many ways. For example, access to technology allowed our Stillwater MN therapy clinic to continue seeing clients during a time when in-person therapy sessions weren't possible. In addition, online therapy has made mental health help more accessible to people. However, if we're not careful with our use of technology, it can have a negative impact on our mental health that can range from mild to severe.
How the internet impacts our mental health
Research has found, "Excessive Internet use may create a heightened level of psychological arousal, resulting in little sleep, failure to eat for long periods, and limited physical activity, possibly leading to the user experiencing physical and mental health problems such as depression, OCD, low family relationships and anxiety."
When we engage on social media, our brain releases dopamine in our brain, known as the feel-good chemical. This makes social media platforms addictive because our brain wants to keep going back for more. We want to see if people are liking our posts or not. We are looking for that validation from others. And we don't want to chance missing out on the latest trend or some important piece of information that we might need to know about.
It's not just social media. Online shopping can cause financial strain if we're not careful. Streaming the entire season of Love is Blind when we're supposed to be working can lead to trouble on the job. And checking back in to keep up with the latest developing news story all day long can leave you feeling anxious and hopeless.
Set boundaries for yourself
Because of the addictive nature of how we spend our time online, it can help to establish boundaries for ourselves. If not, it's easy to find ourselves scrolling through social media when we could be interacting with our family and friends. And even if we're alone, not having boundaries around our internet consumption can leave us feeling drained, frustrated, and anxious.
Set limits around how much time you'll spend online or what activities you'll do from your phone. There are many apps you can use that will help you limit your time online. Find what works the best for you.
You may find that you benefit from doing a social media or technology detox. If you're not using it for work or something you have to do, then cut it out for a period of time. The more you start to pull away from being constantly on the phone, the more you may begin to enjoy it and reconnect with other hobbies you used to enjoy.
3. Set boundaries with toxic people
If you're in any kind of relationship with a toxic person, set boundaries to protect yourself and your mental health. This doesn't just apply to romantic relationships. It can include family members like a parent or child. It can consist of friends. Or it may be a coworker in your office.
If you have a negative person who is negatively impacting your life, look for ways to change the relationship. Setting boundaries allows you to set the rules for what you will and won't accept in your life. Once you set boundaries, make sure you enforce them.
You may identify toxic people in your life that you need to cut ties with completely. This can be a difficult decision to make, and you may benefit from working with a therapist to address the problematic or complicated relationships in your life.
4. Learn breathing techniques
When we start to feel frustrated, anxious, and stressed, our physical bodies respond to our feelings. Our muscles get tense, and our heart rate increases. The more stressed we feel, the more dominos begin to fall in our physical health. If we are in a constant state of stress, it can have lasting effects on our health and wellness.
Breathing techniques can help alleviate our symptoms of stress and regain control of our emotions. There are many breathing techniques you can use, including:
Lengthen your exhale
Alternate nostril breathing
You can also work with one of our licensed mental health providers to learn how to implement breathing exercises when feeling anxious.
5. Change your self-talk
Take time to pay attention to what you say to yourself and about yourself each day. Are you kind to yourself? Do you show yourself compassion and love? Do you say and think positive things about yourself? Or, do you struggle with negative thinking and negative self-talk?
Here are some common examples of negative self-talk:
Things always go wrong for me.
My life is never going to get better.
I can't do anything right. I get everything wrong.
Why would anyone ever want to be with me anyway?
I'll never be good enough.
I'll never be pretty, no matter how hard I try.
I'm too ______ (old, young, stupid, fat, skinny, short, tall, etc.)
I have no self-control.
People only say nice things to me because they feel sorry for me.
I hate my body.
I'll always be alone.
I deserve to be treated badly.
Your thoughts are with you all day, every day, which means it's hard to make positive improvements in your life without addressing your thoughts first. The problem is that it's easy to go through your entire day without really paying attention to what you're thinking. If you've been in the habit of negative self-talk, you likely don't even realize you're doing it anymore.
Replace negative thoughts with positive or neutral ones
One of the tricks to overcoming negative self-talk is choosing natural or positive thoughts you can use to replace them. For example, instead of thinking something like, "I can't believe I screwed up on the project at work. I'll never be able to get it right." you can choose to think, "Everyone makes mistakes at times. I am going to look for what went wrong and learn what to do differently next time, so it doesn't happen again."
6. Avoid toxic positivity
While positive thinking is good, it's possible to take it too far. Toxic positivity is when you think you need to put a positive spin on everything that happens, no matter how bad it is.
Here are some examples of what this looks like in real life:
Saying "it could be worse" to someone who has experienced a loss or difficult situation
Believing people who only show positivity are stronger than those who show difficult emotions
Thinking you should never complain or feel bad because there are always people who "have it worse"
Living by the "good vibes only" motto
Feeling guilty when you experience negative emotions like sadness, grief, depression, or anxiety
There are many ways that toxic positivity can negatively impact your mental health. It can lead to feeling ashamed of your true emotions. You may struggle with suppressing your feelings instead of processing them. Learning how to acknowledge and feel your feelings can help your mental and emotional wellness.
7. Look for ways to help others
Many people find that it's easy to allow difficult situations and obstacles in life to consume all their time and attention. However, looking for ways to help other people can help shift our attention from ourselves to others, and there are many positive benefits that come with this.
One study found that people who identified as "very happy" spent an average of 5.8 hours each month volunteering. In addition, research has found helping others may be able to things like:
Reduce chronic pain symptoms
Lower blood pressure
Improve your self-image
Gain a great sense of purpose
If you're looking to boost your own mental wellness this year, you may want to try volunteering your time with a cause that's important to you.
8. Create a self-care routine
Self-care needs to be more than a buzzword or something we talk about. Knowing what things help you feel your best isn't going to benefit you unless you start to do them. Self-care activities include things like:
Getting out in nature
Spending time with loved ones
Getting proper sleep
Reading, painting, playing music, or other hobbies you enjoy
These are the types of things that are easy to stop doing when life gets busy, or we start to feel overwhelmed, but they're also the things that help keep us feeling our best.
If you haven't been incorporating self-care activities into your daily routine, start small, so you don't overwhelm yourself. Choose one or two self-care habits that you can work on developing in your life. When these become routine, then you can add in another.
9. Talk to a therapist
If you're struggling with your emotions, feelings, or mental health, don't hesitate to reach out to a licensed mental health provider for help. There are many ways that a therapist can help you with anything from daily struggles to diagnosed mental health disorders and everything in between.
Our team at The NEST Clinic works collaboratively with you to help you feel your best. We specialize in areas including things like:
Anxiety and depression
Addiction and substance abuse
Setting health boundaries
Reproductive and perinatal mental health - Infertility, grief and loss, adjusting to life after adoption, changing emotions
Couples counseling - Infidelity, communication challenges, sexual dysfunction, financial arguments
Family counseling - Blended families, domestic violence, broken trust, behavioral concerns, communication challenges
LGBTQ+ and TGNC+ - Self acceptance, relationship challenges, gender dysphoria, trauma
These are just some of the examples of the many life situations or challenges that we can help with. We also have a Women's Health Nurse Practitioner and Certified Menopause Practitioner on staff to provide medication management and hormone therapy management for women.
10. Give yourself grace
You are doing the best you can. You can find many lists online like this one that can help you improve your mental health and wellness in 2022, but remind yourself that you're trying. Just the fact that you're reading this article shows that you are working to help take care of yourself.
None of us are going to get it right all the time. So, allow yourself space to experience your emotions, even the difficult ones. And, if you need help making progress in your life or feeling your best, know that we are here and ready to offer support through personalized therapy designed to help you create meaningful change. Contact us today to be matched with the right therapist for you and your unique needs.