Many of us are invested in prioritizing our physical health, but what about your mental health? The truth is, you can eat healthy and exercise often, but one might argue that your mindset and well-being are more important to your overall health than anything else. And … your mindset will also directly affect your physical health, too!
Putting yourself first can be hard, especially if you’re used to being the one to take care of others. In fact, one study found that 95% of people think that mental health is important, but only 26% prioritize it. If anything, taking care of your mindset will only enable you to serve others even better. Here are a few activities that will help you put your mental health first to live your best life—physically and mentally.
Take a step back.
Maybe you’re used to the “go, go, go” lifestyle and absolutely love it (or don’t feel like you have a choice in the matter). But when was the last time you took 5 minutes to step away from it all and take a breath? If you tend to sit at a desk all day, take a 10-minute walk around the block (lots of researchers support doing this around 2 p.m., when energy starts to drop!). If you need a break at home, try silencing your phone notifications for a few hours to spend some quality time with your family.
You might feel weird or guilty for freeing yourself from responsibilities for a little while, but sometimes all it takes is a quick break to refresh your mind.
Don’t be afraid to say no.
Wanting to please and do things for others is not a bad thing. It just means that you’ll go out of your way to make others happy … and that is a great quality to have. But there are times when it’s important to learn how to put yourself first and say no. Sometimes people don’t even know they are people pleasers until it’s pointed out to them. Here are some signs you have people pleaser tendencies:
- You’re constantly apologizing.
- You avoid conflict at all costs.
- You tell others you agree with them even when you don’t.
- Criticism is hard for you to take.
- You find that you’re always putting your needs last.
According to Linda Tillman, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Atlanta, GA, people pleasers’ “personal feeling of security and self-confidence is based on getting the approval of others.” However, what many don’t realize is that this comes with some risks. “Essentially you can make yourself sick from doing too much.” It’s important to know that you don’t have to—and you physically can’t—do it all. Read this article for some ideas of how you can learn to say no and set boundaries with grace … your mental health is too important not to.
One thing at a time.
We often think of multitasking as a way of showing ourselves and others how productive we can be, but it’s not as great as you might think. Stanford University Researcher Clifford Nass found that even when chronic multitaskers focused on a single task, they were less efficient. Over time, frequent multitasking changes the way the brain functions, leading to decreased productivity even when focused on one thing.
Try starting a to-do list organized by priorities. Challenge yourself to not move on to the next thing on your list until you’ve fully completed each task. This might take some practice, but over time you’ll start to notice that you’re able to get more done when you put all your energy into one thing at a time. One day at a time.
Give your mental health the love it deserves!
You owe much of the happiness and contentment you feel in your life (or lack thereof) to your mental health, so make sure to give it the time and attention it needs to thrive. Like psychologist Noam Shpancer, Ph.D., said, “Mental health is not a destination, but a process. It’s about how you drive, not where you’re going.”
In search of more ways you can improve your life? Read our blog post on “Three Great Reasons Why Every Leader Should Start a Journal.”