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When it comes to protecting your mental health, little choices you make in the morning can make all the difference. While no morning will ever look like a beautiful instagram-friendly scene of journaling, coffee and silence and it’s unlikely you’ll have your family consistently doing nighttime gratitude exercises or yoga, you can take steps to adjust your daily routine to be a bit kinder to yourself.
SheKnows spoke with a few experts about how you can build a routine that helps you mind your mental health and here’s some of the advice they had to offer.
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Start the day off on a positive note
Stephanie Roth Goldberg, a licensed clinical social worker, tells SheKnows it’s key to start the day on a positive note by maintaining a healthy morning routine. This could mean allowing time to relax with your coffee for a few minutes before leaving the house or getting some physical activity in before work. See how long you need to accomplish something good for yourself (even if it’s just three to five minutes of letting your brain do nothing!) before looking at a screen.
“It’s helpful to not always feel that you wake up and go right to work,” Goldberg says. “Choosing what feels good in the morning is a great way to start the day and implement a routine.”
Keep a stress-relief item on hand
Goldberg also recommends keeping something to relieve stress on hand at work or in your bag. “[It’s] a nice way to remember you have ‘tools’ to help you relax when needed,” she says, noting that examples include an essential oil stick, a favorite type of tea or a soothing hand cream.
Take breaks during the workday
“Taking breaks during the workday is essential to everyone’s mental health,” Goldberg explains. Get away from your computer screen by stepping outside for some fresh air — it can do wonders for your concentration and overall mood. If you don’t have a lot of opportunities to take breaks, Goldberg recommends going for a short walk or even visiting a friend at their desk to help break up the day.
Incorporate 15 minutes of mindfulness into your day
Psychologist Dr. Monica Johnson tells SheKnows that 15 minutes of mindfulness “can make a world of difference to your day.” Johnson recommends doing this in five-minute increments three times a day. In the morning, she advises her patients to do five minutes of deep breathing and to “set intentions for having a positive day.”
In the middle of the day, she suggests taking another five minutes to reset the brain and shake off some of the stress that may have built up already. “This can include taking a lap around your office building while listening to a walking meditation on an app or rubbing a scented lotion on your hands and taking a few deep breathes to re-center,” Johnson adds.
At night, take another five minutes of mindfulness to relax your mind — it’ll help you get to sleep more quickly too. Johnson suggests using an adult coloring book or listening to nature sounds during your nighttime mindfulness session.
Designate a screen-free time during the day
Goldberg explains that designating a time during the day when you completely disconnect from screens is “a great mental health tool that people don’t utilize.” Although it’s commonly recommended to disconnect before bed, Goldberg emphasizes that it’s healthy to do this at any time of day. “Spending time away from screens allows for creativity, connection and feelings that otherwise would not happen,” she says.
Establish a bedtime routine
Getting enough high-quality sleep is essential to our mental and physical health, and Katie Leikam, a licensed clinical social worker, recommends establishing a nighttime routine to ensure you get the shut-eye you need. Wash your face, put down your phone and turn off your lights at the same time every night. “This will help you obtain better sleep, which is one of the best things you can do for your mental health,” Leikam tells SheKnows.
The good news is these changes are totally doable but could make a big impact when it comes to your mental health. It’s worth giving them a shot — the only thing you have to lose is some stress.
A version of this story was published December 2018.
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