In case you missed it, this is a 5-part series for September.
Topic 1 - Simplified Surroundings
Topic 2 - Simplified Food
Topic 3 - Simplified Self-Care
Today's Topic - Simplified Mental Health
I physically sighed out loud after I typed that. Thinking about how I can help others with their mental health has occupied a lot of my time in the past 4 years.
We hear the expression “If you don't have your health, you have nothing” but most of us think of our physical health: diet, exercise, sleep when we hear that. What matters more, so much more, is our mental health.
How do I know? With myself and countless friends and clients, “doing the right thing” for health … meaning eating nutrient-dense meals, drinking water, exercising, and good sleep hygiene were NOT the ticket to improved health.
Stress. Mental health. Without this in-check, the rest of the efforts really did fall short (for me at least). The longer I am in this health space, the more I believe stress regulation and mental health practices are the foundation of overall health.
That's not to say that being stressed AND drinking soda all day in a cubicle is the same as being stressed AND drinking enough water while spending movement time outside.
But if you want my recipe for improving your health quickly and most effectively, I'd recommend mental health practices and stress management first.
Because let's be honest, when you feel a little more in-control and peaceful, you'll HAVE the bandwidth to choose vegetables over fries, water over coffee, play time with your kids over laying on the couch, and sleep over TV.
Simplified Mental Health
Ironically, as I was doing research for this email, this article popped up “The Effect of Clutter on Your Mental Health + 4 Ways to Simplify." So really, tip number 1 is to clear the clutter in your physical space… you can go through the previous weeks again, but trust me when I say it's a process. I've been actively clearing clutter for over a year and each stop at Goodwill feels great!
There are 3 keys to simplifying mental health.
First, awareness. Many of us have been taught to ignore our thoughts. To package them up, push them aside, dismiss and act like they don't exist.
But guess what? They DO exist even when we pretend - and they always eventually come back to bite us, don't they?
I've learned to feel what anxiety does to my body and I can sense when I'm reaching a tipping point, so I can reach out before I get to that place. Do you get nauseated? Maybe your face gets really hot? Do you get run down like you have a cold or flu? Pay attention to your body. Listen to it's signals.
Next up, communication... learn to speak about what is going on as soon as you are aware of it with someone close to you or a professional. GET IT OUT. Don't bottle up everything you are processing.
Finally, resources to help deal with mental health struggles - the good news is there are so many free and paid options.
Let's start with the freebies.
- Deep breaths.
- Legs up a wall.
If some of these sound like self-care tools, that's because many of them do overlap. Mostly quiet moments to just lower your heart rate, your racing mind, or just provide you the ability to be.
For other resources, therapy is one of my favorites for mental health. Obviously a trained professional is helping you, which is huge, but it's also a safe place to just process through everything you are feeling and thinking which many of us will not do on our own.
I have a friend using Talkspace therapy that loves it! It's a therapy that's virtual and has a range of plans based on your needs.
The BIGGEST way to simplify your mental health is to simply start doing something about it. Stop letting it have the power and control over you by letting it be in power.
For decluttering this week, let's jump into the closets, books, trinkets, anything that may be weighing you down… but also items that are taking up your time and mental health space like screen time.
Some of these items may be super easy or totally hard depending on your personality. For example, I LOVE books. I have way, way too many… and there are very few that I reach for over and over again.
So I packed some up, put them on a shelf and if I haven't touched them by the time we move, they are getting donated!
Decluttering biggies I wanted to touch on this week were CLOSETS (again) + SCREEN TIME.
I briefly talked about this one last week, but wanted to mention here how having a simple clothing closet helps with mental health (to really encourage you to get this done) + invite you to clean out the others in your home: linen, shoe, cleaning. It feels SO GOOD when those are organized, don't ask me why!
Do you know what Steve Jobs, Ellen DeGeneres, Kanye West, Adele, Tom Ford, Barack Obama have in common? They basically wear the same thing every day.
One less decision to create space for well-thought out decisions in other areas of your life. I FEEL THIS. When I went IN to work, I used to spend 5-10 minutes staring into my closet trying to decide what to wear each morning. I wish I knew this tip back then!
Even a rhythm would be helpful: Black Pants on Monday, Skirt on Tuesday, etc. Then just grab and go (same for food too, right… everything can use this logic – but save it, Kate - routines and rhythms are next week!)
Good ol' screen time, which naturally also leads to social media time. Let's chat.
How to Organize:
Ok, so I recently binge-watched (self-care while hubby traveled!) “Get Organized” on Netflix with The Home Edit. They are REALLY into rainbows. TBH, I am not. But I think that's because I don't have a ton of color in my life in general.
Regardless, my phone IS organized into rainbows-ish.
I have 1 screen with my most commonly used apps. On the next screen, I have folders by rainbow color (red, orange, etc). If I'm trying to find an app, I either know the color OR I just swipe down and use the search function. Easy peasy. (One day I may actually declutter my apps but this makes it so easy to store all of them without clutter!)
You can also make the wallpaper a very soothing image or even a single color.
It's actually amazing how decluttering your screens can help aid mental health.
Oh the dang notifications! A couple ways you can handle this:
Turn them off completely. (This is not realistic from me, I'm too outta, sight outta mind right now)
Monitor which apps get notifications (This is my camp! Iphone - that's what I have so I can only speak to this device - Settings > Notifications. That easy!)
Monitor when your phone gets dings - utilize airplane and do not disturb modes. (I also do this all. the. time! I put in airplane mode usually around 8pm and when I need to work uninterrupted).
I'm also a big fan of time limits and they have gotten significantly better on the iPhone in recent years. You can set individual app limits, groups, downtime, etc. Do an audit and think about what you want your use to be/look like. Don't get stuck in all or nothing… you can adjust these if you gave yourself too much/too little time. I have mine set to 1 hour of social media a day, which goes by SO quick. Some days I do more, some I do less but it's really helped my mental health (especially during COVID/election season). Settings > Screen Time (again, that easy!)
I watched The Social Dilemma over the weekend and at first I was like "Oh yes, unfortunate but I know this." Then they were talking about the impacts of social media on mental health and the impact it has on mood disorders and suicide rates in preteen and teen girls and I was devastated.
Then I just sat there with those thoughts, vowed to protect Charlotte best I can from this craziness, but honestly had a difficult time sleeping that night.
Once you have your social media time limit set, seriously audit the accounts you follow on social. Unfollow, hide, mute, whatever you need to do. YES, even friends, especially friends that are triggering to you right now! YOU are most important. You should feel connected, inspired, empowered, informed, positive after spending time on social media… if you are feeling anything less than right now, YOU have the power to change what you consume.
Next up: September 29th
Simplified: Routines + Rhythms
Other Posts in the Series: