First off, let's debunk the misconceptions people generally have whenever the term "mental health" pops up. It's too often stigmatized to equate "crazy,” and that’s downright horse sh*t.
You don't immediately associate "physical health" with broken bones and weak muscles, do you? I'd argue that you don't, instead associating it more positively with strength and power.
But instead of settling for how we understand terms, let's think about how our brains and bodies are working in unison, and how paying a bit more attention to our overall mental health can be more beneficial than we might think.
Let me start by guessing that if you live and work in NYC, you experience a fair amount of stress on a regular basis. Yes? Probably.
And because you’re stressed about not having enough time to focus on yourself, and you don't have enough time to focus on yourself because you've been so busy with other things, and those other things are causing you stress, all you want is a bushel of fries and a keg to yourself.
I could be off, but I have a feeling that might ring true for a couple of you.
And if it does, that's totally normal. But such high stress is destructive AF to your mental health and can seriously prevent you from living clearly, mindfully, and enjoyably.
(Oh also, I'm not a doctor or anything. I'm just a human who has experienced some human ish and wants to provide some info to other humans who might need it.)
So, here's a couple handfuls of tips I've found that can help you maintain that enviable peace of mind New York City is hell-bent on shattering.
1. Walk it out
Plug some UNK into your headphones and get it going. (If you’re confused, Google ‘Walk it Out’ by UNK and come back to me.) For real though, we’re talking about walking meditation here.
I also suggest meditating overall, but because finding total silence in this city is laughable, try it while you walk through the city during the day. Great apps like Headspace and Inscape are just two of many ways you can take meditation on the go with you.
I’m biased, but keep reading this anyway. You don’t need to have studied the art of poetry or know anything about character plot to be a writer. Sorry to anyone who has believed that BS. If you have an idea, and chances are you have plenty if you’ve made it this far through evolution, you can write about it.
Take some time each day to write a few sentences or words down about your current state. Reflections are great too, checking in with yourself about how you feel in the afternoon compared to how you felt in the morning.
This might seem trivial, but you’re practicing mindfulness and doing such is so important in maintaining a clear and focused state of mind.
3. Make faces at yourself
Snapchat makes this easy for sure, but I’m talking filter-less faces, baby. Some raw, real, scrunched up silly faces that you probably only do when you’re drunk.
In any event, inviting some humor and play into your life, especially when you’re alone, can do wonders for nurturing the positive and joyous vibe you emit into the world.
4. Keep a notepad by your bed.
This one goes back to the “Write” tip. If your beautiful brain has trouble sleeping after a stimulating day, you might benefit from something I call a "brain dump." I often need to take a brain dump before going to sleep so that my mind feels clear and cramp-less, making my slumber quite pleasant.
Think of it like this: You’d feel super uncomfortable if you had to take a massive sh*t all day, and didn’t get a chance to once, right? Going to sleep might be difficult. The same idea translates into mental comfortability.
Writing out some of your anxieties, stressors, worries, etc. that you’ve harbored all day won’t necessarily make them go away (because like poop, you’re gonna experience them again in life), but sending them outside your head and onto paper can act like the laxative that makes you feel much more at ease.
You’re welcome for the visual.
5. Take yourself on a date
Whether you’re single and dying to mingle, or in the most wonderfully loving relationship of your life, take ya damn self out; ALONE. If you can’t enjoy your individual existence fully and thoroughly, that’s okay—but I can guarantee that you will love the way it feels to completely enjoy solo time.
This simple task can feel weird at first, but there are no judgements in NYC. Step outside yourself for a second and admire what others admire about you. Learning to appreciate all that you are as a human can take some time (it’s a daily effort TBH), but it is so necessary and worth every moment.
Try taking a 30 min adventure meandering through Central Park with nothing more than a notebook, disposable camera, and food (obvi you're hungry). The notebook is for, get this, TAKING NOTES on what you see and feel. Revolutionary.
The disposable camera is to get you off your phone, and enjoy the massive NATURAL PARK in the middle of a MAN-MADE CITY. Oh, and food because nothing is complete without food. Duh.
7. Authentically compliment other people
This may seem weird, but hear me out. One way to find clarity within yourself is to express gratitude and (genuine) likeness towards others. Authenticity is important here because no one likes a fake bitch, honestly.
Express your gratitude for something someone gave you or for how they held the elevator door for you, or for the seat they gave you on the subway, or for anything. If you’re thinking something kind, say it.
Doing so creates this coat of goodness around that environment and now you're feeling happy and that person is lifted and you can enjoy the f*cking sunshine without wanting to trample over ever slow ass walker in this city. Feel me?
This took some time to make it on the list, because while it might be obvious with all the endorphins ‘n ish, it can be difficult for many people to incorporate daily, for various reasons.
And that’s totally okay, but finding a way to get your body moving in a way other than commuting can truly help you build mental strength as well as physical strength.
Go to the gym, or barre studio, or anything. If that's not a daily option, take a walk around your office each day, check in with co-workers, and even get a snack while you’re up.
9. Breathe and drink lots of water