Dealing with anxiety can feel like a daunting task. But you can raise the bar for your life without medication says licensed mental health counselor and wellness coach Jill Sylvester. It’s just a matter of deciding – truly deciding – you want to and then taking the right steps.
While there are hundreds of steps to choose from, which Jill maps out in her new book Trust Your Intuition: 100 Ways to Transform Anxiety and Depression for Stronger Mental Health, Jill recommends the following simple actions whose results you’ll see quickly if you stick with them:
Get up early
Getting up early can feel like a real chore, until you actually make the conscious choice to set your alarm earlier than usual, and almost instantly become aware of all the day offers you, once you make that one small, yet powerful decision. Starting your day with intention, with time for yourself, before you give in to the demands and requests of others and begin engaging in tasks that can overwhelm and consume even the most organized, sets your day off on the right foot. Even taking just an extra five minutes in the morning to clear your mind and and focus on what you want, what your priorities are, who you want to interact with, and who you want to become, can change the trajectory of your life’s course. You become the director of your life, the designer of your day, versus a person who goes along putting out fires, in the name of just “getting through the day.” Who really wants to live their life that way? Rising earlier may also mean selecting an activity that feels right, whether a walk outdoors, a yoga pose or meditation. What matters most is that the activity or intention speaks to you and your life and the way you want to live it, then aligning with that new routine each and every morning.
List 3 things you’re grateful for every morning
Listing three reasons you’re grateful when you wake up, either by writing in your journal, or making a mental note, starts the day on a positive frequency. Research shows that when you start and end the day with gratitude, you feel less anxious and depressed. By stating what you feel grateful for, you rise above the negative chatter in your mind, canceling out the often berating and derogatory thoughts that bombard us from the moment we open our eyes. By getting into the new habit of immediately focusing on what feels good and great about your life, you direct your thoughts on the road you’d like them to go. And where thought goes, energy follows. Do your own science experiment and see how your day unfolds as a result of this one early morning choice.
Take an afternoon break
Taking an afternoon break allows you to hit the pause button, helping you manage your emotions so they don’t get the better of you. Every afternoon, go out for a coffee, reflecting on the first part of your day and what went well, what you’d like to do better, realizing you have the rest of your twenty-four hours to make things right. Maybe you take an afternoon stretch, walk, or workout to interrupt the daily grind and interject a sense of refuel and refresh in order to remind yourself what is really important. The renewed energy you receive from an afternoon break causes you to emit more positive vibrations, strengthening your relationships, both to others and to yourself. Try it today and see.
Schedule regular mental health days
Scheduling regular mental health days is good practice. Proactively planning to take days off for your mental health helps avoid the sometimes reactive mode we have to go in when we hit the wall and suffer the consequences of not taking good self-care. Listen to yourself, notice the physical signs that ooze out of our exhausted energy field when we are badly in need of a rest. Are you dizzy? Are you tired all the time? Do you know internally, without seeing the physical signs that you are burning the candle at both ends? Schedule a day for you. Days off nourish you like breaks. Even staying home one morning, going in later to work, or taking the afternoon off for yourself to read, to fish, to go to the beach, to take a hot bath and nurture your soul, these blocks of time can do wonders for your physical and mental health, though an entire day is strongly recommended. To make sure this time happens on a regular basis, to avoid hitting the previously mentioned wall, schedule monthly mental health days in your routine—a day to look forward to, in order to rest and refuel. Then, enjoy, every single moment. It will be what you are grateful for the following morning.
Indulge in Comfort Food Once in a While
Sometimes we need to indulge in comfort food as a way of making ourselves feel nurtured and cared for. Eating comfort food is often a way of reconnecting with our childhood, with people that took the time to care for our emotional and physical needs. Simply be certain the food you call to mind truly brings comfort. Two bags of chips usually does not. What is comfort food for you? What does the memory conjure up from your past? Or does the food evoke what you wish someone had done for you and are now celebrating what you are mindful of and are finally giving to yourself, knowing that you deserve that nurturing. Whatever the food, make it, eat it without rumination or worry about the calories or the carbs and enjoy every morsel.
Trust your intuition
Trusting your intuition means honoring the feelings and thoughts, initial thoughts, you might experience around making a decision. Don’t doubt these feelings: they are signs pointing you in the right direction. It’s that feeling of yes, do that, go on that trip, say hello to that person, ask for what you want, risk looking foolish. Keep in mind your subsequent thoughts and anxious feelings, aka your gremlins, will tell you you’re going to fail, that things aren’t going to work out, that you’re not safe-your job becomes understanding that the mission of your gremlin thoughts are to hold you back from your greatness, from moving forward in your life and from growth. The question then becomes, are you okay with that?
Choosing these six simple strategies yields strong results. It’s simply a matter of deciding you are worth the effort, worth the time, worth the intention of raising the bar for your mental health and your life.