The world can seem like a scary place to maneuver, when you don’t have the right support, medical care or simple self-care practices in place to deal with your mental wellness. In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, our team at Ellie wants to start the conversation about anxiety and depression with the help of experts, like chiropractor, author and expert in positive vibes Dr. Rubina Tahir.
As a woman on a mission to inspire healthy lifestyles, the Philadelphia-based doctor advocates for self-care—which in her case includes two cups of coffee a day. When she’s not in the office treating patients, she hosts her own talk show, The RX, and health and wellness day retreats as co-founder of The Positivity Charge.
The proud mom, who has openly shared her journey with postpartum depression, wants to erase the stigma of mental illness and get real about managing stress and anxiety. “Postpartum was the first time I truly understood the difference between stress and anxiety,” says Dr. Rubina. “Stress is the day where you have three cups of coffee and you can push through with a ‘tomorrow is a new day’ mentality. But with anxiety, you carry those feelings from one day to the next, and no amount of coffee could control my thoughts.”
The doctor advises that honesty is the best policy—being honest with ourselves about the feelings we are having, then assuring ourselves that it’s okay. Read on as Dr. Rubina looks at four different and totally doable ways to manage your mental health throughout the day.1. JOURNAL WRITING
Studies have shown that writing down your emotions can relieve stress and anxiety, because it helps you identify and organize your thoughts better. Grab a blank notebook or one with writing prompts and take time to reflect. “Finding your pattern of emotion can be done through a simple journaling activity,” says Dr. Rubina. “Take a week and write down your emotions morning, afternoon and night. You can look back at your journal and see if frustration, for example, is a thing that keeps coming up. Then ask yourself, ‘What am I frustrated and angry about?’” Once you learn what your triggers are, you can employ strategies to curb those emotions.2. WAKE UP WITH A DAILY AFFIRMATION
It’s always a good idea to start your morning with some positivity. Daily affirmations are meant to replace negative thoughts with ones of personal power and positive self-talk. “If I need to ground myself, then I’ll literally get down on the floor and repeat an affirmation,” says Dr. Rubina. “I’ll say: You’re capable of handling the emotions you're feeling. It’s okay to feel like this and you're not going to feel this way forever.” Repeating affirmations every day is a way of being your own coach and awakening your mind to the possibilities of change.3. JUST BREATH
We now what your thinking, but breathing techniques don’t have to be woo woo or overly complicated. Simply taking a few intentional breaths is a good way to reverse the stress response, because it can lower your blood pressure and promote a sense of calm. “When you're dealing with mental health, it’s an all day thing, so you have to have multiple strategies,” says Dr. Rubina. “Breathing is my midday strategy. Whether you sit in a quiet room or go outside, focus on five deep breaths for five minutes—breathing in for three seconds and out for three seconds.”4. SWITCH UP YOUR WORKOUT
Exercise is the ultimate stress reliever, because it stimulates those feel-good chemicals endorphins. To make exercise more fun and appealing, Dr. Rubina suggests trying a workout you’ve never done before to create new memories and to avoid activating any of those old triggers. “After I had my baby, I was tried to get back into running, but my body had changed so much and I couldn’t do it,” she says. “I began stretching and doing yoga before I took on running again—then I ran my first 10K.” The moral of story is: Go to a new class (for about 3-6 months), conquer it and build yourself confidence in the process.
With each step, “remember to celebrate yourself” and every seemingly small accomplishment, advises Dr. Rubina, because it will lead you to doing more things to build your self-care practice. “I think these steps change your input, and once you change your input you can change your output.”
ONE MORE THING...
If after reading this article, you are still feeling anxious or depressed and need help finding someone to talk to, call the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (1-240-485-1001), the National Alliance on Mental Illness (1-800-950-6264) or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255).