It is so difficult to be “ON” all the time. We shake off our sleepiness and get ready each morning, yearning for that cup of coffee to get us back to our normal selves. Between the balance of interacting with people all day, working with intense focus, and somehow fitting time for meals and the other activities we do, our moods and levels of energy shift and change. During all this time, some of us can be anxious and build up stress; others may use the constant go going as a means of not dealing with the emotions and thoughts they carry inside. Whatever occupation or stage of life you are in, we all deal with emotional stress; with the high and lows of each day, and we all deal with it in different ways. This emotional health is a significant part of having BALANCE in our lives as it has an impact on the other facets of our health (physical, chemical, social, and spiritual).
In 2018, people are more depressed and anxious than ever. The millennial generation is considered generation stress. Left unchecked stress can cause us to be irritable and angry straining relationships with family and friends. It also can also increase the production of the hormone Cortisol in our bodies. This chemical engages our fight or flight responses. Having continuously elevated levels of cortisol can interfere with our learning and memory, increase the risk of heart disease, increased risk of depression, mental illness, and lowers our immunity to sickness. On top of this, our disconnect through social media and the technology have gradually amplified our anxieties as we are now able to see all the exciting things everyone else is doing as we sit alone in our bed or stuck in an office. We are losing our ability to communicate and connect with people in person comfortably, and in turn, don’t receive the stress-relieving benefits of genuine human connection. The constant stimulus and business have stopped us from getting the adequate rest we need.
All is not lost though; there are some lifestyle choices we can make to keep ourselves emotionally healthy.
1. Get Regular Physical Activity- Going on hikes, going to the gym, throwing a Frisbee at the park, kickboxing, and swimming are all great ways to release that built up cortisol and stress. It also allows us to feel more self-confident and happy as we build strength, get out in the sun, and release endorphins. Even if you have a busy schedule, try finding ways to fit in daily activity on your lunch break or even 15 minutes before you sleep.
2. Intentional Social Connectivity- when we aren’t feeling ourselves or feel overly anxious, a typical response is to isolate ourselves from social situations, only increasing our cortisol and stress-related issues. Close-knit bonds with family, friends, and partners are vital for our mental health. Try intentionally talking about your day or struggles with someone you trust. When you find yourself wanting to back out of social commitments because of anxiety and stress, try forcing yourself to go to that small group meeting, that night out or that day hike with your friends.
3. Take Time for Self-Reflection and Prayer- a great way to balance our emotions is to take time to reflect alone, unplugged from our text messages, emails, and constant notifications. For starters take 10 minutes each morning to reflect on yourself, have your morning devotional and prayer time, read a self-reflective book that encourages you. Not only does this allow you to have a sense of calmness, it’s a great way to center yourself and reflect on your life before you dive back into the hustle bustle of life.
4. Talk to A Counselor or Professional- We all have things we struggle with and deal with, and it is so important to express them instead of bottling them up. This could be as simple as finding a trusted friend or counselor to discuss your stresses and thoughts. Seeing a trained and trusted psychologist is a great way to have a third party listen to your struggles and give you valuable insight into who you are, how you are dealing with things, and how you can move forward in light of it.
5. Learn to Have Boundaries- “Good fences make good neighbors.” Good boundaries make life easier, reduce conflict and improve relationships. Boundaries are those invisible lines of protection you draw around yourself that let people know your limits on what they can say or do around you, and they give you space and time to do what you need to do for you. Boundaries give you freedom in relating and connecting with others. Make them too solid, and you build walls, too weak, and you allow other’s actions to harm you and run your life. To begin thinking about how well balanced your boundaries are pay attention to your language. Do you tend to use “you” and “we” statements rather than “I” statements? “I” statements let others know where YOU stand and don’t come off as offensively as “you” statements. Another way is to begin noticing how clear you are with the words “yes” and “no.” Do you sit on the fence with decision-making? Are you someone who has a hard time committing verbally to things? Knowing how to say yes and no effectively won’t only allow for better-defined relationships, but it will let you feel more confident in your own decisions and life.
Making these lifestyle changes and creating boundaries takes attention and intention, but with practice and discipline, you will experience much more freedom and balance in your emotional health and day-to-day lives!