Are you taking care of yourself, darling? Today closes out mental health awareness week (May 10th - May 16th) but kicks off our check-in surrounding movement, hydration, skincare, and sleep. These elements uniquely play into our mental health, which supports realizing our abilities, coping with stress, working productively, and contributing to our communities.
Monday's can sometimes send us off to the races, but that's not the activity we're speaking about. When we move, so does our brain. Physical activity is linked to increased mental clarity, boosted creativity and is known to impact our mood positively. Contrary to popular belief, you don't need to flip tires at your local Crossfit to reap the benefits of physical activity. The surgeon general recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity and two days of muscle-strengthening training a week. Some physical activity is always better than none, so twirl around your living room, walk with a friend to debrief at the end of the day, or stick to your regularly scheduled gym session. The goal is to move more frequently and regularly, like getting up every half hour to stretch when seated for long periods, a.k.a. working in front of the computer. Give yourself the physical, energetic, and creative pick-me-up you deserve.
As if you needed another reason to avoid ashiness, consuming the recommended eight glasses of water a day allows our bodies and brains to function optimally. Most of our brain is composed of water. When not properly hydrated, we set ourselves up for decreased cognitive function, such as difficulty focusing on everyday tasks and impaired memory. Thirst stresses the body. Dehydration disrupts serotonin production in the brain, a crucial mood-boosting neurotransmitter, leaving us with the same irritable mood similar to feeling hangry. Long story short, consider drinking a cup of water before your first cup of joe tomorrow morning. Getting into the habit of drinking a glass of water upon waking up can serve as a morning ritual adding structure to your day while also rehydrating after your longest window without taking a sip.
Our mental and physical conditions are linked, so it should be no surprise that the largest organ, our skin, might clue the world into our inner state. Blushing when your crush pays you a compliment or a new patch of eczema popping up as you're stressing about looming deadlines are just two instances where our skin reflects our mental state. Skin conditions known to be triggered by stress and other emotional factors include acne, alopecia areata (hair loss), psoriasis, urticaria (hives), rosacea, and hyperhidrosis (profuse sweating). Stress also increases inflammation, and even without one of these conditions, inflammation impedes wound healing. Decrease your mental load for an added win-win of clear skin.
We live in a time of unprecedented communication. Reaching out to loved ones half a world away is now a breeze, and so too is your supervisor's ability to fire off six emails at 2'o clock in the morning. Being more connected has made unplugging more challenging than ever, ultimately impacting our sleep. Our body and brain repair themselves during sleep, which is crucial for recharging systems and fortifying the immune system. Plus, improved mood and a good night's rest are closely linked. Studies show individuals with a more positive outlook also report getting better sleep overall. Considering sleep aids focus, balance, and memory, we can understand the increased contentment in life. Proper sleep hygiene can't be understated when we wake up to accomplish our dreams.
Which of these four areas are you crushing it? And where might you need a little help?