More and more Americans are experiencing extreme stress and anxiety, suffering from burnout, and living with mental health conditions. Based on recent 2022 data, Americans are more stressed than ever before. From the aftermath of a 2-year pandemic to inflation, and everything in between, it’s understandable that a majority of the nation is living in a constant state of fight-or-flight. While we cannot always control our surroundings and circumstances, there are ways to prevent and alleviate stress, calm your mind, and learn how to protect your mental health.
In honor of World Mental Health Day, there’s no better time to bring awareness to this important topic. Just know if you’re struggling (in any way, shape, or form), you’re not alone. There’s no need to put on a brave face — we’re in this together. And if you’re lacking support (whether financial or emotional), know there are ways to seek help. For starters, setting healthy boundaries, communicating your feelings, speaking with a professional, and asking for help are great kickoff points.
But, this isn’t a black or white subject. We’re all affected by mental health differently — and there’s no one best way to navigate your emotions. So, to help you manage stress and support your health in a way that works for you, we’re sharing simple mental health hacks that you can implement now. And as you may know, mental health conditions can feel isolating, so share this list with your friends, loved ones, and anyone else in need. Let’s bring this topic to the forefront and utilize the power of community.
Protect Your Mental Health with These 15 Powerful Mental Health Hacks
#1 Therapy: Talk it Out With A Professional
First and foremost, having a regular appointment with your therapist is one of the best things you can do for your mental health — even if everything seems well and good in your life. Shown to improve symptoms of depression and anxiety, promote positive self-esteem, support healthy relationships, and heal past traumas, therapy can have a profound impact on your mental and physical health. And let’s face it, wouldn’t it be nice to get unbiased advice and support from a professional?
From virtual and online therapy options to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Family Therapy, there are numerous ways to seek support. Whether you’re meeting face-to-face, on an app, in a group, or alongside a spouse, there’s something for everyone. And remember: what works for you may not be the same as your Mom, sister, partner, or friend! So, try not to compare — this is a highly personal and individualized journey!
#2 Get to Sleep!
We know sleep is important for our overall health. It helps repair our body, provides us with the energy to power through our day, and even boosts our immune system. But did you know sleep has a profound effect on mental health, too? Think about it — when you skimp on sleep, chances are you’re irritable, forgetful, and moody the next day. There’s clear evidence that insufficient sleep (both acute and chronic) negatively impacts mood and increases the risk for mental health disorders.
The good news is that a healthy sleep regime lowers the risk of mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression while improving cognitive function, memory, and creativity.
Try winding down the day with these stress-relieving health hacks:
- Power down your electronics well before your bedtime (aim for two hours, if possible!). Aside from reducing your exposure to blue light, getting off social media can help reduce stress and quiet your mind
- Try to stay consistent with your bedtime — your body likes a routine, and this can help promote a more restful night’s sleep
- Before you climb into bed, clear any clutter from your space — especially your bedroom. A cluttered space leads to a cluttered mind. Eliminate unnecessary stress and distractions!
Need some more inspo? Add these sleep-supporting tips to your bedtime routine to help you get to bed!
#3 Move Your Body in a Way That Feels Good
Maybe that’s a stress-busting HIIT sesh, a long walk with your dog, or after-work yoga flow with your friend or co-worker. The goal here is to find what movement makes you feel best, and repeat, repeat, repeat! The more consistent you are with your movement, the better you’ll feel – even if it’s a mere 10 minutes per day!
And don’t be afraid to try something new. If you used to feel amazing after a high-intensity workout but no longer feel that post-workout endorphin rush, that’s ok! Use that as a sign to try something new. Maybe this is a sign that your body’s calling for something more restorative.
Here are some stress-relieving exercises to try, no matter what kind of movement you’re craving:
- Want something grounding and restorative? Roll out your mat and flow to this Insight Yoga class with Vytas
- Need to release some pent-up emotions? Try this Strong Box cardio kickboxing workout with Breann Mitchell
- Holding on to stress and tension? Relax your muscles in this Gentle Spinal Stretch with Vytas
- Craving a stress-busting sweat sesh? Sweat it out with Breann Mitchell in this Low-Impact Quick HIIT class
#4 Try a Mindfulness Meditation
If you’re new to meditation, getting started with a practice can feel daunting. But, remember: there’s no right or wrong way to meditate! It’s all about being present with your mind, body, and thoughts. And, that’s going to look different from person to person. Even if you’re not able to quiet your thoughts, research suggests simply being present and mindful can decrease stress and anxiety and protect your mental health.
We all have 5 minutes to spare, right? When you’re short on time but in need of a little calm, Try this 5-minute Everything Calm Meditation with DeAndre Sinette. A few minutes can make all the difference.
Have a little extra time? This 11-minute Loving Through Loneliness meditation might be just what you need if you’re lacking support or feeling alone. Sometimes we need a reminder that we’re in it together.
#5 Use Your Paid Time Off!
Give yourself a deserved mental health day from the office — even if you don’t “need” to! You earned those hours — take full advantage! Take yourself on a self-care date to the spa, spend a random workday with your partner, friend, or kids, or use that paid time off to run all your errands. You can even take a “staycation” from the comfort of your own home! However you choose to spend your time is up to you. But, don’t let those hours go to waste!
#6 Take a Mental Health Day When You Need One
Speaking of Mental Health days, don’t be afraid to take one when you need to (even if you’ve used all of your paid time off). Ignoring your need for a self-care day is a recipe for burnout. If you’re used to putting others’ needs above your own, think of it like this: you can’t pour from an empty cup. So, if this means calling out of work, having a sitter watch the kids, or canceling plans, then so be it! Your mental health is priority #1.
RELATED: Signs You Need a Mental Health Day + How to Take One
#7 Set Healthy Boundaries
And on that note, setting healthy boundaries is a MUST when it comes to protecting your mental health. This could be healthy work/life boundaries, or healthy boundaries with your Mom, partner, friend… even your boss (if you’re currently available 24/7 for work-related issues, we’re looking at you!). The truth is, when it comes to establishing boundaries, there is no one thing or person off-limits. Be particular about your calendar commitments, don’t be afraid to cancel, and if you need to say ‘no,’ don’t feel guilty!
Yes, boundary setting can be uncomfortable, especially when you’re first getting started. But, practice makes perfect! And the long-term benefits (your mental health and well-being) outweigh the un-comfortability. Trust us, when it’s all said and done, you will be so happy you put yourself first.
RELATED: How to Set Boundaries + Why You Should
#8 Get Your Bloodwork Done
Getting regular blood work done is one of the best ways to protect both your mental and physical health! Even if you feel great, there’s a chance you’re deficient in certain nutrients that could impact your wellbeing. And if you’re feeling more tired, depressed, anxious, or stressed than usual, all the more reason to schedule an appointment.
Make sure to get a full panel and check for nutrient deficiencies. Vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B12, magnesium, and vitamin D can have a serious impact on mood, stress, and sleep. Knowing your baseline levels and deficiencies can help you take the next steps toward appropriately supporting your body and protecting your mental health.
P.S. make these stress-relieving and mood-boosting nutrients — like magnesium, zinc, and Vitamins B12 and D — a staple in your diet! This is a great way to practice preventative healthcare with ease. Plus, there are so many delicious and nutritious recipes to be made!
#9 Boost Brain Health with Omegas
Speaking of loading up your diet with good-for-you nutrients, omega-3s are some of the best nutrients to support brain health, mental health, and healthy aging. Loading up on omega-rich foods such as salmon, mackerel, and seeds (like chia, flax, and hemp) is an easy way to support your brain!
Here are some ways to incorporate them into your diet:
- Top your salad, avocado toast, or roasted veggie bowl with simple grilled salmon
- Sneak a spoonful of flax or chia seeds into your meal prep banana bread muffins or favorite baked goods
- Load up your smoothie with a serving of nuts and seeds, like hemp or pumpkin seeds
Meal prep a batch of chia seed pudding for a healthy breakfast or snack option
#10 Make Sure You’re Nourishing Your Body
We’ve just stressed the importance of nutrients for mental health. So, don’t skip meals! Aside from missing out on good-for-you brain nutrients, not eating enough (or eating too much junk food like inflammatory oils and artificial sugars) can wreak havoc on your blood sugar and hormones.
Try to fill your plate with a balance of protein, fat, and fiber at every meal with lots of colorful produce to maximize your nutrient intake. Doing so will also help curb cravings and increase satiety! And in addition to supporting your health and fitness goals, keeping your plate balanced and body nourished will benefit your mood and mental health.
#11 Plan Something to Look Forward to Each Week
Between work, kids, and school, we all have busy schedules and obligations. But, that doesn’t mean you have to live a mundane life with nothing to look forward to! Even if it’s something small (like treating yourself to your favorite latte), try to plan something exciting each week! This could be a weekend workout, a mid-week lunch date with a friend, or a Friday evening massage after a long week. Even a new hobby! Whatever makes you look at your schedule and smile.
Don’t know where to start? Challenge yourself to this 14-Day Mood-Boosting Program! One small thing a day to a happier, healthier you.
#12 Treat Yourself to Holistic Self-Care
Speaking of planning something to look forward to, when’s the last time you treated yourself to some holistic self-care? Holistic modalities like acupuncture, massage, float therapy, and infrared saunas are all associated with decreased stress and anxiety, improved mood, reduced pain, and better sleep. Something to think about when you’re scheduling your self-care!
#13 Spend Time in Nature
Soaking in the sunshine and spending time in nature is like food for your soul (and your mental health). In fact, research studies show an improvement in mood, mental health, and emotional wellness from increased time in nature. So, sip your morning coffee outside as you soak in the mood-boosting benefits of Vitamin D, or take your workout outdoors and enjoy the crisp air and fall foliage! Think of it as nature’s therapy.
RELATED: The Surprising Mental Health Benefits of Bringing Your Workouts Outdoors
#14 Use Your Breathe to De-Stress
Your breath is one of the most powerful yet overlooked tools when it comes to protecting your mental health. It’s easy to implement, it can be done anytime, anywhere, and the results are instantaneous. I mean, why wouldn’t we utilize this stress-busting modality?!
Here are 3 breathing techniques to help you get started! Better yet, try this guided breathwork meditation with Vytas. Simply press play, and let us guide you through the rest!
#15 Surround Yourself With Community
Finally, and most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help. This could be a therapist, friend, spouse, support group, spiritual practice, or workout community. Whatever the case, find someone (or someone(s)) you can trust, confide in, rely on, and connect with. And, don’t undermine the power of virtual connection! There are so many apps and online communities at your disposal. If you’re feeling stressed, depressed, or alone, call on your community and surround yourself with support. You don’t have to do this alone.
Protect Your Mental Health At All Costs
From therapy and support systems to breathing techniques and mental health days, let’s normalize protecting your mental health — at all costs. Call that friend. Take that mental health day. Book that massage or yoga class. Schedule that appointment with your therapist. All of these mental health hacks are here to help you! Take what you need.
And if you’re struggling to get started, try our 21-Day Mental Health Challenge. Support your mental health with just 5 minutes per day. And who doesn’t love a challenge?!