Struggling to cope with the end of the year stress? Join our free 30 Day Mental Health Challenge to help you survive the last stretch until the holidays!
Cope with the stress, rush and craziness of year end by taking our 30 day challenge. We can only create change by changing something small we do everyday. Success is found in daily routine.
Day 1 - Use your senses
We lose ourselves in the focus of past and future. By focusing fully on what has happened or what needs to happen we miss the beauty of what is happening in the present moment. Slowing down, and reconnecting with ourselves is a great way to feel grounded.
Challenge for Day 1 - Any time in the day take a moment to stop what you are doing and focus on :
5 things you can see
4 things you can touch
3 things you can hear
2 things you can taste
1 thing you can smell
Do it more than once in the day if you can. Connect to your body and what is happening around you.
Day 2 - Make a list of short term goals
Not having a plan of action is like driving without a destination. If we want to achieve success and feel satisfied with our lives we need to set goals to work towards. These goals should be flexible and not all consuming - but rather provide an outline and sense of direction. Goals should always be specific, achievable, realistic, measurable and provide motivation.
Challenge for Day 2 - Make a list of short term goals that you would like to focus on until year end. These may transform into medium term goals for the new year, but for now focus on the short term.
Day 3 - Create a balance chart
Balance is key to a meaningful life. Often, without being aware of it, our lives become unbalanced, fully focused on work or others. We may lose track of who we are or want we want. We only have this life, it is possible to live a full balanced life.
Challenge for Day 3 - Take a moment to create a pie chart of the balance in your life. Your balance chart should include the following spheres:
1. Time to rest and recuperate
2. Time for physical activity
3. Time to work and learn
4. To spend with others
5. Time play and enjoy
For the day:
1. Draw a chart of your current life balance
2. Now consider how you can make this more balanced and more aligned to what you would like it to be.
Day 4 - Take a social media free day
Screen time is becoming an epidemic. As more research is conducted, we become more aware of it's affect on our brains, our productivity and our relationships. iPhone has now included a screen time counter which is very helpful to track how much time we spend on our phones. I was shocked to realise how many times I check my phone a day! Social media distracts us from our present moment, it can increase stress and decrease the closeness we share with those around us.
Challenge for Day 4 - Stay off ALL social media for 24 hours. Can you do it?
Day 5 - Do an activity just for yourself
Choosing to put ourselves first can create the fear of being selfish. However, to take care of our families and those we love, we need to be in a good mental space. Self care encourages mental resilience, thus leaving us with the extra strength for others. Putting yourself first may be the best thing you do for your family.
Challenge for Day 5 - Do one activity today that is completely for you. This activity should be something you enjoy such as a long bath, a good run or maybe buying your favourite dessert. The main goal is to enjoy the activity and take the time to be present in the moment.
Day 6 - Write down 5 personal strengths
It can be easy to focus on our shortcomings. Our critical voice always seems louder than the one motivating or building us up. Our brains develop through patterns. The more we practice something, the deeper and more automatic that pattern becomes. If you are continually bringing yourself down, you are actually enforcing negativity.
Challenge for Day 6 - Write down 5 personal strengths. Put this list somewhere you can see it often to remind yourself to reinforce positive patterns.
Day 7 - Do your favourite exercise
The topic of exercise is not a favourite for many people. However, there is a substantial amount of research confirming that exercise is good for our mental health. Some studies have even suggested that exercise is better for us than medication.
Exercise does not have to mean the gym. Any activity that increases your heart rate is exercise. This can be shopping, cleaning, hiking or going for a swim. Try to do 30 min of exercise at least 3 times a week.
Challenge for Day 7 - Choose an exercise activity you enjoy and get your heart rate pumping!
Day 8 - Eat mindfully
Mindfulness is the action of being present in our moment. Much like you did on day 1 with your senses. Mindfulness helps us to savour our moments and enjoy the small things in life. Eating is a common human experience. No matter who you are you eat every day. How often do you eat without thinking, acting on automatic? Mindful eating helps us to be aware of how and what we eat which is helpful for healthy eating as well as enjoyment.
Challenge for Day 8 - Sit down for a meal with no distractions. Use all your senses as you eat your food. Take your time with your meal, savouring each bite, feeling the bits of food in your mouth and taking in the smell. Be aware of the feeling in your stomach - you might even feel fuller faster.
Day 9 - Choose a pleasant activity
Take some time to create a list of activities you consider pleasant (positive, enjoyable, uplifting). These can be activities done by alone or with others.
Challenge for Day 9 - Choose an activity from your list and action it.
Day 10 - Plan an outing with a friend
Life can get so busy that we neglect our friendships. Friendship is an important source of comfort and support. No matter what the excuse, we should make time for the important connections in our lives.
Challenge for Day 10 - Plan an outing with a friend. This can be a close friend or someone you haven't seen in a long time. Make the time to prioritise the outing and make sure you carry through with the arrangements.
Day 11 - Learn how to focus on breathing
Slow, controlled breathing can be helpful for many situations - if you are feeling anxious, stressed, angry, overwhelmed, frustrated or even tired. Through controlled breathing we are able to lower the stress hormones in our body and encourage our bodies to calm down. This is incredibly helpful if you are feeling out of control.
Challenge for Day 11 - Find a quiet place to practice focused breathing.
Day 12 - Go a day without a complaint
Complaining is easy to do. Our brains are programmed to look for problems and work out solutions. Because of this we may become accustomed to looking for problems and voicing our displeasure about them. However, as with all things, this can become a habit of negativity, without any push to find a solution. As this patterns is repeated it becomes so automatic you may not even be aware that you are complaining.
Challenge day 12 - Commit to not complaining for the entire day. Be aware of your thoughts and try and catch yourself before the complaint is vocalised. You may be surprised to see how often you need to stop yourself.
Day 13 - Clean out a space you have been avoiding
Change is as good as a holiday! By clearing out unwanted possessions we can clear out our own feelings of stuckness. Giving old items to charity is good for others too so its a win win.
Challenge day 13 - Pick a space that you have been avoiding in your house that needs to be cleaned, cleared and/or redecorated and dedicate time to completing the task.
Day 14 - Cuddle with someone (thing) you love
Physical touch releases endorphins in our bodies that make us feel happy. Being close to people or even animals that we love, automatically releases good feelings. If you feel stressed or overwhelmed from your day - give your spouse, child, or pet a hug.
Challenge for day 14 - Take some time out for serious cuddling!
Day 15 - Practice a positive affirmation
Building a positive mindset comes from repeated positive experiences. For positivity to be automatic we need to start off by consciously activating positive thoughts.
Challenge for day 15 - Create a list of positive affirmations. Use these to motivate you when you are feeling down or stuck. Pick one affirmation that really stands out to you repeated this throughout your day.
Day 16 - Do an activity mindfully
Similar to challenges of day 1 and mindful eating, today our task is to practice mindfulness.
Challenge for day 16 - Choose a routine activity that you do everyday (such as getting dressed or driving to work) and take the time to do it mindfully. Be aware of all your senses as you do the activity. Be fully present in the moment. For example, if you are getting dressed be aware of the clothes, your body, and your environment. Connect to movement, feel, sight, sound and smell.
Day 17 - Carry out one random act of kindness
The act of kindness helps to shift our focus on to another for no gain or validation. To be truly kind can be a freeing experience, allowing us to take a step out of our own frame of reference.
Challenge for day 17 - Carry out one act of kindness - this can be for anyone - friend/stranger or even enemy. Conduct the act without any expectation of reciprocity.
Day 18 - Meditate
The act of meditation is essentially the ability to clear your mind. There are many types of meditation - some focus on guided imagery where the speaker takes you on a journey inside your mind. Or the meditation can be self directed to a place of calm, safety or nothingness. The purpose of meditation is to connect to your present, to facilitate control of your thoughts and regulation of your emotions.
Challenge for day 18 - Find a quiet place to meditate. If you are new to meditation don't get discouraged - meditation is difficult and you may find that you can only do a few minutes in the beginning. If you are new to meditation try a guided meditation clip that you can follow. You will find many on the internet. I also do a meditation component as part of the 8 week self development program (http://www.meaningfulminds.co.za/self-help-programme).