Here it is, the new year is upon us. The hustle and bustle of the holidays are finally over.
The bright shining lights are off the trees, family has packed and gone back to their respective homes and the leftovers are starting to go a little bad in the fridge. Although the confetti is freshly swept up and the Christmas tree has come down, there’s still one thing that has stuck around through the holidays and into the new year…
Whether it’s deep seated post-seasonal depression or anxiety around what the new year will hold; the turning of the calendar often times jumpstarts our panic mode in which we try to cope with thoughts of “now what?” As you make your 2017 to-do lists full of wishes and dreams you hope to accomplish throughout the new year, here’s a helpful list for some things you can do to combat the feelings you or a loved one may be experiencing.
Delete Facebook from your phone.
It’s no secret that social media adds to feelings of loneliness and inadequacy. In fact, according to a 2016 Forbes article, “participants that use social media very frequently have 2.7 times the likelihood of depression [and] participants that spent the most total time on social media throughout the day had 1.7 times the risks of depression.” This can be attributed to a few factors but most likely to the fact that users on social media are portraying the best versions of their life at all times and creates a disconnect for those scrolling through their news feed. For example, imagine laying in bed on a Friday night enjoying a nice night alone netflix and chilling when you decide to take Facebook for a spin. Your thumb starts zooming filling your eyeballs with pictures of your friends enjoying a night out laughing hysterically in every picture appearing as though they’re having the time of their life. Your night of Gilmore Girl streaming with your cat then becomes less about relaxing and more about FOMO (“fear of missing out” in case you’re not up on your lingo.)
So, instead of constantly checking your timeline for the newest updates from your friends, delete the app from your phone and soon you’ll realize your day is freed up for much more creative outlets that serve your higher self than jealousy of what others are up to.
Fall in love with books again.
It’s extremely easy to forget about books. We live in a world where endless information is available at our fingertips. However, this limitless supply of “stuff” that can be accessed is responsible for a lot of anxiety as well.
We are capable of searching literally any term and being met with thousands of results, watching any movie ever made from the comfort of our couch or read any story from a handheld tablet. However, nothing can compare to the power of losing yourself in a great novel; it expands your imagination and eases the stress of a long day in a way that nothing else can compare. The power of disconnecting from our connected world and instead plugging into the powerful words from a creative type can do wonders for our imagination.
So get comfy, find your favorite blanket and put on some tea because you’re about to get all up in that Harry Potter series.
Be a dear, volunteer.
The every day hustle can be taxing. We wake up, we go to work, we spend a few hours binge watching Stranger Things on Netflix and then we go to bed. The next day we repeat the process for what seems like forever….or until we’re 60 and retire.
It’s good to gain a bit of perspective and gratitude for the routine we often take for granted. Volunteering is a prime example of gaining that prospective and learning to appreciate the day ins and days out by helping those less fortunate. Many individuals don’t have a daily routine in which they can take for granted, they wake up and don’t have food on the table or a roof over their head and struggle to survive. When you see the basic necessities aren’t being met for others, it really gives you perspective on how much is taken for granted and gives meaning to the “First World Problems” cliche.
Some good examples of what you can do to volunteer include feeding the homeless, donating your time at an abused women shelter or simply donating gently used clothing so it’s not sitting in your closet and can benefit someone that needs it. If you’re having trouble finding a place to donate your time or resources, www.volunteermatch.org is a great start.
Dig up your old diary.
Journaling your day has many therapeutic effects on anxiety and depression, in fact, according to Psycology Today “[o]ne of the most useful things you can do to combat stress and anxiety is keep a running record of your thoughts on paper. There’s simply no better way to learn about your thought processes than to write them down.”
Sure, writing down details about your day may seem silly at first, but soon you’ll start to feel a slight sigh of relief as those thoughts in your head start to take shape outside the confines of your brain space and come alive on the page. Not only will you be able to physically see your thoughts, but you’ll also have an easier time of coordinating your day, dealing with the stress certain tasks present and start to make strides in your battle against anxiety!
Clean out the clutter.
Close your eyes and start thinking about our home or your desk at work, now visualize where the stress is. Sit there for a few moments and really meditate on what parts of the house are bringing you anxiety. Often times, it is the parts of the workplace/home that has the most clutter; whether that be the garage or attic. Physically cleaning out unwanted items such as old paperwork, clothes or old dishes will do wonders for your mental clarity. In fact, cleaning out areas of the house that are full of unneeded clutter can free up brain capacity to focus on other problematic areas.
I rather like this list from Psychology Today that sums it up well.
Why does mess lead to so much stress?
- Clutter bombards our minds with excessive stimuli (visual, olfactory, tactile), causing our senses to work overtime on stimuli that aren’t necessary or important.
- Clutter distracts us by drawing our attention away from what our focus should be on.
- Clutter makes it more difficult to relax, both physically and mentally.
- Clutter constantly signals to our brains that our work is never done.
- Clutter makes us anxious because we’re never sure what it’s going to take to get through to the bottom of the pile.
- Clutter creates feelings of guilt (“I should be more organized”) and embarrassment, especially when others unexpectedly drop by our homes or work spaces.
- Clutter inhibits creativity and productivity by invading the open spaces that allow most people to think, brain storm, and problem solve.
- Clutter frustrates us by preventing us from locating what we need quickly (e.g. files and paperwork lost in the “pile” or keys swallowed up by the clutter).
To attain mental minimalism, we must first clean out the mess from our homes that are distracting us from our higher purpose.
Sweat to the oldies.
The biggest break through in my personal journey with depression came when I realized that mental health isn’t a mental issue but more of a human health issue and the correlation between keeping physically healthy through excercising can and absolutely does affect being mentally healthy. In fact, according to many therapists, 20 minutes a day of physical activity is enough to completely alter one’s mind set. So if you’re feeling like you’re in an ever growing hole of anxiety or depression, simply sweating may be enough to feel a bit better!
Health.com has compiled a great guide to fighting depression with exercise. Here’s a small snippet:
In a small 2007 study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, all of the study’s participants who had taken yoga classes experienced “significant” reductions in depression, anger, anxiety, and neurotic symptoms. The findings led the researcher to recommend yoga as a complementary treatment for depression.
In 2012, another group of researchers conducted a review of trials that examined the effects of yoga on anxiety and stress. In 25 out of the 35 studies, subjects experienced a significant decrease in stress and anxiety symptoms after starting yoga.
“The great thing about yoga is that besides the stretching and core strengthening, there is a tremendous focus on breathing, which helps to slow down and calm the mind,” says Michaelis.
Experts believe that yoga’s focus on the breath is especially beneficial for your mental health because it’s difficult to be anxious when you’re breathing deeply. To take advantage of the perks of deep breathing in and out of yoga class, Michaelis suggests trying a relaxing trick popularized by Andrew Weil, MD, called the 4-7-8 breathing technique.
Meditate & mindful mandate.
The act of meditation might be a little intimidating for those that aren’t well versed in how to actually meditate. It isn’t some new age-y, hippy type of activity that popular culture has made us believe over the years. It’s actually as simple as finding a quiet place and getting just that, quiet. It allows oneself to reflect and re-order thoughts to better allocate mind resources to problem solving and attention to areas that may need it. In fact, it’s also very helpful to start every day with not only meditation but confirmations as well. Tony Robbins is quoted as starting every day by exploding (throwing arms in and out while breathing forcefully in and out) followed by confirmations and then meditating.
So how do you do confirmations? It’s simple, you close your eyes and get peaceful by focusing on your breaths. Once you are mindful of your surroundings and focused on your breathing, you begin thinking of everything you are thankful for. It can be as simple as being thankful for the floor you are sitting on to your family to the dinner you had that night. Whatever it is that you are thankful for, you simply say it to yourself. You’ll be surprised by how much more positive your outlook for the day can be if you start your day this way.
Rekindle your hobbies.
Life gets busy, sometimes we don’t have time for the things we love. The crochet materials find their way to the closet, the tennis rackets end up in the garage or the guitar you thought you’d be playing all year hasn’t been touched in quite some time. Our hours are overcome with work and social outings so alone time is harder to find.
It’s always a good idea to come back to the things you fell in love with in the first place for some home therapy focusing on a hobby. So pick up those paint brushes and start painting your hear out.
Ryan Brunty is the founder of Depressed Monsters and can be found at depressedmonsters.com.