This has been a year of highs and lows to say the least. With holiday celebrations looking so different for many of us, it only adds another layer of stress and emotion. Now more than ever it's time to put your mental health at the top of the list. Here are some tips for how to boost your mood in the weeks ahead.
Create a Routine: Having a routine creates a sense of control and calmness when you know what to expect day to day. This doesn't mean every part of your day has to be scheduled. Maybe it's as simple as waking up at the same time each day and instead of binge watching your latest series go to bed on time. It's easy to let routines slip especially this time of year with the cooler weather, the shortage of daylight, and holiday hustle but routine can help minimize stress and reduce anxiety.
Exercise: We all know we should exercise but the hardest part can be getting going and sticking with it. Exercise increases serotonin which helps regulate mood, sleep and appetite along with endorphins which are mood lifters too. With restrictions getting tighter again on gyms coupled with losing some of our outdoor options due changes in weather/daylight it can be hard to exercise. If you have the ability to work from home or some flexibility in your day, get out at lunch when you can maxmize the warmth of the day along with the daylight. Look to local lists or friends and see what they've been doing over the last few months and explore new options. Many gyms and fitness programs have adapted well over the last few months with their online offerings so it might be easier than you think to find something you enjoy.
Reduce Stress: This has probably been one of the toughest years for stress as we've had to adapt to so much change in our lives. Stress can fuel symptoms of anxiety, sadness, frustration and depression while wreaking havoc on our health by producing the hormone cortisol. Seek ways to minimize stress each by carving out some "you time" whether its regular breaks from your screen, time to exercise or meditate, or any activites that bring you a sense of calm and happiness.
Avoid Sugar Highs: It's easy to look for the small pick me-ups during the day especially when we're stressed, out of routine, and maybe surrounded by food more than we're used to. While eating simple carbs and sugar seems rewarding in the moment, this can lead to blood sugar fluctuations which can give us an initial high but then leave us tired, fatigued, and moody. Bring some health back to your meal and snack choices by eating a combination of lean protein, healthy carbs and a small amount of heart-healthy fat. This will help to keep you full, stabilize blood sugar levels, and you'll notice the change in your mood too.
Take Your Omega-3s: It's not always easy to change your diet, but we all have a minute in our day to take our supplements. Omega-3s are known for their mood lifting benefits and for boosting immunity through their anti-inflammatory properties. 90% of us fall short on our omega-3 intake and since our bodies can’t make them we have to get them through our diet and supplementation. Whether its morning, noon, or night, make this one part of your routine and stick with it.
Stay Hydrated: Increased caffeine and alcohol intake not only impact our mood and sleep but also our hydration status. If you've seen your intake of these stimulants on the rise make sure you are keeping yourself fully hydrated. Even a slight decline in our hydration status can make us moody and unable to concentrate along with bringing on headaches and fatigue. Keep caffeine and alcohol to a minimum and boost your intake of water and hydrating foods like fruits and vegetables.
Practice Self-Care: In a time where it feels like everything is outside our control, the one thing we can control is our health. Getting the right nutrition, moving our bodies, getting rest and minimizing stress can postivitely impact our mood and immunity. Look to the positives of being home by using the time to create better habits for yourself.
Find a Hobby: Now that we have a better sense of our day to day maybe its time to pick up a new hobby espescially for the winter months. Take that Master Class you've seen advertised, complete those home projects or do something with all those pictures on your computer and create some albums. Having a hobby can take your mind off things and has been shown to decrease stress and depression.
Stay Positive: Be the person who spreads positivity not negativity. We all know those people who can complain about everything and maybe at times we are those people. One thing I think we all have learned this year is gratitude. Before you decide to complain about something that wasn't done right(e.g. remote learning, work, someone's post on social media) take a breath, put yourself in someone else's shoes, don't engage, and look for the positive side. Getting upset, angry or complaining is a big hit to our mental well being and undue stress. Find the balance of what works for you and don't be afraid to limit your interaction with negative people, social media, or the news. It might be just what your mental health needs.
Stay Connected to Friends and Family: Probably one of the toughest parts of this pandemic has been social isolation. Feeling disconnected and not being able to see loved ones can take a toll on our mood especially around the holidays. Use Facetime and Zoom to make recipes with loved ones this holiday season, write letters, send holiday cards or pick up the phone and check in on loved ones, especially those living alone. You'll find it not only lifts their spirits but yours too.