It’s kind of funny to be writing a column about mental health while I am in the final throes of deadline. My head’s in a whirl as words, commas, lines, colors, photos, and fonts all combine to create this month’s issue. These microbits of information are processed at least three times through my brain as I gather the various components and then lay them out, proofing as I go, and finally at the end when I print out pages to proof them once again, holding in my hands the nearly finished product. Thankfully, I am nearing the end of birthing this month’s issue, and as you can imagine, I am looking forward to a celebratory glass of wine this evening when I send the last pages to the printer.
I thought I’d take a moment this month and share some of my personal suggestions for maintaining optimum mental health. I’m no psychologist and am basing these ideas purely on what works for me. They’re all simple ideas really, and perhaps one or two will resonate with you as you face the busy end-of-the year holiday madness. I hope so!
• Take a nature break. To me, there’s nothing more calming than hiking in the woods or walking on the beach with the wind blowing through your hair. Besides the added benefits of exercise, you also get to escape from the incessant intrusions of life. Don’t forget to smell the fresh air and, more importantly, leave your cell phone at home!
• Cook a real meal. I like to eat good food, and restaurants can take a big chunk out of the food budget. The truth is cooking is great therapy. I relish the simple pleasure of washing fresh vegetables, peeling potatoes, chopping garlic, grilling on the Barbie—and food always tastes better when it’s prepared with loving intention. If you have a TV in your kitchen, turn it off and try listening to classical music instead.
• Release stress with exercise. When I’m at deadline, I don’t move around as much as I’d like. I might skip a morning run because I have too much to do. What I’ve discovered is the stress that builds up because I’m not exercising increases exponentially—whereas the calmness and peace that comes after a good workout ensures I’m more productive.
• Call up a friend for a good chat. I am so thankful for my friends. When I’m feeling blue, just talking to a friend improves my mood. Sometimes we just have to let off steam, and perhaps our spouse or significant other is too emotionally involved to be a good audience. Venting to a friend can be so therapeutic. Part of it is because your friend needs you, too, and helping others is another great way to lift your mood.
• Let it go. This is, I think, the best advice I can give. One of life’s constants is people tend to hold onto petty grievances, and then these aggravating moments turn into bad moods. Perhaps some schmuck made you mad in traffic this morning—or your child was grouchy. Instead of carrying this irritation with you all day, just let it go. Instead think about something that makes you happy and push the ugly thoughts out of your mind. It might seem hard to do, but it gets easier with practice. Life’s too short to let a bad mood interfere with all the beauty and goodness that’s out there waiting for you. Just open your eyes, and you’ll see what I mean.
Hope you have a fabulous and safe holiday season and an extraordinary new year! See you in 2012.
PS - Don’t forget to visit TW’s advertisers as you shop for goods and services this holiday season. Tell them Peggy said hello!