By: Meredith Stanton, M.D. Assistant Medical Director, FirstHealth Behavioral Services
Now that we’re a few months into the new year, it’s a great time to check in on those resolutions we made back when the proverbial ball dropped and we committed to making 2020 our best year ever.
Many of us spent a fair amount of time in January looking for ways to improve our lives. While some goals may be larger than others, there are plenty of ways to build in small changes that can have big impacts on how well we live, especially when it comes to our mental health and well-being.
FirstHealth Psychiatrist Meredith Stanton, M.D., has a checklist of sorts that can help you be more intentional about reducing stress, increasing happiness and being the best version of yourself.
Do these things to keep 2020 on the right foot:
- Get enough sleep. We’ve all heard it, but it’s true. Sleep deprivation can cause stress and make you more reactive to stressful events in your life. Most experts agree that you need 7-9 hours of sleep per day, depending on personal and genetic factors.
- Work exercise into your schedule. Aside from the physical benefits, exercise can also help reduce stress. When you work out, your body releases endorphins, which generally put you in a better mood.
- Have a hobby. It’s important to make time for things you enjoy, whether it’s crafting or hiking. Hobbies can bring a sense of fun to life that can help stave off the negative effects of stress. Hobbies can also help develop positive relationships with other like-minded individuals.
- Social media reset. While social media can help you find exciting activities and connect, it can also enhance stress by serving as a non-stop distraction. Try to start fresh by turning off notifications, using do not disturb features at night and forcing yourself to take daylong (or even weeklong) breaks from your social networks.
- Just say no. We’re all busy, and at times we make it even worse on ourselves simply by adding more to our already overloaded plates. Don’t be afraid to take time for yourself, or create more time for your family, by cutting back on the to-do list. A quiet night at home never hurt anyone, and it’s a good bet that those moments can help reduce stress.
A few other tips
It never hurts to think through your personal stress relief toolkit to help you stay focused or get back on track when you’ve had one of those days. Take frequent breathers to collect your thoughts, and if you can, physically step away from a stressful situation for a few minutes. Try out positive self-talk or a few deep breaths. On the front end, prioritize your day by deciding which are must-do tasks and which can be put off or eliminated.
Meredith Stanton, M.D., is a board certified psychiatrist with FirstHealth Behavioral Services. A native of Georgia, Dr. Stanton earned her medical degree from the Mercer University School of Medicine in Macon and completed her internship and residency in psychiatry at Atlanta’s Emory University School of Medicine. She has a particular interest in adults and children with anxiety and mood disorders, especially PTSD, generalized anxiety and depression.