By Carissa Weber, MA, LPC, CSAC
Fall is here. This means big things are starting to happen. Between kids going back to school, new sports and club meetings, cleaning up after the hectic summer (and figuring out a whole new schedule), life is about to get pretty busy.
It is no secret that during this time of year our multi-tasking skills get homed in (at the expense of crucial needs, like sleep). In today’s post, we are going to talk about some helpful tips to help keep life running smoothly while keeping your mental health in check.
1. Remember to Eat
When you have kids to drop off, groceries to pick up, and last-minute projects that are due tomorrow, it is easy to neglect something important: your stomach. How many of us have replaced meals with an extra-large coffee? I know it’s not just be me (my husband does it all the time). Our brains benefit greatly when we choose to nurture our bodies:
- Your darn amygdala quiets down because the food brings serotonin in.
- Allows your body to regulate your blood sugar (which, when it is low, can mimic anxiety symptoms).
- Improves your ability to focus, thanks to your prefrontal-cortex having the neurotransmitters it needs to stay large and in-charge.
As life gets super busy (and super structured thanks to school), it is easy to prioritize everything that everyone else needs. Eating allows not just your body to have the energy you need, but it also helps your mental health stay at a healthy level.
2. Setting Realistic Goals
It is no secret that to be a human, you have to be good at multitasking. It is no secret, either, that you have to be good at prioritizing what things have to be done when. Sometimes, in the midst of getting things done, we set some pretty unrealistic and lofty expectations of ourselves.
When we set these unrealistic expectations, it can really take a toll on our mental health. The toll can come in various ways:
- Increased conflicts with coworkers, friends, and family members
- Losing motivation to do things that you love
- Decrease in sleep
- Increase in mistakes that make us even more anxious than before
One way to beat the stress is by setting yourself up with realistic goals. Realistic goals should be:
- Simple in nature
- Have a clear way to determine when you reach that goal
- Actually attainable for you to do without overstretching yourself
- Have a clear timeline to accomplish that goal in
Sounds simple enough. Implementing on the other hand? That is the tough one, but there is a lot of science behind why setting realistic goals improves mental health, and boosts productivity:
- There is a clear expectation for you to meet
- Once the expectation is met, your brain allows you to feel good about accomplishing it
- This sense of accomplishment improves motivation
- Meaning, more work gets done
3. Take a 15- Minute Break
Before you stop reading, hear me out. Allowing yourself to take a 15-minute break to do something you enjoy (or 15-minutes to focus solely on what you enjoy), allows a few things to happen:
- A chance for your prefrontal cortex to take charge and give your darn amygdala a freakin’ break
- Release feel-good neurotransmitters in your brain, which reduces your stress levels (and frustration levels as well)
- Returning to the task at hand with new energy and motivation to do it (thanks to the release of dopamine!)
These 15-minute breaks can be done during various activities. Whether it is taking the dog out, cutting up ingredients for dinner, or even just standing and soaking up the sun (personally, I do it when I am sorting mismatched socks). Being fully present in these activities (even if you need to do them), gives you a chance to enjoy the moment you are in.
4. Teach Someone to Help You
As humans, we are herd animals by nature. True story. We cannot survive (in a sane manner) alone. When we give help, we are doing something pretty neat: teaching other people how to complete a task. And what happens when we teach people a new skill? It benefits us in several ways:
- It builds a connection to the person we are teaching, which increases trust, communication, and respect (and releases the neurotransmitter, oxytocin, which helps us not feel so alone)
- Prepares for certain tasks to get done quicker in the future (for example: teaching someone to do laundry or prepare a specific dinner recipe)
- Creates a sense of community and pride
Now, teaching can slow things down in the beginning. But the benefits of helping someone develop a new skill that will help them in the future? Totally worth the oxytocin release.
These are just a few things that can help you keep your mental health healthy during this upcoming busy season. If you find yourself struggling during this time, please reach out for help! Mental health does not have to be faced alone.