October 10 is World Mental Health Day, a good time to take an inventory of how things are going, especially if you are going through a divorce. I’ve posted about some important ways to prioritize your mental health during this incredibly tough period in life. Still, if you are struggling with grief, depression, anxiety, or anger, you may need to be even more attentive to your needs. Here are ten immediate things you can do to take care of yourself.
- Practice Sleep Hygiene
To get a good night’s sleep, experts suggest that you need to minimize your brain activity right before and during sleep. Easy steps include turning off your TV and your phone at least half an hour before trying to sleep, keeping your bedroom tidy, and plugging your tablet, phone, and other gadgets into charge in a different room.
Twenty minutes of activity a few times a week will make a huge difference in your health. The endorphins released during exercise can boost your spirit and calm your anxiety. There’s no need to go to the gym unless that’s your favorite way to work out. There are plenty of apps with good exercise options you can practice at home.
A lot is being written about mindfulness, which is a form of meditation without any religious connotation. The idea is to spend time entirely in the present – not thinking about the past or the future. Mindfulness is not easy, as our responsibilities and feelings often get in the way of simply being. Try to start slow – one minute at a time.
- Eat to Live
Food is a complex issue for most people, between societal and family messages, not to mention so many memories tied to meals. While food can be a source of comfort, it’s a good idea to watch what you eat since some foods can have a negative effect on your mental health. Caffeine can stir up anxiety or strong emotions; sugar highs may be incredible, but they are followed by sugar lows; and rich foods can lead to a distressed GI, which doesn’t help your mood. Instead, try to stick to a balanced diet.
Any societal judgment about therapy has pretty much disappeared over the last few decades, but individual feelings of failure or self-judgment can get in the way of seeking help. Stereotypes about lying on a couch and talking about our relationship with our parents don’t help either. There are dozens of types of therapy available, and different practitioners have different personal styles that may suit you better. Try researching what’s out there and looking for recommendations, but don’t hold back on getting the help you need.
- Schedule Time for Yourself
If you are going through a divorce, your kids, work, and other responsibilities don’t just disappear. But it’s critical to put yourself on the schedule. “Me time” should be relaxing, self-indulgent, and something you know will put you in a better mind space.
- Tap Into Your Network
If you are struggling, it helps to have support. Your friends and family may not be experts in therapy or nutrition, but they are experts in you and care. Give yourself time with loved ones, and let them know if you are struggling so they can help. If some of them tend to stress you out, try to avoid those people or give them gentle tips on how to be more supportive.
- When Things Are Really Bad, Try Distress Tolerance
Distress Tolerance is a concept in some types of behavioral therapy that focuses on helping a person get through the most complex feelings or situations. You know yourself best, so you can determine what will work for you. However, some approaches include meeting a negative impulse with an opposite action, intentional distraction, or other practices that can put you in a better mind space to deal with your immediate situation.
- Go For A Walk
Believe it or not, a walk incorporates many other suggestions like exercise, mindfulness, and distress tolerance. Brisk or leisurely, short or long, a walk is one of the healthiest, most healing things you can make into a regular practice.
- Give Yourself Grace
Life can be really tough, and there’s no reason that you should make it even tougher with self-blame or recrimination. Instead of trying to be all things to all people and assuming you have failed if you don’t feel strong all the time, ask yourself how you would treat yourself if you were your own friend. We are usually our own worst critics, so give yourself the space to be human.