Staying Mentally Healthy: The Art of Balance by Megan Murphy
This May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and I thought it would be best to discuss ways to make your work-life balance more harmonious, ensure your spiritual needs are met, and prioritize your peace (even while at work or taking care of business.)
They say, “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life,” but what does that mean? You can continue to do what you’re passionate about, but that doesn’t always equate to emotional fulfillment or inner peace. That is something you have to build for yourself. Inner peace, emotional satiety, and happiness come from within your heart. It has little to do with what you’re working on or where you are.
A quote from the Roman philosopher and Stoic Seneca says, “It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor.”
I think Seneca was trying to say that peace and happiness come from within, using what you have inside to make yourself and your future. When you constantly search for external validation and praise, you’re doing your mental health a disservice.
However, in our over-stimulated, over-processed modern lives, mental health is often overlooked in place of climbing a non-existent ladder to what we think will make us happy or feel accomplished.
In times of great stress, where do you turn? What habits, healthy or otherwise, do you use to cope? Unfortunately, most of us have plenty of bad habits – overindulging, isolating, quitting, negative thinking – that lead us to self-sabotage and grief. We let fear take the lead far too often, and our happiness is soon neglected and sometimes forgotten altogether.
Let’s start with behaviors…
You set boundaries constantly in your personal life. And you should be in the habit of creating some for your professional life. While this may sound difficult to some, it can start with easy steps toward protecting your inner peace. Taking breaks, for example, is a great place to start. A five-minute break every hour of work can help preserve your inner peace and give your physical body what it needs: stopping for a healthy snack, staying hydrated, or stretching your body. Taking ‘body breaks’ can help to keep your focus from draining you or your concentration from distracting you out of balance. This may be easier said than done on hectic days, but even when there’s a lot to be done, making a boundary within yourself to see that you are hydrated and calm should still be your priority. You deserve to be prioritized!
Food and Hydration for Balanced Mental Health
“A hydrated brain is a happy brain,” my doctor once said, and I agree.
Dehydration can be the cause of more than just physical side effects. Healthline found that people who drank more water were at a lower risk for depression, anxiety, and fatigue. Confusion can set in when your brain is “thirsty” too, which affects your work, mood, and mental balance.
It’s a no-brainer that the types of food you consume can affect your physical health, but it’s been my experience that what I eat also affects my mood and inner harmony. Of course, your perfect combination of foods might be different than mine, but I know I feel best when I eat plenty of whole foods, limit sugar, and stay away from animal products. There’s even research to support this. When you eat whole, plant-based foods, it can lower cortisol levels. Cortisol is the hormone your body secretes when it’s stressed. High levels of Cortisol can raise your risks for diabetes, stroke, and obesity.
Sound, Scent, and Color to Improve Mental Health
I spoke about how sound can affect your brain function and productivity in a previous post, but I wanted to expand on this idea. Sound has a profound effect on your mental wellbeing. It’s said that sound is one of the first sensations a fetus hears in the womb.
“There is nothing like music,” Brandon Boyd of rock band Incubus said in a 2012 documentary, Artifact.
And it’s true. There is nothing else like music. Nothing moves us, inspires us, uplifts us, holds us, and comforts us. Our relationship with art and music is something I could write about for the rest of my life, but I think it’s sufficient to say that music is essential to me when I’m working. Even while writing this blog, I’m playing one of my favorite albums in the background. It takes me from uninspired to motivated and passionate in a song or two.
But maybe you’re not a music fan; perhaps you get distracted by it.
Then, my recommendation would be something I incorporated into my meditative practices: binaural beats. Binaural beats can stimulate both sides of the brain and help to enhance creativity and functionality. Some beats can help improve your mood too. Try them out and see how you feel!
The good thing about Binaural beats, if you’re in an office setting, is that they are best played through headphones. No disruption!
Scent can be helpful for stress relief as well. Some scents like Lavender, Eucalyptus, or Citrus can help. Along those same lines, calming colors like blue, pink, or purple are what most people think of when it comes to stress relief. If possible, burning a candle or dabbing some essential oil on your pressure points can help you feel calm throughout the day.
Scheduling for Optimal Mental Health
Another piece of your professional life that can help your mental health is making sure you are not over-scheduling and overwhelming yourself. White space is a term that describes having space in your calendar that is not filled in with work, meetings, or professional responsibilities. Instead, white space is free time to spend with family, working on hobbies, or taking care of your own needs. For example, I try to plan at least one full day free to spend in nature and meditation and leave the first two hours of my day, every day, open for creative work. But even having an hour or two a week would be helpful if your schedule is that full!
White space is a balancing act and something that may feel unnatural at first. I know what it’s like to be busy and not want to slow down, but the more you take on, the less time you’ll have to focus on your health.
Mindset and Mental Health
Let inspiration take the lead and take immediate action on your goals and dreams. There is no time like the present. While planning your white space, make sure that you also leave room to work on the person you want to become. Your current situation is not your final destination. When it feels like you aren’t going anywhere, remember that it’s better to be tired from taking small steps forward than exhausted from doing nothing at all.
Nothing is ever worth the cost of losing your inner peace.
Live purposefully and intentionally. Your path is yours alone.
And, remember that asking for help is never wrong.
Suicide hotline: (800)-273-8255
Abuse Hotline: (800)-799-7233
Trevor Project: (866) 488-7386
Addiction Hotline: (800)-662-HELP