Let’s say you’re on your morning commute and you’re stuck in traffic, or you got cut off, or you can’t find parking, or the train is running late…commuting is one of the more stressful things we do as modern human people. We can’t change those stressors (short of working from home or having a walking commute), but we can change the way we perceive and react to those stressors. We are all so conditioned to be reactive, going from zero to 60 with frustration and road rage. Instead, play around with keeping a state of equanimity and nonreactivity in the face of super-annoying stressors. Try taking a deep breath and seeing some humor in the situation. Remind yourself to tread peacefully on the earth.
It’s lunch o’clock, and everywhere around you are the smells of pad thai and pizza. If you want to set yourself up for optimal mental health, it’s worth making a few counter-mainstream food choices. Rather than indulging in what’s cheap, convenient, and addictive, it serves us to reach for real food. This can become a slippery slope toward obsessive clean eating, so I want to caution you that the most important dimension to this is simply that it be real food. This doesn’t mean just eating chia seeds and kale. It means eating well-sourced, pastured meats, including red meat, wild fish, carbohydrates from starchy vegetables (e.g., potatoes, plantains, sweet potatoes) instead of refined carbohydrates, plenty of veggies, plentiful healthy fats (e.g., grass-fed ghee, coconut oil, avocado oil, fatty cuts of pastured meats), and eating fruit when you’re craving sweets.
I’m not going to lie—this is expensive, it takes preparation, and it requires withdrawing from our various food addictions (usually gluten, dairy, sugar, and processed foods). But for many of us who are walking around inflamed and nutrient deficient, this is the key to mental health.
I know this is a weird one, but bear with me. As modern human people, we are all on a blood sugar roller coaster. This is because our diet is built on a foundation of sugar, refined carbs, milkshakes disguised as coffee drinks, and rosé. Our blood sugar spikes, then crashes, and that crash causes a host of seeming mental health symptoms, from anxiety and panic to depression and ADHD. The definitive solution is to transition your diet to a blood-sugar-stabilizing real food diet. Short of that, you can also use this as a hack: Take a spoonful of coconut oil (or almond butter, or a handful of almonds) at regular intervals throughout the day. Try to do this an hour or two before your regularly scheduled hanger crashes, like 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.
When you reach that 3 p.m. slump and you cannot/will not focus on mentally demanding work anymore, take a better-quality break. Most of us are conditioned to open up Instagram or Facebook and passively scroll. This is not genuinely restful or restorative, it’s just addictive, and it contributes to anxiety and depression. Instead, walk outside the building for three minutes to feel some fresh air or sunshine, do 10 jumping jacks in the bathroom, do a breathing exercise, meditate, take a nap, or talk to somebody funny or nice. All of these will be more genuinely restful, and you’ll be able to resume your work with a fresh perspective.
Many of us default to watching TV in the evening. While we’re in an era of really brilliant TV, you want to take at least a few nights off per week to do something better with your time. Read a book, call a friend, exercise, have a candlelit carpet picnic with your partner or roommate. Get vulnerable and get into a serious conversation with your partner. Have a silent disco with your roommate. In general, bring consciousness to how you use your time, and do the activities that actually enrich your life.
Did you just wake up in the middle of the night? I got you. Let’s assume this is a blood sugar crash until proved otherwise. Take a spoonful of coconut oil and a sip of water, then attempt to fall back asleep. You can even keep a jar of coconut oil in the spot on your bedside table that has now been vacated by your phone! Try not to let your eyes “see” any light, because this can disrupt your circadian rhythm. If you have to shuffle to the bathroom, do your best to keep your eyes squinty and mostly closed. Avoid flicking on the light. If you need a light source, try an orange LED night light in the bathroom. When you get back in bed, take a few deep diaphragmatic breaths. If you’re struggling to fall asleep, do progressive muscle relaxation, where you tense and then release your muscles, starting at your feet and moving up to your head.
This content was originally published here.