“There’s a misconception that you need a lot time to focus on mental wellness,” Nichole Hall, behavioral health operations and programs manager at Mercy Health – Clermont Hospital, shares. “That’s not true. Something as short as a two-to-five-minute break can be really helpful.”
With a background in art therapy, Nichole looks for creative approaches to mental wellness and art is one tool she recommends.
“Fill in the ring that your coffee cup leaves on paper, doodle, color or decorate a cake,” she suggests. “The creative process changes your neurobiology.”
As many people know, even a brief burst of physical activity can also be a mental reset.
“Exercise doesn’t need to be scheduled. Stand up and stretch or dance. Take a five- or 10-minute walk,” Nichole says.
Also, you can take a moment to just be inside your mind.
“Daydreaming can be very positive for the brain,” she adds. “You can create and visit your own safe space. … You can visualize putting your problems in a box to help manage brain clutter. Reflective distancing is another technique. This is when you take a step back from everything you are doing and reflect on your feelings as well as their source.”
Technology has tools that can help with mental wellness, too.
“There are any number of apps that can give you that needed mental wellness break. You can explore a guided meditation or seek out a mandala app that walks you through creating these beautiful symbols.”
Online, you can also find a community of individuals facing the same mental health struggles.
“There’s a growing social media community around mental health and their output includes podcasts and blogs,” Nichole shares. “While social media can have negative effects on mental health, some users have opened the dialogue around it, normalized it and eased the stigma that once surrounded the topic. A terrific podcast to check out would be ‘Finding Weird’ by Eric Dean.”
Taking time to focus and pay attention to your five senses can also give you a much-needed mental wellness break during a stressful day.
“Try eating something mindfully; really taking in each bite and observing the different textures and tastes of what you’re eating,” Nichole suggests. “Visit your senses. It’s very grounding. What are you seeing, smelling, hearing, feeling or tasting? Give and receive 20-second hugs. It’s a long time but will shift your emotional state as you do it.”
And don’t underestimate the power of sleep to boost your feeling of mental wellness.
“Practice good sleep hygiene, which includes turning off televisions and screens, avoiding strenuous physical or mental activity and lowering the lights before bed,” Nichole says. “Doing these things can help you get a better-quality night’s rest.”
Bottom line, any tasks that stretch your mind to a different place can provide a mental break that helps. It’s just the doing part that matters.
“You can’t think your way to a healthier you,” Nichole says. “We encourage patients to start the day by making their bed, not thinking about making their bed. To change your thoughts, you need to do something. It is the doing that changes your emotions.”
And most importantly, Nichole cautions everyone who thinks of mental wellness as self-care.
“Mental wellness is stress management,” Nichole says. “Stress and emotions are unavoidable, and you will have a response to that stress. It’s what you do with it that allows you to stay healthy and not become ill. Getting into the habit of giving yourself a mental wellness break helps you prepare for future stressors and you may find you’re better able to handle the curve balls when they come.”
She adds, “we don’t think twice to look after ourselves when something is wrong with our heart. We need to give our mental health the same leeway to malfunction and be taken care of. We need to know that it’s OK to need help in taking care of our brain.”
For more tips on improving your mental wellness, consult with one of our behavioral health specialists near you.