If you’re dealing with stress, worries, or the winter blues right now, you’ve got a lot of company. The pressure to deal with everything that’s going on during this pandemic isn’t likely to ease up soon enough. Though the coming months are likely to be challenging, I believe you’re strong and will get through them! To help you out, I want to share some of my favorite—and simple—ways to calm your brain and brighten your mood.
- Easy ways to improve your sleep
During stressful times, it can be hard to slow down an overactive brain and restful sleep can seem elusive. When we’re sleep deprived, it can be harder to control our emotions, so we tend to react rather than respond appropriately to situations. Plus, chronic insomnia is linked to all sorts of health and brain problems. The good news is there are some simple things you can do to start getting better sleep now:
- Avoid caffeine after noon. While coffee and tea are the most obvious culprits, there are other beverages as well as certain foods and supplements that can have caffeine-containing ingredients in them, so be sure to check the labels.
- Turn off your laptop, phone, and other electronic devices a few hours prior to climbing into bed. The type of light they emit can disrupt your circadian rhythm by suppressing the natural sleep hormone, melatonin, which helps you fall asleep.
- Create a relaxing, wind-down routine before bedtime. Prayer, meditation, or a warm bath with a few drops of the essential oil lavender can help you settle down.
For more tips on getting good sleep, please watch this really interesting interview I did with Dr. Shane Creado, a psychiatrist and sleep specialist at Amen Clinics in Chicago.
- Meditation to calm your mind
Meditation is a wonderful way to relax and recharge. Taking a time-out, even for just a few minutes, to concentrate on your breathing while putting worries aside can provide you with greater clarity and the ability to focus on the important things in your life. And, as I said above, it can help with sleep too! I welcome you to join me in this free grounding meditation to soothe your brain.
- Bright Light Therapy Lamp to boost your mood
If you’re feeling blue, the decreased hours of sunlight in the late fall and wintertime might be the culprit. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that emerges when the days start getting shorter. Light therapy lamps were developed to help manage the symptoms of SAD. In addition to boosting your mood, they can be effective for improving your energy, focus, and sleep. I love the one we developed at BrainMD. You can check it out here.
- The One Page Miracle
When you focus on your goals, you’re more likely to achieve them. This in turn boosts confidence, reduces anxiety and makes you feel happier. If identifying what you want in your life seems like an overwhelming task, I’ve got a simple solution for you: The One Page Miracle. This outline helps you specify and write down what’s important for you in the significant areas of your life. It’s like a compass that can guide your decisions and behaviors to make your goals a reality. Download it for free here.
- A little chocolate to lift you up!
I don’t have much of a sweet tooth anymore, but a bite of chocolate can be blissful. Not only is it comforting, but chocolate can stimulate happy brain chemicals like serotonin and endorphins that improve your mood. I’ve got some delicious free recipes for you to try like my amazing Nutty Butter Cups (a family favorite!) or try these Brain in Love Chocolate Bars.
- Curl up with a good book
Decades of research show that reading can reduce stress. I’m not talking about reading reports for work, scrolling through your emails, or checking what people are saying on social media. I mean reading a book for pleasure. Personally, when I’m really stressed, I love reading books about people who have beaten the odds and triumphed over adversity. In fact, that’s part of what inspired me to tell my own story of transformation in my new book The Relentless Courage of a Scared Child. You can check it out here. I hope it will inspire you and help you in stressful times.
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Tana Amen is the author of The Relentless Courage of a Scared Child: How Persistence, Grit, and Faith Created a Reluctant Healer. Order your copy here.