As I sat around thinking about blogging topics this week, I realized it has been a while since I have checked in with my mental health. Some weeks, moments of anxiety and/or stress force me to consider my emotions, but the last few weeks have been pleasantly anxiety free. In fact, it's been two months since I wrote this post after finding myself in a not so great mood one morning. So what's the difference between then and now? Did my negative emotions simply disappear?
The short answer is no. The long answer is more complicated.
Through my own journey of finding balance, I have come to believe that life is not meant to be completely stress and anxiety free, for it is these exact emotions which set off alarms in our head when something doesn't feel right. We need stress and anxiety, whether we like it or not. So with that being said, my worry did not suddenly float away, it simply came back down to a more acceptable level. Over the last month in particular, I've experience many more good moments than bad, freaked out less over situations I couldn't control, and often found myself feeling incredibly grateful for my life.
I'm not sure these changes happened intentionally, and I know not-so-great moments creep out of nowhere, but I think it's important to examine what has happened so that I can gain new insights for future situations.
Summer = Happiness
It took longer than usual for the sun to show up this year, but warm weather always turns my attitude around. My free time is often spent outside just sitting with a book, exploring my city, or walking around; all relaxing activities.
Less Food Brain
I've written about food brain before, but in short, it's the term I use to describe the phenomenon of always thinking about food in one way or another; creating a grocery list, contemplating what to eat for lunch, worrying about the menu in social situations, etc. Food brain is exhausting, difficult to change, and creates high levels of anxiety. I certainly still struggle with food brain, but over the last few weeks it's taken a back seat in my mind.
I have two theories. One is that I simply don't have as much time to think about food in the summer. As I mentioned above, my down time is spent doing fun and interesting activities which actively engage my mind. The other is that decreasing my food anxiety takes practice, and I have been working on it for a few years now, and each year I notice an improvement.
Taking a Break from the Scale
I ditched my scale at home in March of 2016, but I was still weighing myself at the gym from time to time. However, six weeks ago I decided I needed a break. My weight had gone up a few pounds and did not seem to be coming back down. Stepping on the scale only caused unnecessary and mentally damaging self-doubt. If you haven't tried taking this leap before, I encourage everyone to try. It's amazing what not knowing my weight does to my week. I enjoy working out more because it's not at all about burning calories; it's now about doing something kind for my body. I end up making more balanced eating choices (letting my actual hunger cues guide me) because I want to, not because I feel like I have to.
Many people have already studied and written about the positives affects of gratitude, but to be honest, it's not something I have spent much time considering. However, I have recently found myself stopping more frequently to appreciate what is around me; spending time with my family, recognizing the amazing friendships I've worked hard to cultivate, feeling thankful for our home and neighborhood, and realizing my own successes as an adult. Taking a few moments to appreciate the life I have built for myself invites a little extra peace and relaxation into my day.
I fully expect my stress and anxiety levels to increase in the near future. Like I mentioned, we need these emotions to survive. Checking in with ourselves during the good times, however, can provide important insight and tools for unexpected bad moods and situations. My own emotional check-up has helped me understand that small changes have big impacts and that some changes I can control, while others I can't. The most important thing, nevertheless, is that I took a pause to check-in at all, no matter the outcome.
Walking enthusiast, kitchen experimenter, sports lover (watching, not playing), and future world traveler.
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