It’s time to focus on you! Tips and tricks for optimal mental health and self-care routines.
You’re juggling a lot right now. We’re in the midst of a pandemic, back-to-school season is here, and work and home life still require your constant attention. You’ve likely seen dozens of articles of how to up your productivity and manage your time (we’ve even written one!), and by now, we think you’ve mastered those topics. This month, we want to talk about something that so easily gets overlooked in our busy lives: mental health and self-care.
The term ‘mental health’ is thrown around often, but what does it truly mean? Mentalhealth.gov explains that this term encompasses our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Tuning into, and taking care of, our mental health is crucial to a well-balanced and thriving life. Let’s first cover some current energy-draining issues and then dive into some ways that we can care for ourselves, and in turn care better for others.
Anxiety & Stress
Anxiety and stress can be present in our everyday lives during the most normal of times, not to mention when there is a global pandemic. This back-to-school season is likely to bring additional stress both for you and your child(ren) due to new routines, new ways of learning, and so much uncertainty. Right now, it might feel like a hamster wheel in your head of running questions: how long will school be virtual? If they go to school, how long will it last before we’re out again? What do I do about childcare during the day?
Home and school related stress is enough in itself, but add in running your own business, and wow! Sometimes life can get overwhelming. Your business has likely undergone changes this year due to COVID-19, and with change naturally comes a certain level of anxiety. Nadia of Virginia Grace Events , tells us about a mantra she’s been repeating for the past six months: “my thinking and my attitude are calm and cheerful… I respond in a calm and intelligent manner without alarm, even to negative facts.” Nadia has found that the “stress of entrepreneurship is often born of frustration that indicates a lack of process,” and in order to avoid that stress she chooses to “focus on solving problems and implementing systems so that my team and I know how to proceed in common scenarios within the business.”
There’s another aspect to entrepreneurial life that can get overlooked: Burnout. Burnout is real. As a business owner, it’s important to understand what burnout is and ways to combat it. The World Health Organization officially recognized burnout as a medical diagnosis in 2019. According to the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) , its symptoms include: feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, increased mental distance from one’s job, and reduced professional efficacy.
Career Contessa’s article How to Recognize & Recover from a Burnout Diagnosis explains the three types of burnout.
- Frenetic Burnout: This type of burnout occurs when someone continuously puts an insane amount of energy into their work, disregarding any notion of work-life balance. Burnout happens when this high energy is sustained for long periods of time with little downtime to rest and recuperate. We’ve all experienced seasons in our business when we have to work long hours. What’s important is that we make sure those are truly seasons, and that they don’t somehow all run together so that our life becomes an overworked, overtired, overextended existence.
- Underchallenged Burnout: This type of burnout occurs when someone is underchallenged or bored at work. Even as an entrepreneur this can happen. We take on easy projects or clients. We’re doing the same work, day in and day out. Sometimes monotony and simplicity are really good things, but sometimes we need a challenge!
- Worn-Out Burnout: The third type can happen when someone becomes resigned to the fact that their work is always going to be exhausting and stressful. It’s important that we work hard not to let ourselves fall into this trap, no matter what industry we’re in. Changes can always be made. Read on to find out ways you can take care of yourself.
Self-care is another one of those terms that gets thrown around. Let’s get straight to the facts: self-care is any activity that you undertake in order to support your mental and physical health. It’s time to add some tools to your toolbox so you’re equipped to tackle whatever comes your way.
Taking time for you is not overrated. You’d be amazed at the difference taking 10-15 minutes alone by yourself in the morning or evening can make. First, though, take a personal inventory of things in your life that fuel you. What gives you energy, motivates you, and makes you happy? Then, consider what drains you. What depletes your energy, frustrates you, or makes you sad?
Figuring out specific activities that support your mental and physical health is crucial to overall well-being. What works for your friend may not work for you and vice-versa. Simmons University rounded up advice on various self-care tips from 31 clinical practitioners. Take a look at the list here .
Mindfulness can be a powerful self-care practice. The dictionary defines mindfulness as a mental state achieved by focusing awareness on the present moment, while also acknowledging and accepting feelings, thoughts, and sensations. In other words, mindfulness is a powerful tool to help calm and focus you on the present while also recognizing things that may be troubling you in other areas of your life.
There are several apps with themed meditation and calming sessions that you might find helpful. Two of the top-rated apps are Headspace and Calm .
Additionally, there are thousands of podcasts about leading a happy, healthy, fulfilled life to choose from, but we’ve rounded up some we think you’ll love.
- Ten Percent Happier is a mindfulness podcast that offers a simple approach to meditation.
- Happier with Gretchen Rubin by the author of The Happiness Project offers advice on happiness and good life habit.
- Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert by the author of Big Magic, is targeted towards creatives who need a little push in overcoming their fears and creating joyfully.
- The Mindset Mentor is for anyone who wants motivation, direction and focus in life.
Breathing exercises are great to help us focus and be more productive. Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience and the Global Brain Health Institute at Trinity conducted a study (2018) that found our attention span is influenced by our breath.
In an article on breathing exercises to focus better at work, Meditation teacher, Vrindavan Rao of Illuminate NYC shares six tips to a successful breathing practice:
- Find a quiet, undisturbed space for your practice.
- Get comfortable: Try sitting cross-legged on a cushion or mat, but if that doesn’t work, sit in a chair with your feet fully touching the floor.
- Become still by closing your eyes and removing as many stimuli as possible. Rao suggests one way of becoming still is to do a body scan, starting with your feet and working your way up. Identify each body part as being completely immovable for your practice.
- Bring awareness to your breath. Observe how you are breathing without attempting to alter that rhythm.
- Notice a temperature shift in your breath. This shift occurs at the nostrils with each inhalation being cooler than the exhalation. Rao explains that there are four parts to every breath, and that we should pay close attention to them:
- Split second retention inside
- Split second retention outside
- Finally, is gratitude. Resume your normal breathing pattern. With each breath, consider something you are thankful for. On the inhale, “I am grateful for…” and on the exhale fill in that sentence. Rao recommends doing this for ten inhales and exhales.
Physical exercise can be an important component to overall mental wellness. What type of exercise you do is entirely up to you! The article “7 Exercises to Boost Your Mental Health,” breaks down the mental health benefits of various types of exercise, including swimming, HIIT, and spin workouts.
One exercise that you shouldn’t overlook is walking. It’s the simplest of exercise forms yet can have profound impacts. There are several great apps to use for tracking your walking distance, including Under Armour’s Map My Walk and Argus , a meal planner and activity tracker.
Yoga is a powerful exercise for self-care practice. This article by the Yoga Journal lists eighteen benefits of yoga, including boosting immunity, reducing inflammation, and boosting mood and confidence.
Many self-care practices involve a component of reflection, which allows us to identify what is good and bad about our current situation. This is a great tool to carry into other areas of our lives, including in our business and at home.
In Your Business
This is a great time to evaluate what’s working and what isn’t in your business. No, this hasn’t turned into a blog on better business practices, instead, this is a useful exercise to explore possible changes that can be made to ensure your roles as business owner and mom can run in sync. Episode 129 of Rachel Brenke’s Business Bites Podcast features Erika Tebbens, a business strategist, coach, and homeschooling mom. Tebbens recommends taking a look at your business and determining what is and isn’t working for you. You’ll also hear about scheduling non-negotiables and setting boundaries at work and at home.
As a business owner, you might find it difficult to truly take a vacation or to even schedule a day off to relax or tackle a to-do list at home. Taking a mental health day every once in a while isn’t a bad thing, and in fact, may result in you going back to work re-energized. Business Insider wrote an article with seven tips for taking a mental health day when your home is also your office. Some of these tips include deleting social media apps, getting outside, and reaching out to friends. Figure out what works best for you to be able to unplug and then go do that!
A new school year is a great time to create new routines at home. Take stock of what is good and bad about your current routines: what feels like it takes forever? What brings stress every day? What does your family love to do every day? Make a list of non-negotiables: what has to get done every day. Figure out how to work those things into a schedule that works best for you and your family. For tips on creating a morning routine for yourself, check out this Forbes article .
With the busyness of life, and particularly this back-to-school season, it can be easy to overlook or push to the side our own mental health. We hope this blog provided some helpful tips and resources on getting your mental health on track and finding a routine practice of self-care.
Virginia Grace Events https://www.vagraceevents.com
What is Mental Health? https://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/what-is-mental-health
Podcast: 4 Quick Tips to Manage Homeschool and Business. https://rachelbrenke.com/epi129/?fbclid=IwAR100Iqo3d03PpglmYCb8E6xKHMbuR8W6tIugF3jxhxKyWW55BMCn6X1WW8
Self-Care Advice from 31 Practitioners https://socialwork.simmons.edu/self-care-tips-advice-from-professional-clinicians/
Headspace App https://www.headspace.com
Calm App https://www.calm.com
Ten Percent Happier Podcast https://www.tenpercent.com/podcast
Happier with Gretchen Rubin Podcast https://gretchenrubin.com/podcasts/
Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert Podcast https://www.elizabethgilbert.com/magic-lessons/
The Mindset Mentor Podcast https://robdial.com/podcast/
Study: Meditation & Breathing Practices Sharpen Mind https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/05/180510101254.htm
Career Contessa: Breathing Exercises to Help You Focus https://www.careercontessa.com/advice/breathing-exercises-to-help-you-focus-better-at-work/
7 Exercises to Boost Your Mental Health https://www.getthegloss.com/article/7-exercises-to-boost-your-mental-health)
Under Armour Map My Walk App https://www.mapmywalk.com/app
Argus Activity Tracker App https://apps.apple.com/us/app/argus-calorie-counter-step/id624329444)
Yoga Journal: 18 Reasons to Practice Self-Care https://www.yogajournal.com/lifestyle/18-reasons-to-practice-self-care#gid=ci022851cb8000244c&pid=istock-475858019
Business Bites Podcast Episode 129: https://rachelbrenke.com/epi129/?fbclid=IwAR100Iqo3d03PpglmYCb8E6xKHMbuR8W6tIugF3jxhxKyWW55BMCn6X1WW8
Business Insider: Mental Health Day Tips for a Remote Worker https://www.businessinsider.com/mental-health-day-tips-for-remote-workers-pandemic-2020-7
Forbes: 5 Habits for a Morning Routine https://www.forbes.com/sites/ashleystahl/2020/04/06/5-habits-for-a-morning-routine-if-you-work-from-home/#3b6dece3e424