Summer vacations, winter breaks, holidays, time-outs, they are all excellent opportunities to switch up routines and break from the habits that we slip into. They afford us the chance to change our ‘mental wallpaper’ and replenish ourselves. They also make it easier for us to more objectively see where we may be draining ourselves mentally. This is because any break from routine and habit can make it very clear what you don’t want to go back to.
But we don’t have to wait for a special occasion to change our state or habits gone wrong. It’s actually very helpful to be aware of daily habits now – the good, the bad, and the ugly- so you can change your life for the better and do it for good starting today.
Here are 7 of the most common mental drainers and how to fix them:
1. Staying constantly connected to a mobile device. Go virtually anywhere these days and it’s easy to find people looking at their phones rather than at life. The amount of disconnect many of us are missing in-the-moment is astonishing considering how new this virtual reality is to our existence, but there it is, staring us in the face. Yes facebook is high drama, and social media is exciting, the news is constantly filtering, but enough already. Unfortunately, this kind of stimulus and habitual mobile device usage can manifest itself into a state of depression or anxiety. Here’s why, when we are always looking outside of ourselves for our stimulus and direction, we are no longer in charge, because we have given our power away. Do you have an irresistible urge to ‘check’ your status?
The fix: Create electronic holidays. Turn off your devices for one day (or half day) at least once a week and walk away. This alone, cannot only free up your time, but your mind.
2. You don’t actually talk to anyone. This kind of relates to the above, but it’s different. If you are constantly using social media to communicate with your friends and online community, you are not actually having true conversations that help you understand human behavior. Social media pages are really entertainment, because they lesson our experiences and feelings. We lose the ability to have true meaning, and let’s not even talk about what’s lost in translation. When we learn to have virtual conversations and not face-to-face, it impacts our ability to sit and engage when we are present in the same room. Kind of scary to think about, but it’s true.
The solution: Meet with your friends and family to have face-to-face connections.
3. Multi-tasking too much. We can all be busy. So many of us are over achievers and it’s making us crazy at times. But here’s the thing, there’s no such thing as multi-tasking. Science proved that already. We can really only focus on one task at a time. We may juggle, but that’s the best we can do. Adding more things to your to do list can cause tremendous grief and frustration. You’re not fooling anyone but yourself.
Here’s the fix: Think really hard about what you do. Are you over complicating or compensating anywhere in your life? Ask yourself, honestly, “What is it yielding me?” There’s a reason simple is often best, more is not always better, it’s just more. Then, put down your phone, turn off the TV, you could turn on some good music if it’s opportune, but focus and pay attention to one thing and get it done. This is sometimes easier said than done, but seriously, try this one and be very clear and honest with the people around you. “NO, mommy is busy right now preparing food for you all, please keep yourselves busy.” Or, “When I’m finished with this, I’ll be able to help you”. You get the idea. Your sanity sometimes depends on this ability to focus.
4. You’re never alone. With work, marriage, kids, activities, you are constantly around other people. Not having the ability to be alone in your thoughts and space can creep into depression and anxiety, because we lose sight of who we are. We are often missing essential self-care.
Hear yourself now: Schedule it if you have to, but make an appointment for you time. Even a 10 minute break can make the difference between calm and chaotic. Remember, if you come to your life fulfilled, everyone benefits. Why? Because we all have things to do. Wouldn’t it be better to do them from a place of full rather than less-than-full?
5. You don’t sleep. This is ground zero. Emotional and mental states are diminished, not to mention our bodies functioning abilities are greatly reduced without adequate rest. There’s so many extra reasons many of us don’t sleep well these days. Our society has become a virtual around the clock source of stimulation. It’s just too much. Our brains weren’t wired for all the added light and stimulus well into the night. Our circadian rhythm, which is our natural sleep and wake cycle, is often ‘off’. Lack of good quality sleep is the fastest way to get yourself sick and in a mental state of anxiety and depression.
Get your routine on: It is really important to establish good sleep habits by turning off and tuning out 1-2 hours before bedtime. This means no outside forms of stimulus and bright lights. The blue light background of computers and devices are especially stimulating to our brains, so turn off screens and keep any blue light sourced clocks or other devices to a minimum. Opt for a good read to wind down, a relaxing hobby, or play with your partner
6. You procrastinate and it weighs on you. We’ve all put things off for later. It’s no big deal if you know you’ll get to it without a problem. But if it’s habitual and weighing on you it speaks of negativity towards doing a task. We all know when we need to do something and yet chose not to do it. The truth is, how we do anything is how we are. Meaning, we tend to manage our lives and the things around us exactly as we live our lives. Got a messy house? Chances are your life is messy too. Having a problem with procrastination? Chances are that you are associating something you don’t want to do in a negative manner that’s become habitual. You feel powerless, because you’ve given it away to a bad habit.
Take your happiness back: If something has to get done, then schedule a time and just do it. Take your power back and face it head on. Do something uplifting before the task at hand or combine it with something uplifting in the process. Think: music with cleaning up or dancing for exercise, how about paying your bills with a relaxing cup of your favorite beverage. The point is, combine something you like either before or with the task and make it new. Own it and take your power back.
7. You take life too seriously. If you find you’re usually the one not laughing at a joke. Or if you spill a cup of coffee and get all embarrassed over it rather than laughing it off, chances are you are taking life too seriously. We all make mistakes, but that’s life?
The fix is laughter and smiles: Try smiling at people on the street or in the store. You may even have to fake it till you make it, but it’s all good. Just the act of smiling releases feel good hormones in our brains. Add genuine laughter to that and you are good to go. If you need some inspiration, try watching a comedy special on TV, go to a comedy show, and meet with a friend that always makes you laugh. Whatever puts a smile on your face, do it and do it often. You will literally be changing the chemistry in your brain to a healthier outlook, both mentally and physically and then it can become a GOOD habit.
Changing what we see, what we do, even what our daily habits are, can change our state enough to begin replenishing. We can make a conscious decision to change our habits and in effect change our lives for the better. Who doesn’t want that?