Life is stressful. Work, family, health and finances can all exacerbate that stress, but there is no magic threshold that determines if you’re entitled to feel overwhelmed or anxious or sad. Your feelings are your feelings. You are allowed to experience whatever emotions bubble up. You’re allowed to take the steps you need to cope. So let’s talk about simple, free ways you can maintain a clear mind and improve your mental health.
Exercise and movement are mood lifters. Even something as simple as taking a short walk can help you create space between yourself and a stressful situation. Regular exercise has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety, but yoga might be the most helpful form of movement for calming your mind and body. According to WebMD, yoga may help reduce stress, lower blood pressure and lower your heart rate.
Why yoga works
When you roll out your mat for a yoga class or a steaming session through TRX Training Club, you’ll notice the emphasis on breath work throughout the session. In addition to supporting deeper movements, that attention to breathing is creating a mind-body connection that can help reduce stress.
And it’s not just yogis and fitness professionals heralding the benefits of yoga. Many medical professionals recommend their patients establish a yoga practice. Within the TRX family, TRX for Yoga expert Shauna Harrison credits yoga with helping her overcome crippling anxiety attacks. She says she was suffering from nearly daily anxiety attacks when a doctor suggested that—in addition to prescribed medication—she try yoga. “Part of being in an anxiety attack is you feel like you’re out of control and you can’t get ahold of your breath” she explained. “I went to yoga, and through that, learned how to control my breath. In learning to control my breath, I was able to control my attacks.”
Yoga for everyone
Yoga doesn’t have to be expensive; you can actually get by for free. You don’t need to pay for a studio membership or gym to develop a yoga practice. There are tons of YouTube and Instagram videos that can take you through a flow. You could skip the expensive mat and use a towel or the ground instead.
Practice is personal. The most important thing is you find what works for you. If you’re looking for tools to improve your yoga skills, the TRX Suspension Trainer®, Suspension Training Mat, and TRX Training Club℠ can help. But if money is scarce, and you want to quiet your mind, all you need to get started is your body.
A journal doesn’t have to be a leatherbound book from a fancy stationery store. It doesn’t require an expensive pen or even a pen at all. A journal is just your way of documenting your thoughts and feelings, in whatever way feels natural to you.
And that simple practice can improve your mental and physical health.
According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, journaling can help you manage anxiety, reduce stress, and cope with depression. Why is it such a mood enhancer? Because it’s an organized way to prioritize problems and concerns, and identify your thoughts and behaviors.
For people suffering with chronic health issues—whether mental or physical—journaling is an opportunity to track symptoms and recognize triggers. In turn, you can present that information to a medical professional, who may be able to help you make sense of the patterns. For example, if a woman discovers from journaling that she is consistently depressed in the days leading up to her period, she could be suffering from premenstrual dysphoria—a condition which can be treated.
Many people feel self-conscious about journaling because they aren’t confident in their writing abilities. That fear, however, doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker. Your journal is just that: yours. It could be a sketch book filled with drawings or even a notes app of bullet-point lists in your phone. Make it your clearing house for ideas and self-awareness, but be consistent. It’s through the practice of journaling every day that you find progress.
Making time for yourself can be nearly impossible. Social media is full of “self care” posts touting the importance of long hikes, vacations, and meditation retreats, but those are luxuries for many people. Instead of beating yourself up because you can’t make it to the beach, just find a way—any way— to spend time outside each day.
According to Time, getting outside for at least 20 minutes a day—preferably in a “green space” like a park, can help lower your stress, blood pressure and heart rate, while encouraging physical activity and boosting your mood. There’s even research that suggests green space exposure can lower the risk of developing psychiatric disorders.
While movement is always a plus in our book, the International Journal of Environmental Health Research says you don’t have to spend all your outdoor time running, squatting, or lunging to reap the benefits; just hanging out in a park or green-filled outdoor space can help.
Mental health should never be stigmatized. The topic is not taboo. If you need to talk to a mental health professional, do it. With the rise of online therapy, the cost of one-on-one sessions has dropped dramatically, making talk therapy an option for many people who could not afford it previously. There are also a number of community-supported programs that offer free counseling for a variety of issues, and peer-to-peer programs like 7 Cups that offer free, non-therapeutic advice in addition to licensed therapy sessions.
Remember that mental health strategies don’t exist in a vacuum. You don’t have to choose just one, and you don’t have to dive into all of them at once. But taking the time—even just 20 minutes—to ground yourself and breathe can make a huge difference in your mental health.