2020 has been quite a year.
When we look back on it in 2021, undoubtedly our memories will elicit feelings that run the gamut of human emotion.
They may range from the hope of a fresh start on New Year’s Day to the rage, fear, and optimism of a multicultural movement stemming from the murder of George Floyd to the joy of spending more time with family due to safety precautions related to the novel coronavirus and from anxiety around the uncertainty of the future to the grief and stress related to the loss of daily routines, employment, financial security, physical health, and lives resulting from COVID-19.
And then there are the divisions and threats of violence more evident each day related to election season. In other words, this year has been a rollercoaster ride!
“The vacation we often need is freedom from our own mind.”Jack Adam Weber
And while many find rollercoaster rides thrilling, fun, and a simultaneous combination of fear and the elation fueled by an adrenaline rush, even aficionados would not choose to spend 24/7/365 at an amusement park. Similarly, the emotional impact of this invisible threat has become one of fatigue for body, mind, and spirit. There is very real inner turmoil unique to each person which manifests itself in myriad ways.
Try These 4 Mental Health Breaks
So, what actions can you take to give yourself a break? How can you enjoy a daily vacation to help provide relief from the exhaustion and also build the reserves to sustain you for all that lies ahead?
Take a mental health break. You don’t even need to leave home.
#1: 45-Minute Self-Assessment
To get you started, it is helpful to know your baseline “state of the (body-mind-spirit) union.” Being honest with yourself and accepting your starting point are foundational steps towards feeling a greater sense of balance and grounding, as well as the self-compassion which will make it easier to give yourself the guilt-free break you need.
- How stressed are you? Take the quick Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory. This tool not only takes a wide range of life events into account, but it is also reported to be predictive of the likelihood of developing a major stress-induced breakdown in your health status within the next 2 years.
- Check out 16personalities.com and gain insights that can help you become more self-aware and better understand patterns underlying many of the behaviors, emotions, and reactions you have to various situations in daily life.
- See if you have any of the signs or symptoms of depression or anxiety. Do not hesitate to get help.
#2: Explore Guided Imagery
Your imagination is a powerful gift that can take you places you may never visit in real life. It allows you to experience feelings of relaxation, calm, joy, and being grounded.
You can daydream and refresh mentally. And for a more formal experience, guided imagery is an option that offers a soothing voice to serve as your personal “concierge” as you take a journey that often adds music and breath work to signal to your body it’s OK to let go and unwind. (And, depending on your specific situation, guided imagery can also be helpful for symptoms of PTSD/trauma.)
#3: Spend time in nature
Spending time in nature can soothe rattled or raw nerves and lift your spirits when you are down. And being in the sunshine is a source of vitamin D. Some studies suggest those with vitamin D deficiency are at greater risk of depression.
Want to try something new? Check out shinrin-yoku (“forest bathing”).
#4: Just be
We are so accustomed to being in constant motion and trying to get as much done as possible each day that many of us may initially find it stressful to do “nothing.” But have you ever noticed when you slow down how often you achieve clarity and the walls that felt like they were closing in on you drop away? Doing nothing is one pathway to finding happiness in a busy world, especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Being still is actually quite an accomplishment, one that may take practice for a lot of us. So, if you find it difficult at the beginning, start with 5 minutes, focus on your breathing, and visualize putting your worries in a box on the shelf.
Give yourself a break.
The box will still be there. As you develop a habit of “just” being, you may find you have fewer worries in your box and a better perspective to prioritize and discard those that do not serve you well.
And as an added bonus, try this 2-minute stress break:
What type of mental health break are you going to try?