A little bit of stress is a normal fact of life for pretty much everyone. But when your stress or worry becomes overwhelming, it’s time to change up habits. While some health concerns obviously need to be addressed by a professional, there are plenty of small changes you can make that have the potential to make a big difference. You might not even realize it, but these six habits could be messing with your mental health:
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Okay, we’ve all been there: not getting enough sleep while you’re finishing a big project or stressed about an interview or rehearsals. If it happens once in a while, that’s no big deal. The harm comes when you start making your “normal” sleep habits bad ones. Not getting enough sleep – and yes, pulling all-nighters to cram for a test – is actually really bad for your brain and your overall well-being.
It’s not just about the hours, either. The concept of “sleep hygiene” basically helps you develop good behaviors around sleep so that you can get the most rest and benefits. Make small changes:
- skip caffeine and heavy
- hard-to-digest foods in the hours before sleep
- turn off your digital devices
- start a small pre-sleep routine to teach your body to wind down
These practices can help you get a more restful sleep, which translates to a more refreshed and alert day!
When you feel crummy, the last thing you want to do is exercise. The truth is, though, that exercise might be the best thing you could do. Getting physical movement going, whether you like weights, running, dancing, or yoga, is the key here. Not only does exercise help you feel better physically, but it’s a great outlet for stress and frustration. When your body is strong, your mind is stronger too!
Getting your schedule under control is one of the best ways to start feeling like you can tackle other things in your life. It’s easy to fall into habits of procrastination, poor scheduling, or overcommitting yourself, and then your stress just gets compounded when it feels like you never get anything done.
Instead, find a time management system that works for you. Do you like color-coded digital schedules? Do you like writing out your to-do list by hand on a pretty day planner? A neat and sleek to-do checklist? Figure out what works best for you, divide up your time – and then work to stick to it. Be sure to schedule in downtime, too, to avoid burnout!
The pressure to do everything and do it perfectly is everywhere these days. If you spend all your time trying to be perfect, however, it’s going to take a major toll on your health. Pursuing excellence is not the same as overloading yourself in the effort to achieve some benchmark of “perfection.” Focus on effort and excellence instead: set realistic goals, focus on the journey as much as the outcome, and check in with yourself to make sure you’re not pushing yourself too far. You’ll find that your work is much better, and you’re much happier, when you’re not fussing over every single possible mistake.
Sometimes, you just need to vent, and that’s okay. But like many other behaviors, it’s when the complaining becomes a common habit that it gets in the way of your health. Negativity only leads to more negativity, which then gets you spiraling into a pretty miserable mood all the time. If your complaining is something that can be acted upon, try to do that instead. If it’s not something you can change, then allow yourself a set time to vent to yourself, your friend, or your cat, and then redirect your thinking to more positive things. The same goes if someone wants to complain to you: it’s okay to listen or even commiserate briefly, but don’t let your relationships with friends or colleagues become focused on sharing complaints.
Be honest: how much time do you spend scrolling Instagram or Twitter? It’s probably more than you realize. While social media can be a great way to stay connected, that constant sense of connection is a double-edged sword. Not only does it get in the way of your real, relaxing downtime, it also makes it all too easy to constantly compare yourself to the image that others put out online. Instead of automatically reaching for your phone, try to get away from your devices and enjoy a different hobby some of the time!
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