We’ve all heard about the airplane oxygen mask metaphor — in the event of an emergency, you must put on your own oxygen mask before helping others. This is true even for those sitting in the emergency lane — a row designated for assisting others. The takeaway is simple: if you run out of oxygen yourself, how could you help others, even if you wanted to? And it makes sense — we have to fill up our own cup in order to share! Yet, despite understanding this concept, we tend to put ourselves last time and time again — and this is especially true for women. In fact, nearly 80% of American women put themselves last in an effort to care for everyone else first (partners, parents, children, and even pets, included). Ladies, this has got to change!
The reality is, if you’re tired and burnt out, it’s a lose-lose for all involved. But, when you take care of yourself and your health, you’ll have the energy and capacity to fully show up for others. And while it may feel uncomfy to put on your own oxygen mask first, practice makes perfect! With time, you’ll realize that taking care of yourself is step one in caring for others.
Ahead are simple mental health hacks for women that double as self-care. If you’re feeling burnout, listen up!
10 Simple Mental Health Hacks for Women
#1 Avoid Looking At Your Phone Within the First Minutes of Waking
No matter if you’re reading the news or checking your work emails, social media accounts, or text messages, looking at your phone first thing in the morning is known to trigger one thing: a stress response due to a spike in cortisol, our stress hormone. While cortisol should ideally be highest in the morning, we don’t want to jump into a state of fight-or-flight immediately upon waking. This can trigger feelings of stress, anxiety, and overwhelm — clearly not the best way to kick off the day!
As best you can, keep your phone at a distance for the first 30 minutes upon waking. This will allow you to set your morning up for success, without feeling overwhelmed or bombarded. Use this time to meditate, journal, exercise, or simply sip your cup of coffee or tea in peace. Your mental health will thank you!
#2 Take Your Morning Coffee Outdoors
Speaking of cortisol, did you know that getting 10 minutes of sunshine immediately upon waking can regulate your circadian rhythm, benefit your sleep, and modulate your sleep and stress hormones? It’s true!
Rather than amping up your cortisol from artificial sources (such as blue light from our screens or stressful emails), try stimulating your cortisol levels naturally with a few minutes of morning light. While we’ve all heard cortisol is bad, chronically elevated cortisol levels are really the cause of concern. When experienced in healthy doses at the right time of day (such as the morning), cortisol is actually a healthy hormone that helps to increase feelings of alertness and focus! And according to research, it’s as simple as exposing yourself to morning sunshine.
And if mornings are busy, we get it! You’re probably trying to get everyone else fed and out the door. But, could you support your mental health by waking up a few minutes earlier for 10 minutes of sun-soaked light?
#3 Make Yourself a Nourishing Breakfast
Another simple mental health hack many women fail to neglect? Our diet. In the midst of morning mayhem, it’s easy to run out the door empty-handed. In fact, nearly 2 in 3 working Americans skip meals due to busy schedules. Based on recent data, more than half of these people are admitted breakfast skippers. But, let’s go back to the oxygen mask metaphor — if you’re running on fumes, who is this benefiting?
Simply put, what you eat has a direct influence on how you’ll feel! When you fuel your body with nourishing breakfast foods, you’re supporting your energy, mood, and even your mental health.
If you’re pressed for time, try designating one hour per week to breakfast meal prep! Here are some easy-prep breakfast ideas:
- Make a batch of chia pudding
- Meal prep overnight oats with different flavor add-ins (such as blueberries, cacao, or protein powder)
- Whip up egg muffins infused with your favorite veggies
- Prep a breakfast Bento Box filled with foods like fresh fruit, hard-boiled eggs, and avocado
RELATED: The Healthiest “Instant” Breakfast Options
#4 Listen to a Female Empowering Podcast
From mental health to business advice to women’s health and wellness issues, there are so many female-focused podcasts out there! Connecting and relating to other women is never a bad idea — especially if you’re facing feelings of burnout and overwhelm. When you’re in the midst of burnout, it can feel lonely and isolating at times. Thus, listening to other women share their experiences and shed light on relatable topics can feel comforting, empowering, and educational. Plus, it’s nice to know you’re not alone in whatever you’re experiencing.
#5 Try 5 Minutes of Cyclic Sighing
We know meditation is great for our mind and body. But, when we’re busy, tired, and stressed, sometimes it can feel hard to get started. If you’re nodding your head in agreement, we’ve got good news! Or should we say, a simple mental health hack will change your life (not to mention your mood and stress levels). Best of all, you can do it anywhere, anytime.
Known as Cyclic Sighing, this newly studied breathwork practice has been shown to reduce stress and boost mood, both in the moment and later in the day. In fact, according to the journal published in Cell Reports Medicine, cyclic breathing may even be more effective at improving mood than mindfulness meditation and other well-known breathing techniques.
How to perform sigh breathing: Just as it sounds, this form of breathwork simply involves sighing. To perform this technique, start by taking two short inhales through the nose and one long exhale through the mouth. The exhale should be twice as long as the inhale (about four seconds on the inhale and eight seconds on the exhale). While even a few cycles is beneficial, it’s best when performed for a period of five minutes!
#6 Busy Day? Set a Reminder on Your Phone to Take a Mindful Break
According to research, most women know they need a break (or dose of self-care) yet fail to do so. Let’s change this! Instead of using those few extra minutes to scroll through social media, try supporting your mental health by taking a mini mindful break. Set a timer on your phone as a reminder — this could be once per day, or several times! There’s no right or wrong way to do this.
While there are so many ways to spend your mindful minutes, here are some ideas:
- Go for a short walk or head outside for some fresh air
- Do a 5-minute meditation (even a walking meditation!)
- Practice gratitude by jotting down a few positive things that happened today
- Stretch or do some yoga or mobility work
- Try some breathing exercises
- Cuddle with your pet
- Doodle, draw, or journal
#7 Phone a Friend
If you feel like you’re drowning and need a lifeline, don’t be shy! Pick up the phone and call a friend for support. Whether it’s asking them to pick up your kids from school or simply listening while you vent or cry, this mental health hack for women is one of the best resources out there. And if asking for help makes you feel uncomfortable, know you’re actually helping the ‘helper’ too! Giving back is good for your health.
Friends aside, don’t be afraid to seek out professional help too. Whether it’s a therapist or other medical professional, we all need social support and TLC.
#8 Break Up Your Day with Short Bouts of Movement
Moving your body is one of the healthiest things you can do for your mind! Of course, you’ll get the physical benefits (such as increased caloric burn and a metabolic boost), but there are just as many mental health benefits too. From reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression to boosting mood and energy, to improving sleep, there are so many reasons to add movement into your day.
Whether it’s rolling out your yoga mat for a quick flow, going on a short walk, or finding ways to sneak movement into the workday, make exercise a priority!
RELATED: The Best Kinds of Exercise For Mental Health, According to Research
#9 Sip on Stress-Busting Herbal Teas
Here at FitOn, we’re all about easy-to-implement tips and tricks. And no matter how busy, burnt out, or tired, we all have time to prepare a cup of soothing tea! Herbal teas like Kava, Lemonbalm, Chamomile, and Tulsi contain stress-busting properties that have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety and stimulate a feeling of calm.
#10 Try a Yoga Nidra Meditation
Pressing play on a Yoga Nidra meditation is a great way to wind down your day. If you’ve never heard of this practice, Yoga Nidra is a type of meditation that has been shown to reduce cortisol, benefit sleep, and support overall well-being. In fact, research shows it’s beneficial for a variety of mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression.
Ready for a restorative night of sleep with some stress-busting benefits? Let DeAndre Sinette guide you through this calming Sweet Dreams Yoga Nidra.
It’s Time to Invest In Yourself
Think of it this way: would you let your kids, partner, colleagues, or parents treat themselves the way you’re treating yourself? The answer is probably a big fat no! So ask yourself, why are you settling for anything less than you deserve? If you’re tired and burnt out, who is benefiting?
Whether it’s 10 minutes of uninterrupted breathwork or flowing it out to a yoga class, you deserve to put on your own oxygen mask first. If that means powering down your laptop or skipping plans so you can get a quality night’s sleep, so be it! Your work can wait, and your friends will understand. Repeat after me: self-care is not selfish! Continue to check in with yourself and come back to these simple hacks, especially if you’re feeling burnt out. Challenge yourself to do one daily thing for your mind, body, or soul. Trust us, with a full tank — you’ll show up for everyone else that much stronger.