When it comes to self-care, many of us already know that activities like meditation, yoga, and exercise can benefit our mental health. But not everyone enjoys getting into down dog, and you might be searching for other ways to improve your emotional wellbeing. Thankfully, there are plenty of other off-beat mental health tips that therapists like to give their patients, and one of these unsuspecting tips might actually work out better for you when it comes to fighting off issues such as stress, anxiety, and depression.
“I always begin with personalizing self-care,” DeAnna Jordan, clinical director at New Method Wellness, tells Bustle. “Whatever self-care means to you, is the most important ‘tip.’ If going to the gym does not feel good to you, but dancing around your apartment is amazing, then the obvious answer is 30 minutes a day of dancing around the apartment. Take some time to figure out which activities bring you joy and try to practice them daily.”
We don’t all have to be zen yogis who journal daily and take warm bubble baths. Sometimes taking care of your mental health can come in some totally bizarre forms. Here are eight off-beat mental health tips therapists like to give their patients.
It might sound odd, but pick a designated time of day to think about your problems. “If you worry too much, you aren’t worrying well,” psychotherapist Dr. Nicki Nance tells Bustle. “Dedicate 45 minutes a day to doing nothing but worrying. Either write about your worries during that time or take a walk and worry away. When worries strike you throughout the day, postpone them to your dedicated worry time.”
Humor can be a powerful tool. “Laughter (as a physical experience) can have multiple health impacts such as reducing pain, lowering blood pressure, and increasing the immune system,” clinical psychologist Steven M. Sultanoff, PhD, tells Bustle. “Of course it also physically feels good.” Whether it’s watching a funny movie, or spending time with friends who always manage to make you laugh, find ways to incorporate more humor into your life.
“I’m strongly influenced by Chinese Medicine, and anxiety symptoms relate to a weakening of the kidney meridian in Chinese Medicine,” psychotherapist Annette Poizner, MSW, Ed.D., RSW tells Bustle. According to this philosophy, anxiety is worsened when the kidney is strained by cold weather. “I tell clients don’t let the body get cold,” she says. “If wearing battery-heated socks in the winter helps, why not?”
Breathing in a controlled manner can help with stress reduction by resetting the autonomic nervous system. Deep breaths are great, but you can also practice a technique called “4, 7, 8 breathing.” “You start by exhaling fully, then breath in through your nose for a silent count of four, hold your breath for a count of seven, then exhale forcefully through the mouth for a count of eight,” integrative nutrition therapist Tina Marinaccio MS RD CPT, tells Bustle. “Not only does this slow heart rate, and decrease anxiety, but it can be done anytime, anywhere, even sitting in traffic.”
Licensed professional counselor Jill Howell MA, ATR-BC, LPC likes teach her patients to “brush off” their stress — literally. “Starting at the top of your head, use your palms to brush off any negative thoughts or feelings,” says Howell. Work your way down your shoulders to your arms and torso, all the way down your body. “While you do this, imagine that you are brushing off your stress and any negative energy that is surrounding you,” she says. “Wiggle a little, maybe jump up and down some.”
Becoming aware of your body can be really grounding. “Many of our emotional experiences are expressed physically, and we may find ourselves disconnecting from our bodies to cope,” licensed clinical psychotherapist Laura Federico MS, LCSW tells Bustle. “When you notice that you are feeling separate from your body, start at your feet and work your way up, and check in with each part of your body briefly. Thank each part of your body for how it’s helped you so far in your day.”
When working through a challenging emotional moment, Federico suggests using visualization to help. “Imagine releasing difficult energy and experiences from yourself using color to represent the emotion you are feeling,” she says. “Take a few minutes when feeling overwhelmed to use your imagination to connect with your emotions.”
Although they may be odd, these atypical pieces of advice from therapists may be what works best for you.