Do you ever get stuck in a funk that you can’t seem to break? When you’re not feeling quite like yourself, it’s easy to chalk it up to stress or hormones. However, there may be another reason you’re feeling so low.
Skipping a few hours of sleep, binging on junk food, or vegging out on the couch doesn’t seem like a big deal at the moment. Indulge in these bad habits too often, however, and your mental health could end up on the fritz. That’s because your physical health and mental health are intrinsically linked. When you take care of your body with healthy sleep, diet, and exercise habits — such as adding probiotics to your diet and maximizing your workouts with a fitness tracker — you’re also taking care of your mind.
Of course, living a healthy lifestyle is easier said than done. Here are some tips to simplify your self-care routine so you can do more with less.
1. Stay fit to Maximize Self-Care
Inactive people experience nearly twice as many bad mental health days as people who exercise regularly, according to one study. While light exercise like walking confers some mental health benefits, team sports and gym workouts have a greater impact on mental well-being due to their intensity and social components. If a gym membership stretches your budget, look for discounts or sign-up promotions to save money — many gyms run specials in January and mid-summer, but with memberships down because of the pandemic, many have lowered their rates on an ongoing basis in order to lure in new clients.
2. Look for opportunities to save money
It probably comes as no surprise that financial stress has a huge impact on our mental health. The good news is that there are many practical ways to get your finances in better standing. Try a few of these strategies to earn and save money:
- Talk to your boss about a raise if you haven’t received one in the last year. Many people think they need to wait for their employer to approach them in order to get a higher salary, but if you’ve been locked into your salary for over 12 months with a company you’ve been with for a year or more, it’s completely appropriate to ask for an increase.
- Build a budget. If it’s been a while since you’ve looked at your monthly spending budget (or if you’ve never created one to begin with), seeing exactly where your money goes each month is an important step in building financial security. More often than not, you’ll find expenses you can cut (like subscription services) that you can put toward short- or long-term savings accounts. Another option is to refinance your home to lower your monthly mortgage payment.
- If you’re a senior, look for some additional ways to save. Look for more affordable health care coverage, downsize, take advantage of senior discounts, and look to your public library for free programs and classes.
3. Automate your workout motivation
Do you make plans to work out, then bail when the couch beckons after a long day? If you struggle to stay motivated to exercise, get yourself some motivation you can’t ignore. The latest fitness trackers or smartwatches come loaded with features to ramp up your workouts. Aside from helping you stay on top of your fitness goals, you can track your blood oxygen levels and even view your sleep stats, all from a wearable device that you can check at a glance. When you have a constant reminder to keep moving, it’s easier to get the exercise you need to ward off stress.
4. Make your home a sanctuary
Feeling down? Then it’s time to be proactive in your efforts to ward off seasonal affective disorder and to ensure your home environment provides a comfortable and relaxing refuge. Clean your home from top to bottom, and get into every nook and cranny. Pare down your belongings; a good decluttering can give your home new life and help you lose some unnecessary baggage. Wash the windows, and consider swapping blackout curtains for sheers to bring more light into common areas and reduce negativity.
5. Skip the late-night TV
Sitting down in front of the TV may seem like a relaxing way to end the day, but in truth, your late-night TV habit could be what’s keeping you up. Studies show that the light from screens interferes with our bodies’ biological clocks to keep us awake longer than usual. While you don’t have to give up TV completely, you should turn it off at least an hour before bed so you get to sleep on time.
6. Pay attention to your gut
Bloating, constipation and other digestive woes are some of the first signs that your body isn’t getting what it needs. That’s because your gut bacteria are affected by stress as well as your diet. When your stomach isn’t happy with you, add probiotic foods and supplements to your diet to get it back on track. You’ve probably heard of Lactobacillus, commonly found in yogurt, but that’s not the only probiotic you should consume. Bifidobacterium, Akkermansia, and Saccharomyces boulardii are other important probiotics to include.
Self-care works best when it fits into your life. Rather than trying to adopt a complicated self-care plan that you’ll struggle to follow through on, use simple practices like these to look after your health. The easier your self-care plan, the easier it is to climb out of your funk and get your mental health back on track.