Small changes to daily routine can reduce stress and improve mental health

Meditation is one of the best ways to improve your mental health.

Meditation is one of the best ways to improve your mental health.

Felisha Trani '22

“Mind over matter,” they say. “Out of sight out of mind,” they say. What “they” don’t say (or sometimes even mention) is how to cope with the spiraling thoughts and feelings that move around and around your head like a merry-go-round every waking moment during a time like this.

Do you recall December 31st, 2019? Were you gathered with friends and family saying, “2020 will be our year,” and “2020 is going to be the best one yet”? That worked out well, didn’t it? For the majority of us, 2020 has been a rollercoaster, and I’m not talking the fun ones at Six Flags or Disney.

This year has brought with it a pandemic, a suffering economy, huge job loss, over 200,000 American lives lost, an outbreak of wildfires across the west coast, a spotlight on social injustice in our nation, and a lack of connection with friends and family.

Prioritizing yourself in a time like this can benefit not only your mental health, but your physical health as well. Here are ten things you can add to your daily routines to improve your mental state for the remaining of this rollercoaster of a year.

1) Meditate – Some of the most successful people swear by daily meditation, including Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan, Steve Jobs, and many others. Meditating can help you stay calm and focused on being present.

2) Color – Adult coloring books can be a big help when trying to relieve stress. There are even free apps that offer coloring on your phone. Some great options are: Happy Color, Adult Coloring Book, and Colorgram. Adult Coloring Book, along with many more, is free to download on the App Store and the Google Play Store.

3) Take a walk – While doing physical activity, your body produces endorphins that can relieve your stress and boost your mood.

4) Avoid soft drinks – Although soda can suppress the body’s stress response, when you become dependent on soda to suppress your feelings, you’re not bettering yourself. Let’s not also forget about how bad soda is for you; it is loaded with sugar and other chemicals that harm your body in the long run.

5) Do some writing – If you are one of those people who don’t like sharing your feelings with others, you can try venting with a pen and paper. No one has to see it, read it, or judge you for writing it. This is just for you. Releasing your emotions in a healthy way is important. Keeping everything bottled up is unhealthy, and it can lead to you eventually lashing out.

6) Use lavender – Lavender is known to quiet brain activity and to reduce agitation, anger, and aggression.

7) Read something – When reading poems/books, short or long, you’re transported to another “world,” relieving your stress and letting anxiety fade away.

8) Get plenty of sleep – Teenagers need about nine hours of sleep to feel alert and well rested. Additionally, avoiding screen time during the last hour before bed gives your brain time to slow down before going into REM sleep.

9) Stay organized – If you don’t already have one, try picking up a planner to keep your life organized. Procrastination is going to end up causing added stress and anxiety. Having a plan for the day will help you better prepare/handle the stress. There are even apps that you can download to keep your life more organized. Apps like Productive- Habit Tracker, Planner Pro- Daily Calendar, Pocket Schedule Calendar, and many more are great options that can be found for free on most major app stores.

10) Listen to music – Music has always been a form of therapy for me whenever I feel stressed or anxious. I know it helps a lot of people through struggles, especially when you can relate to the words of the artist to help ease the pain.

You cannot live a truly healthy and meaningful life without being happiest in your mental state first. You truly feel your best when you prioritize yourself first. Start small and choose one new routine to add to your day, and watch as your life slowly changes.