Whenever we feel overwhelmed, it’s always a good idea to take a few deep breaths, collect ourselves, and set aside time to give our health some much-needed attention.
If you feel like your mental, physical, or financial health has gone a bit off the rails, there’s a chance that your confidence and sense of control in life have too. And that’s understandable – our health in these three areas are closely interconnected, meaning it’s difficult to feel good in one area if the others are suffering.
You’re far from alone if stress’s grip has been holding you tight – and we want to help you get back on track. In this article, we’re going to share a handful of tips you can use to better manage your mental, physical, and emotional health so you can take back control of your life and enjoy a sense of renewed wellbeing.
Let’s start with tips you can use to improve your mental health.
Taking Care of Your Mental Health
Connect with others
Humans are social creatures, so whether it’s a socially distanced gathering or a conversation over video chat, it’s important that we make time to connect with those around us. People who feel more connected report lower rates of anxiety and depression, higher self-esteem, and greater levels of empathy and trust in others. This holds true for the more introverted folks out there as well, so even if you feel like you don’t need interaction to improve your mental health, you should give it a shot.
So, give that friend you’ve been meaning to catch up with a call, or better yet, go out to lunch and get some face-to-face communication in. Your mental health will thank you for it.
Many of us have plenty of things to be grateful for – the stress of life just gets in the way of truly appreciating everything in front of us.
Try setting a “daily gratitude” alarm on your phone every day of the week during a time you’ll have a few minutes to yourself. When the alarm rings, stop what you’re doing and make a mental (or physical) list of everything you’re thankful for at that moment. You could be grateful for your family, friends, the roof over your head, the fact that your car hasn’t broken down in a while, how great that book you just started reading is – absolutely anything.
After you take note of everything that’s good in your life, you may notice that the things causing you stress seem a lot less significant and much easier to manage. If you find this exercise works well for you, set as many daily gratitude alarms as you need to cut the stress!
Take a well-deserved break
When stress is managed ineffectively, it’s only a matter of time before we reach a point of pure mental and physical exhaustion. Whenever you’re hard at work, keep burnout at bay by taking regular breaks throughout the day!
There’s a ton of research on best practices for when, how, and how often you should take breaks to get the most out of them. While no formal conclusion has been reached, most experts agree that taking a 15-minute break every 50-90 minutes is ideal to give our brain the rest it needs.
To ensure your break is beneficial, make sure you:
- Step away from the screen: And not just your computer screen. Avoid sitting on your phone or watching TV during your break – your brain needs a different type of stimulus to recharge.
- Get moving: Try taking a walk around the neighborhood, doing sprints up the stairs, or stretching out your body with some yoga. Physical exercise gets us out of our minds for a bit, helping us come back to work mentally refreshed.
- Allow yourself to relax: Our attention spans are only around 8 seconds (1 second less than a goldfish!) So, if you’re struggling to come up with a solution to something you’re working on, try to stop concentrating on it for a bit. Sometimes the best problem-solving breakthroughs come to us unconsciously, seeming to appear out of thin air. If you’ve ever had that “a-ha” moment when you least expected it, you know what we’re talking about.
Give back to your community
Donating our time, money, or energy to a cause can give us a greater sense of purpose, expand our perspective, help us grow, and boost our self-esteem. To find volunteer opportunities near you, check out VolunteerMatch! Whether you’re into human rights and advocacy, animal rights, or arts and music, there’s a good chance there’s something out there you’d find personally meaningful – and meaning makes all the difference when it comes to our mental health.
Taking Care of Your Physical Health
Get enough sleep
The CDC recommends adults get 7 to 9 hours of high-quality sleep every night. How do you stack up? Without adequate sleep, it’s impossible to feel our physical and mental best. If you’ve been struggling to catch some z’s, here are a few tips for better sleep:
- Put your phone away at least 30 minutes before bedtime
- Consistency is key – try to go to bed each night and wake up each day around the same time
- Stop drinking caffeine and alcohol a few hours before you go to sleep
- Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, and not too hot or cold
- Get physical exercise in during the day
Stay active by engaging in activities that interest you
The benefits of regular physical exercise have been shown time and time again. Still, many people avoid getting started because they’re not interested in the usual methods of lifting weights and running on a treadmill. Believe it or not, it doesn’t matter how you get your exercise in – just get it in.
Biking, dancing, yoga, hiking, rock climbing, rollerblading, traditional sports – the options to work up a sweat are limitless. When you find an activity you enjoy, aim to get 30 minutes of moderate exercise in at least 5 days a week. Regular exercise has been proven to reduce risk of heart disease, manage blood sugar, improve health and mood, and keep our minds sharp.
Maintain a good diet
If you put low-quality gasoline in your car, you wouldn’t expect it to take you too far, right? Your body is the same way. We all know we should be eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, and healthy proteins each day – the hard part is actually doing it.
To effectively maintain a good diet, it’s important to set realistic expectations and determine the things that motivate you. All too often, people try to change their diet overnight and get discouraged when they can’t stick to it. Be realistic. If you have a sweet tooth, instead of completely removing sugary treats from your diet, try cutting back a little bit more each week.
For example, maybe you like to have a cup of ice cream after work each night. Have your ice-cream Monday through Thursday and find something healthy to replace it on Friday night. Next week, only eat your ice cream Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday (and so on.) Small changes made over time are key to making lasting progress.
To learn more about maintaining a healthy diet, pay choosemyplate.gov a visit. It’s full of resources, recipes, and relevant information that can make building healthy eating habits a breeze.
Taking Care of Your Financial Health
Create a budget you won’t mind sticking to
To find out where you can go, you need to know where you currently stand. And as uncomfortable as it might be, the first step in managing your financial health is clearly understanding your money situation.
Begin by creating a budget. We’ve already written an excellent article that walks you through the process step-by-step, so we won’t go into too much detail here. But, if you need some motivation to get started, here are a few of the benefits you’ll be free to enjoy once you have a budget:
- You’re in control of your money, not the other way around
- Allows you to track your financial progress and goals effectively
- Brings attention to bad spending habits so you can nip them in the bud
- Gives you a better idea of your financial limitations
- Helps you identify areas you can save to start building an emergency fund
Devise a savings plan
Because we can’t predict the future, the next best thing we can do is to prepare for it. How do we prepare? By saving. The importance of a savings plan is simple: greater security and peace of mind. Life rarely goes according to plan, so having something to fall back on when a curveball gets thrown our way is crucial. You can start your savings plan by using the 50/30/20 rule.
The rule 50/30/20 rule states that:
- 50% of your income should go towards necessities
- rent, mortgage, groceries, bills, transportation
- 30% can be spent on wants
- dining out, entertainment, streaming services
- 20% should be put in savings
- Retirement, investment, savings accounts
What’s handy about the 50/30/20 rule is that the ratios can be tweaked depending on your goals. For example, if you’d rather save 30% of your income, 20% can be spent on things you want. Or, if your necessities only account for 40% of your income, you could spend 20% on the things you want and 40% could be put in your savings.
For more information on savings plans and the 50/30/20 rule, read our article How Much Money You Should Save Monthly.
Live within or below your means
While it’s natural to want to keep up with the Jones’, here’s a sobering statistic: around 80% of Americans live their lives shackled by debt. A pricier car, a bigger house… there’s no denying that these things are nice to have. But consider this: financial health isn’t determined by how much money you have or the value of the things you own. It’s determined by how free you are to live life the way you choose.
Many people would rather appear wealthy than actually be wealthy, trading their financial freedom to maintain a certain image. Meanwhile, the richest people drive their trusty 10-year old commuter car to and from a simple home that’s suited for their needs.
This is arguably the most important rule of financial health: Don’t fall into the trap of taking on debt if you don’t need to, even though it’s become a regular occurrence in our society. At the end of the day, money is a tool. You work hard to earn it, so make sure you’re using it in a way that gets you closer to a life you can be content with.
We hope these tips have given you some ideas on how you can better manage any mental, physical, or financial stress you’re feeling at the moment. Remember – these three types of health are closely interconnected, so it’ll be difficult to improve one without improving them all. Try working on a tip from each section for a more well-rounded stress management approach.
We’d wish you good luck, but we know you’ve got this in the bag. Here’s to progress!