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  • Becky Adams

10 on the 10th: A New Way to Blog

Since Matt’s football jersey number was 10, and I wrote my last blog on the 10th, I thought I’d change the format into 10 on the 10th. It will be 10 things that are on my mind.

This is Mental Health Awareness month, so it seems fitting to discuss ten ways to manage your mental health. Managing mental health is something everyone should do; you don’t need a diagnosis to qualify. Mental health is just another body system that runs more smoothly with some preventive maintenance.

I offer the following ten ideas in no particular order.

1. Declutter the junk drawer. Tossing old batteries and expired coupons is good for the soul. One day I found a couple of small gift boxes that worked perfectly to divide the junk drawer into areas that were just the right size for….well, junk. I can still feel the satisfaction of lining up all the pens & pencils & markers (after I threw away the ones that don’t write!) I can hear the plink of paperclips, dropped into a cute little box in the corner of the drawer. And being able to find the scissors? Priceless. Inserting a bit of order into your life is good for your mental health. When you’re feeling discombobulated, open that junk drawer and soak up the serenity.

2. Go outside and take a walk. Look at the sky and the ground and the landscape. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking at buildings or oak trees, fresh air is good for your mental health. Move your feet and remind yourself that you’re still tethered to the earth. Even if things are tumultuous, gravity is a reassuring constant.

3. Pet a dog. Or a cat. Or a pony. Or some other pet. Furry companions are a great stress reliever. Your body will flood with feel-good hormones. You can tell them anything, and they won’t judge you. They’ll just lift their head a bit so it’s easier for you to scratch under their chin.

4. Treat bedtime as a sacred ritual. Close the curtains. Adjust the room temperature. Shut off the screens. Read a book to make you sleepy; listen to a podcast or some music or a noise machine. Get into bed a few minutes earlier than normal and tell yourself, “I deserve this.”

5. Do some stretching. Stand up from your desk in the middle of the workday and reach your arms over your head like you’re going to tickle the clouds. Lean from side to side. Bend over and touch your toes (or your ankles, or your knees…) Let your neck and spine take a break from holding up your heavy brain. Work your way through your muscles, stretching everything from your fingers to your toes, taking in a nice deep breath while you do it.

6. Enliven your brain with some music. Listen to music if you don’t sing or play an instrument. But if you play an instrument, even if you haven’t picked up that clarinet since the 6th grade, dig it out and play a few tunes. Playing music lights up all different areas of your brain and strengthens the connection between the two sides of your brain. And whether you’re playing it or someone else is, music is a stress reliever.

7. Practice meditation. You need not wear a robe and sit on a hard surface with your legs like a pretzel. Get comfy and close your eyes for a minute or two. You can put meditation apps on your phone and follow along, or you can make up your own meditation. The key is to find a set of words that you focus on, and when other thoughts try to crowd your space, you shoo them away. You can repeat a poem that you memorized in the 8th grade, or a prayer, or the list you made of your favorite movies. Practice for a few minutes a day; you can add a few minutes over time—or not. Meditation builds resilience and gives you the ability to default to calm when a situation is stressful.

8. Connect with other people. Find a volunteer activity; find a group activity. Encourage co-workers to have lunch together as a group if possible. Call a friend; call your mom. A Harvard study that followed its subjects for 75 years found that social connectedness was the most important single factor in living a long life.

9. Think of three things that you are obligated to do. It could be as simple as “I have to do the laundry.” Write those three statements as “I have to.” Now find a way to rewrite them as “I get to” or “I can.” For example, “I get to indulge my love of Snuggle fabric softener when I sniff the clothes after I take them out of the dryer on laundry day.” This is called cognitive restructuring. It’s just shifting your thoughts around to look at life from a different perspective. It has a positive impact on mental health.

10. Treat yourself with kindness and grace. Acknowledge that once the numbers in a list reach double digits, Word adds a bunch of spaces, and that’s ok. Ten on the 10th? Folks, it’s the 12th. And that’s ok. I might get the next list out on the actual 10th of the month. But I’ll give myself a pat on the back for writing any blog at all. The 12th is close enough, and that’s good enough for me.

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