Because mental hygiene is just as important as your physical hygiene
Change is perhaps one of the few things that cause dread and excitement at the same time, be it as simple as changing work stations or switching careers. We all worry about what could’ve been, saying goodbye to what’s familiar and longing for what was. Change sometimes comes with a salvo of negative thoughts that can cause panic and maybe even physical pain.
So go ahead and acknowledge those feelings and then stop right there. It’s time for a mental floss or “to remove harmful mental plaque from one’s brain.” Yes, it’s exactly like flossing your teeth; because your mental hygiene is just as important as your dental and physical hygiene (not that they’re the same, but you get the point).
Mental hygiene is a real science and “refers to keeping oneself and one’s living and working areas neat and clean in order to prevent illness and disease.” It affects how people think, feel and act, and determines our capacity to handle stress, relate to others and make everyday choices. Think of it this way, those destructive, negative thoughts you harbor are probably preventing you from making smart(er) decisions and performing your absolute best, whether at home or in the work place. In the book The Time Bandit Solution: Recovering Stolen Time You Never Knew You Had by Edward G. Brown, the author shares strategies by which you can fill your mind with positive affirmations and confidence boosters, so you can be ready for whatever life throws at you. Here are some below:
Acceptance is not the same as giving up.
There are external or physical factors we cannot change about the world or ourselves, and we are often told, if not taught, to accept them. Brown agrees but does so graciously. In his book, the author talks about his dream of playing center in the NBA but was too short. Instead of exploring other options within the same field, like say playing forward or guard, he gave up on the dream. Later, he realized that if he had constructively accepted his limitations, a career in the NBA would not have been impossible.
Visualization is important.
When I work on presentations for my job or potential clients, I think about all the questions people in the room might ask and make sure the answers are readily available on the deck itself or are jotted down on Stickies. Yet, I choke in some presentations and do well in others. Maybe it wasn’t my day or maybe Brown was right. I need to picture myself coming out of a presentation or predicament successfully. Doing so allows me to inhabit my ideal self as I go through the motions—conflict and challenges included. He also stresses that visualizing one’s success, whatever that means for you, should not be limited to work or for big events; it should be a daily habit.
Replace the negative with the positive.
We’ve been taught that the way to kick a habit is to rip off that band aid or to quit cold turkey. But per Brown, in order to truly change a negative behavior, it has to be replaced with something positive. Let’s say you’re going on a date with someone you met on Tinder. It’s natural to feel nervous about meeting a potential boyfriend/ girlfriend/ partner for the very first time. But maybe, instead of psyching yourself out, focus on getting to know this person and asking him or her meaningful questions. If you take this experience as something to learn from, the outcome will never be negative.
Other than Brown’s suggestions, we’ve found that meditation, which could be as simple as taking deep breaths, and using affirmations, like “I am stable, grounded and relaxed in this moment” for when you’re feeling anxious or having trouble making decisions, help, too. The power of a good night’s rest should never be underestimated either; sometimes, all you need to do is to sleep if off, especially when you’re starting to feel overwhelmed. Oh, and get off social media from time to time. You already know it’s damaging your mental health.
So how about giving that mental floss a try tonight or first in the morning? Really take the time to face your thoughts and give your head a good clean. It might just be the change you need to help get your sh*t together.
Art Alexandra Lara