Five Habits A Day To Keep Anxiety At Bay
These last few weeks have given all of us a run for our money. The current situation we are facing and having to walk through is probably one we will remember for decades to come.
I don't know about you, but I definitely had my breakdown moments. Feelings of fear and despair poked their ugly heads up, which is normal considering how quickly our world started to unravel.
If I want to be completely transparent with you, which is always my goal, especially at the beginning of it all, I wanted to give in so badly. I wanted to just stay in my pj's all day, watch a sitcom and eat my favorite chips and chocolate to numb the pain away. 7 short years ago, that is exactly what I would've done. I would've reached for the habits that while made me feel good at the moment, would've set me on a downward spiral fast.
Here's what I've learned about tough times, and I'm sure just like me you've faced plenty of those in your lifetime, they can either make us better or make us bitter. And here's a piece of good news, the decision, and choice of which one it'll be is actually ours to make.
For the first 30 years of my life, I lived as a victim. A victim to my circumstances, a victim to my own toxic thoughts and a victim to everything and everyone else around me.
Here's what I know to be true; how we make it through a crisis situation is all connected to our mental resilience.
And how resilient we are, comes down to CHOICE.
- The choice of where we place our focus.
- The choice of what we allow our minds to dwell on.
- The choice of what we allow to enter through our ears, eyes, and mouths.
- The choice of what we will take action on.
- The choice of being proactive instead of reactive.
If a situation like the one we find ourselves in currently would've hit me 7 years ago, I would've crumbled quickly under the pressure. But I'm grateful that now, just a few short years later, I'm able to lean into some strong healthy habits and rhythms that help me walk through this season feeling more grounded and stable.
In this post, I'd like to share with you the 5 Habits A Day that help me Grow each day.
When we choose to double down on our good habits or start focusing on developing life-giving practices instead of reaching for our bad ones, it really helps us not only survive through difficult times but come out stronger on the other side. And I don't know about you, but I want to grow through this not just go through this.
Are you with me? Then let's dive right in.
HABIT #1: MINDSET WORK
Before I attempt to do anything else, the first thing I do every morning is making sure that I'm setting myself up for a good day ahead. That means, intentional mindset work.
Before I share with you what I do in the morning to make sure I'm cultivating a healthy and strong mindset I want to tell you why it's so crucial for us to do this every single day, especially in times of crisis.
During scary and fearful times, our brain tends to go into a fight to flight mode.
You see, when we are in fear, a part of our brain called the amygdala kicks in and takes control over our actions.
Unfortunately, when we are in this reactive state in order to lower stress levels our body starts producing more of a steroid called, cortisol.
And guess what this steroid does to your immune system? It WEAKENS it.
So, as you can see, practicing habits that help keep your anxiety level at bay really helps you fight even disease easier.
Ok, so what does mindset work look like in practicality?
Praying: Talking and listening to my heavenly Father before doing anything else is a must for me. It helps me voice my gratitude and my struggles. It also helps me acknowledge the fact that while I have no control over certain situations I'm facing, He does. God is not shocked or overtaken by what is going on in the world.
Journaling: Being able to put my feelings into words instead of shoving them down deep inside of me has been a game-changer. There is something so powerful about putting our words on a piece of paper and naming the feelings that are happening inside our heads and hearts. There is something therapeutic about, for sure. There is particularly one thing I always make sure I write down, and that's 3 things I am grateful for that morning. My gratitude list is a MUST. It helps me shift my focus to things I am thankful for. There are always things we can be grateful for, we just need to look for them.
One of my favorite journal to use during this time is the one from Grit and Virtue. You can check out their shop here: https://gritandvirtue.com/journals/ (not an affiliate link, I just like supporting other women lead businesses)
Reading: I'm extremely selective about what I read or watch for that matter. In my opinion, once read or seen, it can't be unread or unseen. Meaning, what you put in front of your eyes matters, BIG TIME! I'm also convinced that the books and posts we read, the podcasts we listen to or movies/shows we watch, impact us, many times without us noticing, subconsciously. This is why especially at the beginning of the day, I choose to feed my mind with positive and life-giving words. Words that help me grow. Here is a list of my latest readings: How Happiness Happens by Max Lucado, The Prayer Powered Entrepreneur by Kim Avery, Rhythms of Renewal by Rebekah Lyons, Get Out Of Your Own Way by Dave Hollis. Finally, if you are looking for something to read over the next 40 days. Something that you can read and work through in less than 15 minutes a day? I'd love to offer up my newest book, Finding Your Voice for your consideration :) You can check out the 40-day guide HERE.
HABIT #2: EXERCISE
There was a time in my life when I constantly told myself that I didn't have the energy to exercise. I find that funny now since I learned the exercise itself is an energizer. According to research exercise not only boosts our energy level but is also a great mood stabilizer. In an article in Everyday Health, we read that "According to Robert Gotlin, DO, a specialist in sports medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital and Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City, the benefits of exercise for your energy level are twofold: Exercise boosts your body’s fitness and also your mood, both of which contribute to your overall health and well-being." Read Full Article.
In another article found on Harvard Medical School's website, we read that "regular exercise changes the brain to improve memory and thinking skills." Read Article.
In all honesty, from my personal experience, I don't think I found anything else yet (besides what I eat, more on that later) that has a more significant impact on my energy level than exercise does.
As you can see, exercise is useful not only for your body, your mind, but it has the potential to increase your confidence level too. If you don't see how the two are connected, read this article from Live Strong.
HABIT #3: LIFE-GIVING FOODS
The foods we eat have an immediate and long-lasting impact on our energy level and mental health. Again, this might not be news to you, it was news to me about 10 years ago. I always thought that professional athletes were way too uptight and rigid about their routines and what they put in their bodies. It took me about 30 years to understand why. What we eat not only impacts our physical energy but our mental focus and resilience as well.
Now, I'm certainly not an expert on health, so I'm not going to attempt to give you professional advice on what you should eat. However, I will tell you this, don't assume you know what a healthy diet looks like if you haven't taken the time to study it yourself.
Michael Hyatt, in his book, Free To Focus, says, "The road to poor nutrition is paved with assumptions people make about what are and are not wise food choices."
Knowing what you should eat can be tricky and takes time to figure out, but don't let that keep you stuck. Do your research and find what works best for you.
Here are a few articles I found super helpful:
(image from unsplash.com)
HABIT #4: PLENTY OF REST
I'm big on sleeping: just ask my husband. If I don't get my 8-9 hours of sleep, I'm kind of grumpy pants. And do not wake me up in the middle of the night, unless you want a black eye. Just kidding, but not totally. ;)
Of course, there are seasons in life when we are not able to get a full seven to eight hours of sleep. When you have a baby, perhaps you work night shifts or times of illness. But those times should be periodic and not be a norm.
However, according to the statistics, on average, Americans get just under seven hours of sleep every night. And those are the hours' people usually report they spent in bed, so, not actually sleeping.
In my opinion rejuvenating rest comes down to two things: quantity and quality.
So, how can you improve both the quality and quantity of your sleep time?
Here are a few suggestions:
Get more sunlight during the day. According to research more sunlight during especially the morning hours can help improve your sleep quality. Read more here.
Avoid screens before bedtime. This is one of the simplest and most effective ways to quickly improve both sleep quality and quantity.
Eat better. Again, as you can see food not only boosts physical and mental health but improves your sleep as well. In his book, Sleep Smarter, Shawn Stevenson says, "The food you eat can dramatically impact the quality of sleep that you get. Remember, food isn't just food - it's information. Upwards of 95 percent of your body's serotonin is located in your gut. The obvious connection is that serotonin is the building block for the "get-good-sleep" hormone, melatonin." As you can see, what you eat plays a big part in how you rest at night.
Hush your inner chatter. I'll be honest with you, this is easier said than done for me. Especially in times of high levels of uncertainty and stress. Why? Because I can use the noise of the day to help me drown out my inner thoughts but as soon as my head hits the pillow those thoughts suddenly awake and start to rush in. Is it just me? One of the most effective tricks that have helped me to calm my racing mind has been prayer and a notebook. If I find myself laying in bed feeling restless, I grab the notebook that's on my nightstand and I jot down all my worries. Once I'm done with that I ask God to help me let those worries go and give me peace and calm for the night. For me, this works 90 percent of the time. If you'd like to check out some more ideas to help you calm your inner thoughts at night check out these helpful articles:
HABIT #5: HAVE MORE FUN
Ok, I have to admit, this one is tough for me. I have to be extremely intentional about it. Being a 3 on the Enneagram, an achiever, I thrive on to-do lists, plans, agendas and being super focused. Who has time for fun? That's not productive.
Here's the bad news though. Lack of play makes us burn out a lot faster; it makes us more ineffective, less creative and more likely to crumble under pressure. Ironic, isn't it?
In my own pursuit to be more efficient, I cut out fun, and guess what, I became less focused and productive. If you keep pushing fun to the back burner, as I did, you will miss out on the rejuvenating energy that play, fun, and laughter provide.
What's fun? It's an activity with no plan. Something you do because it makes you happy, it connects you with others, it helps you express creativity, or release stress.
It's an art class (perhaps online during our quarantine times), going on a hike, impromptu dance party alone or with your kiddos, taking pictures, a hot bath or watching a comedy or funny video that makes you laugh.
Play, fun, and laughter rejuvenate us not only physically but it has a positive impact on our mental health as well. If you want to feel more energized and mentally resilient during tough times especially, you need regular and intentional times for fun and laughter. And that might mean having to plan it into your schedule.
These are my best daily practices that help me stay more grounded and keep anxiety at bay especially during stressful times.
Now, I'd love to hear from you! What are some habits or daily practices that help you grow and build a more resilient mindset? I'd love to know. Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
Don't forget to listen to the latest CAPTIVATE episode with amazing guests and passionate female thought leaders sharing their inspiring stories.
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