How to stay mentally healthy during stressful times

If watching the recent news unfold has left you lying awake at night, you’re not alone.
“Humans like control and like being in charge,” says licensed clinical health psychologist Dr. Robyn Pashby, PhD, founder of DC Health Psychology, a counselling practice in Bethesda, Maryland. “In times like these, stress is primarily driven by lack of control, lack of predictability, and fear of harm or danger to oneself or loved ones.”
Sound familiar? While it’s impossible to control much of what you see in the news, employing self-care techniques that make you feel grounded and connected can protect your mental health in spite of the current climate.*

Expert tips for staying mentally healthy

1. Make sleep a priority

The average adult needs about seven to nine hours of sleep per night. But stress and anxiety can make it difficult to clock that much, let alone get good quality rest, Dr. Pashby explains.
The thing is, poor sleep doesn’t just leave you with droopy eyelids; it can also contribute to mood dips and heightened anxiety. What’s more, skipping zzz’s can mess with your insulin sensitivity in a way that increases your appetite, according to a review article in the journal Nature and Science of Sleep.
To outsmart stress and get ample shut-eye, try to:
Develop a restful and relaxing bedtime ritual such as shutting your laptop and stowing your phone out of reach, turning off the news, and taking a bath or stretching.
Get into bed at the same time every night. Not sleepy? Read a book or magazine until you begin to feel tired. Remember, scrolling on your phone isn’t the same as turning pages since the blue light that emanates from your device may suppress melatonin, the hormone that regulates your sleep/wake cycles, and keep your brain on high alert.
Avoid excessive caffeine consumption. Typically, it takes four to six hours for your body to metabolise half of the caffeine you’ve consumed. So if you drink a cup of coffee at 3pm, you may still feel remnants of the buzz at around 9pm.
Opt for non-alcoholic beverages. While alcoholic beverages may initially make you sleepy, having even one drink in the evening may affect your second and most important stage of sleep, leading to sleep disruptions throughout the night, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
Expose yourself to bright sunlight first thing in the morning. Natural sunlight supports your natural circadian rhythm, or internal clock that regulates your sleep/wake cycles. Research suggests that exposure to daylight can also improve duration and quality of sleep.
Get out of bed at the same time every day. Even if you didn’t sleep too well the night before, maintaining a consistent wake-up time and resisting naps over 30 minutes helps your body develop and stick to a natural sleep schedule.

2. Maintain your regular routines

When things feel unpredictable and out of your control, your body may produce an abundance of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. Over the course of weeks or months, a chronic surge can heighten your risk of depression, heart disease, and obesity.
However, sticking to a typical schedule, such as eating lunch at the same time every day rather than grazing all day when you’re working from home, can help you feel more in control and rein in hormonal fluctuations, Dr. Pashby says.
How to create a routine when you’re stuck at home

3. Amp up your physical activity

Exercise can help reduce stress, one reason why it’s smart to follow guidelines from the NHS and get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 weekly minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity every week.
Because spending 20 to 30 minutes out in nature may help lower cortisol levels, taking your exercise outside can deliver a double whammy.

4. Reframe self talk

Stressors can trigger negative thoughts (i.e. “I can’t handle this” or “I feel out of control”) that reinforce pessimistic beliefs and attitudes, according to the American Psychological Association.
To reverse the effects, Dr. Pashby recommends taking four to five deep breaths and then reframing those thoughts to feel less catastrophic (i.e. “I’m feeling very anxious about what is going on around me, but I am taking as many precautions as I can to keep me and my family safe”).
Try writing your thoughts down in a journal to help reframe negative thoughts into positive vibes.

5. Avoid emotional isolation

Interacting with other people – whether it’s a phone call, video chat or text message – can ease the symptoms of stress and help you cope, according to a small 2015 study of 77 healthy adults published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science.
If you start feeling isolated, think of others: reaching out to neighbours or elderly friends with an offer to prepare a meal, pick up a prescription, or walk a dog can help you feel more in control, and helpful, Dr. Pashby says. Goodbye, stress!

6. Side-step stress-eating

While digging into a pint of ice cream or another treat that’s high in fat and sugar may temporarily distract you from stress, indulging won’t stomp out the source of it, says public health consultant, certified health coach and yoga instructor Allison Rose, MHS.
Before you reach for a handful of crisps or a second serving of lunch, ask yourself: is your stomach really grumbling, or are feelings fueling your appetite? If you’re dealing with complicated emotions rather than actual hunger, try calling a friend, going for a walk or doing another non-eating activity that may help you feel better than a pint-sized, sugar-laden pick-me-up!

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What is a Healthy Lifestyle?

A healthy lifestyle isn’t just diet and exercise. So what is a healthy lifestyle? Today we go over the components of leading a healthy lifestyle and how it’s important to lead a balanced life.
I and many others are promoting the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle, but what does that actually mean?
In general, most would agree that a healthy person doesn’t smoke, is at a healthy weight, eats a balanced healthy diet, thinks positively, feels relaxed, exercises regularly, has good relationships, and benefits from a good life balance.
Maybe I should start by trying to look at a few definitions for the word – lifestyle.
A definition in The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language says: “A way of life or style of living that reflects the attitudes and values of a person or group”.
A final definition of lifestyle is: “The aggregation of decisions by individuals which affect their health, and over which they more or less have control”.
Definition Of A Healthy Lifestyle
The World Health Organisation in 1946 defined health as ‘A complete state of mental, physical and social well-being not merely the absence of disease’.
Wikipedia defines a lifestyle as the way a person lives. This includes patterns of social relations, consumption, entertainment, and dress. A lifestyle typically also reflects an individual’s attitudes, values or worldview. A healthy lifestyle is generally characterized as a “balanced life” in which one makes “wise choices”.

What is the definition of Healthy Living?
The actual definition of Healthy Living is the steps, actions and strategies one puts in place to achieve optimum health.
Healthy Living is about taking responsibility for your decisions and making smart health choices for today and for the future. So healthy living would consist of:
*Physical (For The Body)
*Good Nutrition, Eating Right
*Getting Physically Fit, Beneficial Exercise
*Adequate Rest
*Proper Stress Management
*You Also Need to Give and Receive
*Love and Compassion
*You Need to Laugh and Experience Happiness
*You Need Joyful Relationships With Yourself and Others
*Emotional Wellness (For The Mind)
*Self-Supportive Attitudes
*Positive Thoughts and Viewpoints
*Positive Self-Image
*Spiritual Wellness
*Inner Calmness
*Openness to Your Creativity
*Trust in Your Inner Knowing
And all aspects of one’s self, must work in harmony to achieve wellness, so you need to create a balanced life.
Why is it Important?
A healthy lifestyle is a valuable resource for reducing the incidence and impact of health problems, for recovery, for coping with life stressors, and for improving quality of life. There is a growing body of scientific evidence that shows our lifestyles play a huge part in how healthy we are. From what we eat and drink, to how much exercise we take, and whether we smoke or take drugs, all will affect our health, not only in terms of life expectancy, but how long we can expect to live without experiencing chronic disease.
Conditions such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, joint disease, and mental illness are responsible for a vast number of deaths and disabilities. Currently, we rely almost exclusively on the provision of clinical care by highly trained health professionals as our major strategy to deal with these conditions. Many health problems can be prevented or at least their occurrence postponed by having a healthy lifestyle.
Why don’t you have a healthy lifestyle?
It’s a busy life for most of us. And keeping ourselves healthy is all too rarely near the top of our list of ‘things to do’. Convenience often wins – we are all so busy that convenience is at a premium.
Good Health Is “Simple – But It’s Not Easy”
It is so important to make ‘keeping healthy’ a part of our day-to-day living habits. Your health depends on what you do throughout the day, everyday. A healthy lifestyle is absolutely vital. Here is a real simple solution – slowly improve your lifestyle in a step-by-step way. If you take one new health step every two months, for example, in two to three years you will be among the healthiest ten percent of people in the Western world. And boy will you see and feel the benefits.
Improvements do not have to be large steps; take one small step for your health today, keep that one going, and add another one every two months. Have a plan – maybe introduce 6 improvements over the course of a year.
Can You Adopt A Healthy Lifestyle?
Whatever your age, fitness level or body shape, its never too soon or too late to start thinking about living healthily. You can take a step towards healthy living by making one change now to your daily life. That won’t be so hard will it?
Are You Living A Healthy Lifestyle?
Do you wake up with enthusiasm for the day ahead? Do you have the high energy you need to do what you want? Do you laugh easily and often, especially at yourself? Do you confidently find solutions for the challenges in your life? Do you feel valued and appreciated? Do you appreciate others and let them know it? Do you have a circle of warm, caring friends? Do the choices you make every day get you what you want?
The Components Of A Healthy Lifestyle
Eating Healthily
The right nutrition is necessary to live a healthy lifestyle. Your body requires a well balanced diet every day in order to maintain the adequate amounts of vitamins, nutrients and minerals needed to maintain a healthy body.
To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art – La Rochefoucauld (French Writer)
An Active Lifestyle
You will need to include fitness as part of your life. Physical fitness keeps your weight in check, helps you sleep better at night, prevents heart attacks and strokes and other health problems, and generally prolongs your life. Basically there are so many benefits of exercising that you really can’t live a full life without it.
Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness – Edward Stanley (Earl of Derby)
Stress Management
Emotional stress plays an important role in many illnesses, both directly and indirectly. People are also more likely to smoke, overeat, drink too much, work too hard, argue with others and so on, when they are feeling stressed. Thus, stress management is an important part of your new lifestyle, and meditation and relaxation techniques are truly a key part of living a healthy lifestyle.
Diseases of the soul are more dangerous and more numerous than those of the body – Marcus Tullius Cicero (Roman Philosopher)
Make Friends With Yourself
Loving yourself is a key to a healthy, happy lifestyle. Self-esteem is all about how much people value themselves; the pride they feel in themselves, and how worthwhile they feel. Self-esteem is important because feeling good about yourself can affect how you act.
The power of love to change bodies is legendary, built into folklore, common sense, and everyday experience. Love moves the flesh, it pushes matter around… Throughout history, “tender loving care” has uniformly been recognized as a valuable element in healing – Larry Dossey (Physician)
Powering Up Your Mind And Body
Programme your mind for total success. Develop a vision, a compelling future that excites and inspires you, and focus on it daily. Don’t let anything knock you of course, or make you question its possibility. I promise you, by taking control of your thoughts, you will improve your life in a big way.
In minds crammed with thoughts, organs clogged with toxins, and bodies stiffened with neglect, there is just no space for anything else – Alison Rose Levy (Journalist)
Life Balance
If you want to achieve a healthy lifestyle you must take steps to ensure you maintain a certain level of balance… spiritually, physically, emotionally, socially, mentally and financially. You need to balance work and family, and all the other areas of your life without spreading yourself too thin and having a guilt trip when you do one thing, but think you should be doing another. All of the key areas of our lives overlap and interlink, effecting each other. Unless we create for ourselves satisfaction in each and every part of our life, we can never truly be fulfilled, or live a contented, happy and healthy life.
No success in public life can compensate for failure in the home – Benjamin Disraeli (British Prime Minister)
Being Healthy is so important. Just change one thing in your life today. Have a healthy life beginning now. Living a healthy lifestyle will bring you happiness, health and the life of your dreams. You can fit into your favourite pair of jeans again. You can enjoy all the benefits that perfect health offers you. You can feel your best at all times of the day.
I have spent over ten years working in the area of personal development and in helping others to achieve their potential. It is the belief that everyone should be helped and encouraged to reach their full potential that motivates me in my work as a coach and blogger. I’m passionate about this because I have seen its effects in my own life and the lives of others. I am 100% committed to making the difference, and I pray this is obvious to you through my blog.

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