Breathe In, Breathe Out

It’s finally August, which means we are ⅔ of the way done with 2020. It’s crazy to think about this year so far, how most of it was spent in quarantine and under masks. However, August is also National Wellness Month, which means we should all take some extra time to focus and be aware of our well being and our health.

In my last post, I briefly discussed the importance of mental health, and how negative stereotypes affect men and women’s mental health. I then thought, everything negative in our life affects our mental health in some shape or form. With everything going on in the world, it is easy to have access to raw footage on multiple platforms. When the only thing talked about all over is a fast moving and killing virus, racism and police brutality, and the negative affects people all over are facing, it is hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s hard to have hope and stay positive during hard times, especially when the only thing everyone around you is talking about is frightening. I think times like this are not only stressful, but painful. Our mental health can plummet (if it hasn’t already), and start to negatively affect our bodies if we don’t take the time to ourselves. It is important to keep your mental health in mind during times like this, and to better yourself. “If you stress and worry now, you essentially suffer twice.”

Lately, I have been taking the time to really channel in my inner peace of mind to ease my stress. I have seen a shift in my mind and my body after I took the time to focus on them and give myself some tender love and care. Here are a few tips to really help improve with your mental health.

1) Meditation

Meditation is very good for your health, your mind, body, and spirit. It has been proven to help ease anxiety and chronic pain. Meditation helps the body relax, reduces blood pressure, and improves your immune function as well. Why doesn’t everyone do it then?

Meditation is sometimes a very difficult thing to find yourself doing correctly. Often times, people are too distracted and their mind wanders off to other things. Some people actually avoid meditating, simply because it’s not enjoyable. Here are a few tips to help you meditate:

  • Start with a few minutes a day. Just like lifting weights, you start small and then add more and more the better and stronger you get.
  • Find the different practices that fit your mood. There are plenty of different mediations practices. Some are perfect for anxiety and stress, while others… not so much. Pay attention to how you’re feeling, and meditate accordantly.
  • Focus on your breathing.
  • Make it a habit. When you fit mediations in your daily/weekly routine, it gets easier to allow yourself to remember, as well as motivates you to want to stick with it.

2) Keep a journal

Keeping a journal in your room, backpack, or car is a great way to focus on your mood and documenting your emotions. The journal can be used in many different ways, like writing down what made you happy today, what made you upset, what someone said that you liked/appreciated, who you talked to today that made your day, etc. You can get creative with the journal by adding drawings, pictures, or souvenirs from that day. In my journal, I write down:

  • One thing that made you smile
  • One sentence about your day
  • Make notes in your phone throughout the day & copy them in the journal
  • Keep a “good shit” log with a few good things from each day
  • Set a timer for 5 minutes and free write. Stop writing as soon as time is up

3) Take time off social media

Social media is where the young generation today gets almost all of their information and news. Following activist, politicians, doctors, celebrities, and our peers is enough to get us to not look at the news, or to read the news paper. You find out who is cancelled and who not to support over twitter, and you find videos and see footage of protest and riots over instagram. For me, I personally have seen a lot of footage and learned about different stories over instagram– that is where I have spent the most time researching articles, protest, petitions, and facts on stories. With that being said, take some time off of social media. My mentor once told me to go a day without looking at your phone at all (unless needed for school). I turned off all notifications, and left my phone in my backpack the whole day. By the end of the day, I felt more relaxed and at ease. I definitely recommend taking a break from social media a few days every week and try new things instead. Staying disconnected from the world is different from taking a break from social media. You can still be involved and learn what’s going on in your community with frequent breaks.

4) Exercise

Now, this isn’t limited to just running (which almost everyone hates doing). There are lots of different ways to get in shape and relax your body. Running is great, but try something new like:

  • yoga
  • circuits
  • nature walks
  • bike riding
  • swimming
  • trying new sports
  • stretches
  • aerobics

IMAGE BY STACEY LEASCA via Time Magazine

5) Read

One piece of advise I received that I started taking more seriously, was to read more. In high school, I hated reading. I thought it took too much time, and I was “too cool” to pick up a book for fun. But I realized, reading is where most people get their knowledge. Even reading articles online allows you to learn and discover things you never took the time to before. No one knows everything, but reading a book can help you learn something new everyday. Now, non-fictional books can get boring, so be sure to mix up the different genres you read. Try reading poems, sci-fi, audio-biography’s, articles, and even research papers. It never hurts to become educated on new topics, even if you have little interest. Reading also helps improve your writing skills and vocabulary, so it’s a win win!

6) Discover new music

Music is somethings everyone enjoys. No matter your genre preference, it’s something we like to listen to. Whether with our friends or in the shower, there’s always a song to listen to. Lately, I have started listening to my friends playlist, and even playlist of people I don’t share similar interest with. Finding new music can be enjoyable and relaxing, especially when you find something new or a new artist you enjoy.

7) Research businesses

I’m sure we have all seen an increase in support for black owned businesses through the media. I think doing your research on businesses operated by woman, and other minorities (especially if you identify as a minority) is a great way to discover new products, brands, and businesses that you can invest in. I personally looked into black owned and black women owned stores, restaurants, and products before I go out buying something. I think giving my money to a person that looks like me, gives me more satisfaction in where my money ends up. Check out my list of black owned products and businesses around me.

8) Relax

It seems simple enough, and should be the answer to stressful times, but relaxing is sometimes very difficult. Meditation can of course help you relax your mind and your body, but meditation isn’t for everyone. Relaxing is easing your mind, getting you to stop thinking about what is difficult for you right now, and get you to focus on your body and mind moving as one. Some things that help relax are:

  • Invest in a diffuser. Diffusers are not only great for clarifying the air, but add an essential oil like lavender, and you can easy feel at peace
  • Taking a bath (or shower for some). Add essential oils, (like lavender) epson salt, a bath bomb, or even bubbles to your bath to help you relax
  • Listening to calming music. Sounds like rain or ocean waves help you feel at ease. Some ASMRs also help you relax
  • Sleep. Taking naps can help you feel energized and refreshed through the day. It also stops your from thinking
  • Sit out side. Nature + fresh air = ultimate relaxation

9) Become a plant parent

Back in January, I received my first real succulents. I was at a mental health workshop on campus. Everyone received succulents, and we were able to paint pots for them. I will admit, I killed one of them after two weeks, but the other I managed to not permanently kill. After about three months of it looking sad and lifeless, I finally just googled what it needed. I repotted it and gave it lots of sun and water and soon enough, it perked up and grew tall. After that, I became obsessed with buying plants. Buying flowers, succulents, or any type of plant helps you have an easy task to care for daily. Plus, many plants clean your air and make it easier to breathe, so keep it alive and it’ll help keep you alive as well.

10) Treat yourself

Remember to treat yourself. When you pass test, get a job, finish a book, or complete a task, reward yourself with things you enjoy. I know I personally love to buy new things and occasionally get some treats (ice cream) when I feel accomplished, and it really motivates me to finish my task sooner and more efficiently in order to receive my reward. You do not always have to spend money to feel like you are treating yourself. You can do any of the above tips to treat yourself at no cost.

Remember, August is National Wellness Month, so really focus on yourself this month and try a few of these tips to help you finish this year strong.

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