Confession: I’ve started grinding my teeth. I’m not sure exactly when it started, but I’ve realized that it is likely a result of stress and anxiety. Since anxiety has been affecting me emotionally and even physically recently, I’ve decided to start a conversation here, partly to clear my mind and hopefully to provide comfort to someone who can relate.
I have always struggled with mental health issues, and my moods tend to be further affected by the seasons. So you’re probably thinking things must be on the upswing for me with all the beautiful days we’ve been having… but this isn’t exactly the case. While I’ve been trying to take advantage of the nice days and get outside, the start of spring can sometimes be a struggle for me. The weather can be unpredictable – warm and beautiful one day but chilly and rainy the next – which leads to lots of ups and downs. Plus, it seems like everyone around me is immediately perked up by the springtime weather, and I can’t help but notice that it takes me longer than most to come out of my winter funk. (I would definitely not recommend comparing yourself to others when it comes to mental health, but sometimes, I can’t help it.)
Here are some of my best tips, as a reminder to myself and to anyone reading this post, for how to get out of a low spot.
- Be kind to yourself. Do your best to avoid negative self talk. Try not to think of what you consider to be your flaws, because we are all more critical of ourselves than anyone else is. But if you fall into a pattern of critical thinking, or you are unable to meet another goal you have set for yourself, don’t beat yourself up over that too. It can be easy to fall into a cycle. Instead, after a hard day, do something nice for yourself, like eating a special snack or taking a long bath.
- Be kind to someone else. If you’re having a hard time, sometimes the best thing to do is to distract yourself. If you decide to do something nice for someone you love, the benefit is two-fold: You can get your mind off your problems, and you can make someone’s day. So call your grandma, take your dog for a run, or treat your best friend to coffee after class. They’ll appreciate your kindness, and their good mood just might be contagious.
- Cuddle a pet. Need I say more?
- Exercise. I know, I know. This is the mental health tip that we all want to ignore. Getting yourself motivated to exercise when you just want to curl up in bed all day can sound like an impossible feat. But I finally gave this remedy a try, and I can promise it makes a world of difference. I have fallen back in love with swimming, which I used to do competitively before college. I love the feeling of floating and the lovely quiet of being underwater. Find what works for you!
- Turn off your electronics. Log off of social media. Turn off your phone. Shut down the computer. Sometimes, a change in routine can make all the difference – and let’s face it, electronics have become a crutch in all of our daily routines.
- Think of time in manageable chunks. As the infinitely wise Kimmy Schmidt once said, “You can do anything for ten seconds.” I’ve found this mentality to be incredibly helpful in managing the overwhelmed feelings that come with anxiety. If I’m in a funk and think that going to class is going to be difficult, I won’t think of class as an hour and twenty minutes. Instead, I’ll think to myself that I only have to sit and concentrate for four twenty-minute chunks. Twenty minutes is way easier than an hour and twenty!
- Create to-do lists with achievable goals, and then reward yourself. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m an incredibly organized person. I keep my planner meticulous, and colored post-it notes are a staple for me. I’ve found that writing down small goals for the day helps me to feel more accomplished and productive. If you’re feeling really down, jot down achievable goals, like cooking yourself a nutritious meal or washing your sheets. Be proud when you can cross them off your list! Reward yourself with a treat when you accomplish something that was a particular struggle.
If you have any additional tips, please let me know! Of course, I am not a professional, and I definitely encourage speaking to someone if you’re struggling. Be kind to yourself. And as a note to myself and anyone reading: It always gets better. Really.