Stay social even when you may not want to or feel like it. When we commit to something, we are more likely to keep plans. Sometimes, it can be hard to pursue social engagement and may take an active effort, particularly when we have had a busy week or are under stressors that feel out of control, etc.
Maybe it is too comfortable at home, and canceling plans seems attractive. Perhaps engaging with others seems like it will take too much energy and will exhaust more than energize. I want to encourage you. It is important to, within reason, push yourself to connect with others. It can enrich your life and fulfill your biological and spiritual need for connection.
- Plan social activities per your boundaries where you can exit and control your schedule (ex., lunch with a friend within a particular time frame).
- Don’t be afraid to ask to do things; to be included in plans that your friends may have that seem accessible.
- Find a week or weekend ritual you can replicate and count on (ex: church, intramural sport, workout group, cooking class, etc).
Exercise and Healthy Diet
Participating in exercise or physical activity is crucial in improving mood and carries important holistic benefits. It can improve sleep, which is one of the most impactful practices to maintain, allowing your body and mind time to rest and reset. It helps reduce mental health stressors, anxiety, and depressive symptoms.
Exercising can even improve your memory and increase intellectual output. Exercise provides a buffer to unwanted mental and physical health outcomes and even improve self-esteem and self-confidence.
Maintaining a balanced diet is also crucial in improving health and overall mood.
- Lean protein, for example, is the fuel that helps keep your brain functioning effectively and supports the balance of sugar in your blood.
- Omega-3 fatty acids support overall heart health and function and can improve mood.
- Vitamins, fiber, and minerals, all of which support a balanced diet and overall health, are found in colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and other relevant foods.
Building in these choices and general practices supports improving mood states and maintaining the body’s equilibrium.
- Have a plan for your workout and goals for the day (ex., “Today I am focusing on leg muscle groups for 20 min and light cardio 20-30 min, and then I am stretching when I get home”).
- Give your best effort.
- Stay in touch with your body’s limitations to avoid injury.
- Avoid eating distracted (in busy environments with a lot of stimuli, in front of the TV, or when there is an overwhelming amount of food options available).
- Be intentional about the snacks you purchase (consider the health benefits of certain snacks), and plan your snacking during the day if possible. Avoid snacking at night.
Establish a healthy and reliable rhythm. Knowing what to expect can minimize variability and time-wasting day-to-day. Dealing with surprises and unexpected changes is an inevitable part of life. We build resiliency by responding to the unexpected, but we function best when we know what to expect and can rely on the expected consistently.
Establishing a reliable daily/weekly plan can support our expectations and make us more effective and efficient throughout our busy lives. It is important to be intentional about what we can control because, often, life will surprise us with unexpected responsibilities. Planning and learning to adapt when changes occur is more effective than winging it.
- Practice consistency where possible—starting with regular routines (ex., morning and nighttime routines).
- Rhythms allow space to adapt to change and provide a map for easy course corrections.
- Evaluate what is missing rhythmically.
Oxygen is obviously necessary to sustain life, but do we get the most out of our bodies’ interaction with it? Engaging with oxygen intentionally can be hard on our busy days. Practicing breathing skills/techniques, mindfulness exercises, and/or relaxation skills to start and end your day is important.
Impactful breathing takes focus and intention. Oftentimes, we get busy and breathe shallowly from our throats or upper chest. With this breathing pattern, which is more present than you may think, we don’t get as oxygen-rich air as possible. Diaphragmatic breathing is important to flip the script. These breaths come from our diaphragm, located somewhat above the abdomen.
You can feel these deep breaths by putting your hand on your abdomen/stomach area, breathing in, and making sure that the breath you are taking moves the hand that has settled on your abdomen outward with an inhale and inward with an exhale. This helps get supercharged oxygenated blood to the brain. Ultimately allowing for clarity in thinking and calming and relaxing the nervous system.
- Focus on your breath. Stay engaged with deep breathing coming from the diaphragm.
- Pursue opportunities to breathe in fresh air (outdoors).
- Set aside dedicated time to try new techniques and exercises to see what works for you. Eventually, you will find something that you have success with and that you can replicate.
Set yourself up to sleep well, as sleep is one of the best practices to improve day-to-day life. You should dedicate time to getting as close to perfect as possible. It can often be challenging to get restful and fulfilling sleep due to everyday life factors.
These factors may include increased access to technology, particularly screens, general responsibilities at home or for work, and any additional stressors and anxieties you experience daily. However, overcoming these hurdles to find more fulfilling sleep is worth the effort.
Sleep can have restorative and resounding positive impacts on a multitude of factors, including cognitive functioning, memory, concentration and attention, and decision-making. Sleep is even more impactful for recovering from mental fatigue and physical strain or sickness.
- Commit to a nighttime routine that is easily replicable and effective for getting you to sleep.
- Put down your phone 30 minutes to 1 hour before sleep.
- If you can, try to go to sleep when it is as dark as possible.
- When you wake up, take a few good minutes outside with your face pointed toward the sun. This is a great natural way to wake up and maintain a stable circadian rhythm.
- Sleep is not something you can “catch up on.” Make mindful decisions about the quality and quantity of your sleep.
If you’d like further guidance on improving your mood and overall well-being, don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our counselors. Your well-being is our top priority.
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