Hello and welcome back to the blog!
Today I want to run over some of the things I've done to reduce stress and anxious-thinking. I realized recently that my mental health is probably the best it has EVER been: even comparing myself to a year ago, I realized that I have changed sooooo much of my outlook on life. I honestly feel like a different person.
I still struggle with frustrations or "down" days here and there, but I no longer feel a sense of unidentifiable dread, anxiety, fear, or gloomy melancholy, and I think it's because of some very specific changes I have made in my life.
I can't say what is right for you, and I would honestly encourage you to consult a professional for advice on your mental health, but I want to let you know what I've done to improve my mental health, just in case it somehow helps someone out there.
1. Completing my to-do list
I have an ongoing to-do list on my phone of what needs to happen. I used to avoid making these lists and defining my responsibilities because I worried it would make me feel MORE stressed, but since implementing this change, the opposite has happened. Getting my life in order and my duties defined has helped me have increased levels of peace and satisfaction every day.
I just buckle up and push through my to-do list by reminding myself that I will be able to enjoy the rest of my day so much more once the responsibilities are out of the way. I just plug in some headphones, pop on a podcast, and plow through the tasks, and before I know it, I'm done!
2. Forgiving other people
Harboring bitterness against other people can really cause you to feel super stressed out. Even if it's just in the back of your mind, that resentment produces a small little ache at the back of your heart, mind, and soul that you will NOT be able to shake unless you practice forgiveness.
The best thing I did was learn to forgive so that I could set my own heart and mind free from the stress of holding other people accountable for the pain in my own mind.
3. Gratitude & Contentment
I spend a lot less time in an envious or jealous mental state, by pursuing daily gratitude. This is gratitude for my body, my home, my life, my relationships, and everything else I can think of. Removing myself from jealousy and envy has made a huge impact on my overall stress because instead of wasting my resting time worried about not stacking up compared to other people, or wishing I lived their lives, I'm out here enjoying MY life!
4. Cut down my workload
This was one of the biggest changes for me: in October, I began to realize that my current work load was just TOO much for me. I was doing 3 blog posts a week, 2 videos, managing my Instagram, leading a Bible study, keeping up with all my cooking and cleaning, and helping with our rental property. It was just WAY too much responsibility, and although it might have worked for other people, for me, it was over the limit.
And that's what I encourage you to remember; we all have different limits and it's okay to acknowledge yours. Once I hit the pause button and asked my husband for help figuring out my workload, we decided to cut back my schedule, off-load some of my responsibilities, and say "no" to some other duties as well. This helped me get my joy and peace back in life, but it also helped me find more inspiration and excitement for my blog again!
5. Implemented new schedules
I've always had schedules imposed on me by outside sources; church meets on Sunday, my audience expects videos on Mondays and Fridays, and my husband has a work schedule. But recently, I've begun to adhere to schedules in other areas of my life by CHOICE, and it has changed everything.
I've mentioned my hair schedule before, but I've also adopted a laundry schedule, a vacuuming schedule, and a grocery schedule. I've been keeping things on a more rotational timeline, and it has improved my mental energy so much! I don't have to live in a foggy confusion of wondering if something has been taken care of or not; instead, I just reference my notes and see if it's time!
6. Intentional hobbies & entertainment
I decided to use my spare time more intentionally. Instead of just snooping through Netflix to find a background show to watch, I began to use all my spare time to the maximum benefit. Instead of watching some lame thing I don't care about, I will intentionally rent movies or sit down without my cell phone to view content.
I will also intentionally spend my energy on hobbies I love that produce joy and creative stimulation in my life, like sewing, baking or my beauty and hair. I make sure to not whittle away time on my phone unless it's only for a set period, and have chosen a few online games, influencer blogs, and news websites to frequent, instead of just scrolling through mindless "explore pages" online. I no longer feel like I've wasted an afternoon or even an hour, and it makes me feel SO much more satisfied with life.
7. New supplements
I have been taking a prenatal supplement for awhile now, but I began taking a freeze-dried liver supplement in early December, and that is when I began noticing the LARGEST shifts in my mental health. I've never really noticed a difference in my health from taking supplements in the past; fish oil, wheat grass, iron... you name, I've taken it. But I can verifiably say that since taking this liver supplement, I feel DIFFERENT.
I no longer feel unidentifiable dread or anxiety, and I have noticed that my ability to think critically has also improved, and this has only been since December. I also noticed that I feel much more energized for life, and my period has regulated completely. I don't want to say this is some sort of miracle pill, but it has definitely done miracles for me. Check out some of the reviews on Amazon if you're interested; it is seriously a GAME-CHANGER.
8. Relational routines
Having a routine isn't really an option for us, as we have an ever-changing and blooming schedule-- such is the police life. But we HAVE implemented some small routines in our life together which has improved our connection and reduced my stress. I no longer worry about when I'll get quality time with my husband; instead, I know that we have our set activities and times when we will see each other.
We do a guaranteed date-night every week, as well as eat breakfast together every day. We watch a show or a movie together at least once a week, and we also will go for a Sunday walk. We drink coffee and chat together, and always make time for connection.
This has reduced my stress so much because it has improved my relationship. I really want to remember this when I have children because I feel that my stress has reduced because of the increased security in my relationship with my husband. I want my children to have that same security!
9. Reading the Bible differently
In the past few months, I have completely changed the way I read the Bible. Instead of reading a verse here and there, I have been consuming LARGE portions of Scripture at a time, adhering mostly to the KJV version, so I can be as close to the original translation as possible. I've been scoping out books I'm not familiar with, and devouring a wide variety of sections from Scripture instead of just Psalms and the Letters of Paul (my favorites.)
This has given me greater insight into what I'm supposed to be doing as a daughter of God, but it has also provided me with a deeper understanding of who God is. I feel much closer to him and connected to my religion than before when I was only searching for verses to help me with my current daily issues. Now, I mold my life to the Bible instead of molding the Bible to my life.
10. Confront situations head-on
I used to be a chronic conflict-avoider, but now I have been handling situations and crises head-on. If I'm stressed about a relationship or a conflict, I will deal with it. If I'm upset about something online, I will talk about it right away so that I can begin to heal. I've begun to acknowledge that I'm not bullet proof, and that my feelings get hurt sometimes! This can't really be avoided, but it CAN be managed.
And talking about my stress, my relational conflict, and confronting negative situations has helped me manage this stress like it's nobody's business!
11. Frequent movement
I'm not going to sit here and say that I consistently work out, but I do consistently move. I notice that when I'm feeling frustrated or anxious about things, a hearty walk outside in the sun is JUST the ticket to a more positive mindset! I feel so much immediate stress relief, but also long-term peace through my constant exposure to cardio, the sun, and the beautiful outdoors.
My husband ordered a special leash online for our dog sot hat she wouldn't be able to pull me to the ground on our walks anymore, and it has made my walks HEAVENLY, and I've been getting more exercise than ever. Time outside is a MUST for me with mental health, and I'm so glad that I've been able to pursue this past-time.
I'm realizing that it seems that what has reduced my stress and anxiety the most has been infusing logic and structure into my life while removing stressors like avoiding responsibilities or dealing with excessive busyness. Viewing my blog as a pleasure instead of a job, having more routines, and switching up my Bible reading and supplements have all contributed to better mental health, and I am so happy that I'm closer to health than a year ago.
I also want to add that this is why I turned comments off on my blog. I have a lot of comments and communications from people to manage, and it all became too much noise. With 2 email inboxes, my Instagram, Twitter, YouTube comment section, and so many other ways for people to contact me, I decided that having one less thing to manage was best for me: we gotta do what we gotta do to manage!
In total, so much goes into mental health, and I know that for many, medication is the best option, but I'm really happy that I've been able to manage my stress with some at-home changes.