Five Essential Strategies to Keep You Healthy and Out of Therapy!
In my work as a mental health therapist, the overall goal is to stop seeing my clients. That may sound weird but I don't want my clients to have to see me. I want them to learn how to be happy and healthy on their own. In addition to helping clients process buried trauma and resolve problems such as depression and anxiety, my job is to teach them the daily living skills that they can practice to keep them off my couch.
To that end, there are five major areas that I notice clients tend to neglect the most: sleep, food, exercise, friends and hobbies. Below I will briefly explain how if you just take the time to nurture these parts of your life, not only will you have a lesser chance of experiencing depression and anxiety, but studies have shown you'll live longer and will report increased happiness as well.
1. Sleep. We all need to sleep. The amount varies based on your body, but get to know the amount of hours you need to sleep to feel your best. Then try hard to meet that number on a nightly basis. It may mean turning off the Netflix an hour earlier, but it will pay off in increased health and well-being.
We all are crankier, less productive and more likely to eat junk when we are sleep-deprived. Who wants to live like that?
2. Food. This is hard because we can all easily eat our feelings. Plus, with our busy lives, fast food is just easier (and sometimes cheaper) than meal-prepping every night for 2 hours. But if you eat crap on a consistent basis you will not only feel gross, your body will show the damage as well. Food can either be the quickest form of medicine or the slowest form of poison. Notice how you feel after a healthy lunch (awake, energized) versus how you feel after a greasy burger (tired, bogged down).
3. Exercise. Move you body on a daily basis. Walking counts! Most of us spend how many hours either sitting at a desk or in traffic (or both)? That sedentary lifestyle not only degrades your body, but it has lasting effects on your mood too. Daily exercise (in any form that you semi-like) is crucial to keeping depression and anxiety at bay. Plus it helps you look good too, which affects your self-esteem in a positive way.
4. Friends. No man is an island. We all need friends to connect with. Introverts, extroverts, it doesn't matter. Especially if you are not in a relationship (but even if you are), you need people to talk to, vent to, laugh with. Friends pick us up when we are down and accept us for who we are. Life is lonely without people to do things with.
5. Hobbies. Like the great Jack Nicholson once said in The Shining, 'All work and no play make Jack a dull boy!' Life is not all about work. We all need to have fun and do the things we used to do when we were kids and didn't HAVE to work to survive. What did you used to do as a kid? Baseball, art, writing? When was the last time you did that? Hobbies keep us young and make life worth living. Don't use the old "I don't have time" excuse. Do you have time to watch TV? Go on Facebook? Then you have time to do something you love.
This list is short but it really is important. So you don't have to pay me (or anyone else) for therapy, practice these 5 strategies on a daily basis to keep the blues at bay. When you take care of yourself, your mind and body will repay you.