Daily Mental Hygiene
It’s a common understanding that daily dental care such as brushing and flossing will reduce cavities and improve the health of your teeth and gums. Yet our brains, which I could argue are at least as important as our teeth, don’t get the same attention. People who are experiencing stress or strong emotions often acknowledge what they are feeling, but frequently they do nothing until they reach a critical point when they reach out for help.
Why are we encouraged to do our daily dental hygiene? To avoid cavities, losing teeth, and serious mouth pain. Daily Mental Hygiene is similar in that it can help you reduce strong emotions and mental pain, before you reach the breaking point.
I often use the analogy of a rain barrel with my clients. If you aren’t familiar with it, a rain barrel can capture rain from a drainpipe or other water source to keep it from draining into places where you don’t want it. If you don’t regularly drain the rain barrel, it will overflow and flow into unwanted areas.
Stress is similar in the way it affects us. If you don’t regularly spend time relieving your anxiety, it can overflow like that “rain barrel” and affect your life in significant ways. Your mental and emotional health is important and you don’t want to reach a breaking point such as an outburst or argument with your partner about something small that wouldn’t normally bother you.
Daily Mental Hygiene is something to consider as a way to relieve those strong feelings before you reach a breaking point. Why not start your own Mental Hygiene regimen? It doesn’t have to take much time. Consider doing it in the morning and evening before or after you do your dental hygiene. Maybe try it after you arrive at work, before you get out of your car. Experiment and find out what works for you.
There is plenty of information on the web about ways to reduce anxiety and improve your emotional health. Common recommendations are things like:
Reduce your caffeine intake.
Get enough sleep.
Interact with people -- have a conversation.
Read a book.
Notice your surroundings.
Listen to music.
Take some slow deep breaths.
The last, "Take some slow deep breaths", is my favorite because you can do it almost any place and at any time, even in a business meeting or during an argument with your spouse. Research shows that slow deep belly breaths can significantly reduce the physical symptoms of stress (such as blood pressure and heart rate). And once you get in the habit of it, you may find yourself automatically doing it during times of stress.
Here is a link to a cute Sesame Street video about breathing: Elmo "Belly Breathe" song.