(Editor’s note: This article from Alex Siegman is from the Summer 2017 issue of Brain World magazine.)
Change is inescapable, something that affects us all with each passing day — it’s part of why we live, hoping things will one day be better — yet the thought of any-thing beyond the routine can bring about great discomfort. Whether you’re graduating college or starting a new diet, preparing to be a first-time parent or facing the end of a long-term relationship, change can be scary.
If you’re up long hours wondering how you can brave the day ahead, take a deep breath and remember: You’re not alone in this. Someone’s been down this way before, and will be again. Fortunately, change is something we all experience, so we can all learn from one another how to best deal with those butterfly-in-the-stomach moments. Here are a few tips to help you stay sane amid the chaos of change.
1. EAT WELL
It’s no secret that a healthy diet plays an important role in your general physical well-being, and we’ve all experienced first-hand the mental benefits of feeling physically fit.
But that’s not all. The Cleveland Clinic Hospital says there are a host of specific benefits to eating well, too. Those benefits include an increase in energy level and alertness, improved health, and a better body image.
Furthermore, a 2017 study found that providing young adults with high-quality fruits and vegetables improved their psychological well-being — with visible benefits seen after just a two-week period. The subjects demonstrated an increase of vitality and motivation.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists even recommends specific diets for different disorders, like mood disorders or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder — recommending a diet that is high in omega-3 amino acids (found in fish and plants like flaxseed or walnuts) and low in gluten.
Another no-brainer — according to the National Sleep Foundation, adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night, and sleep is integral to mental well-being.
A 2007 study found that “optimal sleepers reported fewer symptoms of depression, and anxiety, and reported higher levels of environmental mastery, personal growth, positive relations with others, purpose in life, and self-acceptance.”
And, according to the National Institutes of Health, children and teens who don’t get enough sleep may have difficulty socializing — they may feel angry and impulsive, have mood swings, feel sad and depressed, or lack motivation.
3. GET SOME EXERCISE
According to a 2006 study, “aerobic exercises, including jogging, swimming, cycling, walking, gardening, and dancing, have been proved to reduce anxiety and depression.” And still another study concluded that “sufficient evidence now exists for the effectiveness of exercise in the treatment of clinical depression.”
The same study also found that exercise has a moderately reducing effect on certain types of anxiety, can improve physical self-perceptions, and can enhance mood states and cognitive function. That’s why taking brisk walks may help you formulate your otherwise disordered ideas.
Exercise also causes your brain to release endorphins, neurochemicals that create a feeling of general well-being and euphoria.
Eat, sleep, and exercise. Makes sense. But there are a couple of other, more long-term things you can do to keep yourself mentally healthy amid the thralls of change.
4. FIND YOUR COMMUNITY
The need to belong is evolutionary and primal. Since the days of hunter-gatherer societies, the importance of existing within some sort of community has been integral to survival.
Things are no different now than they were way back then — the brain still seeks out relationships and new ways for you to form connections. According to a paper by the Australian Psychological Society, community offers support and a sense of identity derived from those with whom one can form meaningful, ongoing interactions.
The sense of belongingness can facilitate desired outcomes, or provide buffers against significant challenges.
That’s why, whatever the change you’re facing, having a community or support system is integral to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and your mental well-being — think of finding it as yet another opportunity for you to rebuild your social support network and forge valuable relationships that could last a lifetime.
5. EMBRACE CHANGE
Last but not least, the most important thing you can do when facing change is to embrace that change. Do what you can to make every moment matter.
There are countless studies and articles that analyze the importance of welcoming change, but this point is best made with an ancient Chinese proverb: “A wise man adapts himself to circumstances, as water shapes itself to the vessel that contains it.”
(Find Alex Siegman’s “Moving Up! 5 Ways To Stay Sane Amidst Change” and many interesting reads in the Summer 2017 issue of Brain World magazine available wherever magazines are sold.)