You’ve felt it for weeks, creeping up on you like a weed. Or, something just went terribly wrong that caused a complete breakdown.
No matter who you are, you have probably “crashed and burned.” Even the strongest of us can get overwhelmed with life’s sporadic emergencies, constant stress, and our own personal triggers.
Perhaps your work has been grinding you into the ground. Maybe a failed relationship has thrown your emotions into shambles. Or, you’re spending just a little too much time thinking about how life is meaningless (PS: The meaning of life is to give your life meaning. But that’s for another article).
You need an immediate boost to get yourself back on track.
When times get tough, break out your emergency mental and physical health toolkit. We’ve created a template filled with tools, activities, and more to get you started. You can run through our program exactly, or use it as a jumping off point.
This will be a single day program. You can still work or take care of errands in between these tasks, but it would be ideal to take the day off or use this toolkit on the weekend.
1. Wake up at a reasonable hour. Only you know what this means to you, but do not sleep in. Conversely, do not under-sleep. This will drastically effect your mental health during the day. Find the sweet spot that makes you feel accomplished and rested.
2. You will be staying off social media and news websites for the entire day. Remove yourself from technology as much as possible, using it only for work.
3. Start the day with this breathing and movement exercise. This will lower your stress hormone, cortisol, which is high in the mornings:
A. Stand with your feet separated a bit wider than your shoulders.
B. Exhale and slowly bend forward with your arms crossed around your chest. Squeeze your hands into fists to relieve tension in the spine. Feel the muscles that are stretching, and rate your exertion between 1-10. Don’t go past 7.
C. Inhale and gradually “roll” upward to standing position, vertebrae by vertebrae. Raise your arms outward and upward in a V, even stretching your fingers to the sky. Fill your lungs to capacity, and hold your breath for a few moments in this position.
D. Exhale, and slowly let your arms drop while extended. Let out as much air as you possibly can while you repeat this process for at least a few minutes.
4. You will perform two fitness activities today, one in the morning and one in the evening. Select the most difficult of your chosen activities now, when your willpower is strongest. You may want to run, go to the gym, do a yoga routine, or a bike ride.
To make this easy, we recommend darebee.com, which is a phenomenal website filled with well designed bodyweight workouts. Pick a program that fits your current skill level and push through it. If none of this is possible, actively stretch or take a long walk.
5. After exercise, sit down for 10 minutes of meditation, preferably in a relaxing, quiet, outdoor space. Use a meditation guidance track on your headphones to help you get the best out of these ten minutes. Calm your mind as best as you can.
6. Open up a journal and write down a page of your thoughts. Complain, talk to yourself, and just get it all out. Then, follow a formula:
A. Gratitude. Write down three things you can be grateful for, and why. This could be as simple as your working two legs, a home over your head, and food to eat. Or, you might be grateful for a supportive family, a good job, and a great place to live.
B. Vision. Write about five years in the future. Where are you going to be, and what will that feel like? Shoot high and stay positive. Remember the classic question, “Will what is happening today really matter in five years?” If not, take a deep breath and write out a great story for yourself.
C. Others. There are people out there struggling just like you. That doesn’t make your challenges any less significant: it just means that you are never alone. Write down other people you know who need support and kindness. Give them your full attention and wish them well. (Bonus points for shooting them a text to say hello.)
7. When getting ready for the day, incorporate a cold shower. It doesn’t have to be for the entire time, but when you are ready to get out, turn the nozzle to cold and stand under it for 30-60 seconds.
This activity will jolt your system to provide a rush of energy and adrenaline. Many of those struggling with sluggishness and a foggy mind will appreciate this step.
8. Have the best possible breakfast you can. Make it filling, healthy, and simple to make. Bacon and eggs with juice, a low-sugar fruit smoothie with protein, or almond butter and english muffins can help you jump start the day.
Since most of us work, this time will probably be taken up by other pressing activities. Make sure to maintain a calm, healthy demeanor during this period.
Here are a few activities that you can use to stay balanced:
A. Take two minutes to breathe deeply multiple times a day
B. Listen to nature sounds on your headphones while working
C. Follow a to-do list without getting distracted by less urgent things
D. Stretch and walk around the block multiple times a day
E. Drink only water, tea, and coffee
F. Have a healthy lunch, avoiding bread and sugar
If this is a weekend or you are not working, you must still get out of the house. Go to a coffee shop or a library to read a book, or check off simple errands like dropping off laundry and mowing the lawn. You will feel much better in the evening if you have accomplished something.
Time to close out our mental and physical emergency health tool kit with a few evening activities. Stay strong, this is the home stretch which will cap off your reset and give you the boost you need to keep moving forward!
1. As soon as possible, complete your second fitness activity. Again, you could run, hit the gym, or take a long bike ride. Make sure you open your lungs and work hard. You’re going to sleep well tonight.
You are completing two fitness activities for a few of reasons. First, you want to make sure you are getting the essential endorphin boost that can literally transform your negative emotions on a dime. Doubling up on exercise is the best way to do this, fast.
Second, it’s important that you know, even in your worst of days, you can do much more than you ever thought possible. You don’t have to work out twice a day all the time: but now you know you can.
2. Cook yourself a healthy, filling dinner. You may be tempted to go for junk food or a pizza to make yourself feel better at the end of the day, but it will have the opposite effect.
3. Put away your items and prepare for the next day. This is an essential step, and will make tomorrow much easier. Pick out your outfit, pack a lunch, and write out a detailed to-do list. Make sure your home is organized and ready.
4. Finally, take 10 more minutes of meditation before bed. Deep breathing here will allow you to fall asleep faster, and remove the lingering anxiety that has come on though the day.
Depending on how burnt out you feel, you might want to repeat this toolkit a few days in a row! If you stay positive and trust this process, you should feel significantly better than you did yesterday. Just keep moving, and learn to enjoy the constant struggle that is life.
“Without a struggle, there can be no progress.” – Frederick Douglass
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