Erica Chats: Give Yourself a Mental Makeover

Hit the reset button on your brain with Erica’s advice for clearing the mental clutter.

A new year means it’s the perfect time to reset our minds and start 2024 on sturdy ground. A healthy mind is essential for overall well-being, and I’ve found several ways to boost mental clarity and mood. Give them a try and make 2024 YOUR year!

PRACTICE MINDFULNESS: Mindfulness is being fully present in the moment and paying attention to your thoughts and feelings without judgment. I know it may sound silly, but being truly aware of your thoughts is key. Engaging in mindfulness meditation or simply taking a few moments each day to focus on your breath can help calm your mind and reduce stress and anxiety. Many experts suggest counting backward in a moment of stress. 5…4…3…2…1…repeat. It takes your mind off the current situation and helps you step out of the stress spiral.

WORK WITH YOUR BREATH: Deep breathing exercises can calm the nervous system and reduce stress. Incorporate simple breathing techniques, like diaphragmatic breathing or box breathing, to promote relaxation and mental clarity. I used to think this was weird, but it works in a moment of difficulty.

UNPLUG FROM TECHNOLOGY: This is hard! All of us are addicted to our phones, but the constant exposure to screens and digital devices overwhelms our minds. Hence the reason it takes forever to fall asleep because we’re scrolling TikTok. Take time to unplug, whether it’s setting aside an hour each day for phone-free time or doing a full digital detox over the weekend.

Again, breaking the tech addiction is HARD, but eventually you will get used to it. Many of us reach for our phones first thing in the morning. Try to get in the routine of enjoying your coffee in silence, journaling, or using this time to pray or meditate. This helps set the intention for your day!

Exercising in nature with your friends — the ultimate mood boost!

PRIORITIZE SLEEP: Quality sleep is crucial for mental clarity and overall well-being. Give your brain a boost by establishing a healthy sleep routine, ensuring you get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Does that much shut-eye seem like a distant dream? Move healthy sleep habits to the top of your todo list and see how much better you feel.

When I improved my sleep habits, everything changed. I lost weight, I wasn’t as irritable, and my skin got better. I didn’t realize the wear and tear on my body from only sleeping a few hours a night for many years.

GET ACTIVE: Engaging in regular physical activity releases endorphins, which are natural mood lifters. Whether it’s a brisk walk, yoga, dancing, hitting the gym, or running around the park with your kids, get moving!

OBSERVE GRATITUDE: Reflecting on the things you are grateful for can shift your mindset from a state of lack to abundance. I’m a firm believer in expressing gratitude and putting out positivity because it comes back to you. And yes, life is hard and filled with struggles of all types — but it’s also full of things to be grateful for.

Start a gratitude journal and write down three things you are grateful for each day. Small things matter! This simple practice can help train your mind to focus on the positive aspects of your life. It works!

CONNECT WITH NATURE: Spending time in nature has been shown to have a calming effect on the mind. Whether it’s a hike in the mountains, a day at the beach, or simply sitting in a park, make time to connect with the natural world. It provides a sense of peace and tranquility.

A change of scenery is big for me. Sometimes I’ll book a night at the Grandover Resort in Greensboro or a day trip to Wilmington to just sit by the ocean waves. It’s calming! We like to throw a dart and randomly select a new zip code and try a new restaurant or activity.

SEEK NEW LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES: Engaging in lifelong learning and exploring new interests can stimulate the mind and ignite a sense of curiosity and passion. Whether it’s learning a new language, taking up a creative hobby, or enrolling in a course, new learning opportunities can inspire personal growth.

LEAN ON PROFESSIONALS: If you find yourself struggling to reset your mind on your own, don’t hesitate to seek professional support. A therapist or counselor can provide invaluable guidance and support as you work to reframe your mindset. There are also wonderful life coaches like my girlfriend Laura Reichert, founder of Triangle Life Coaching Academy. She worked with me for years to recognize things I kept getting stuck on.

Grateful! Erica takes time to appreciate the positive aspects of life.

CLEAR THE CLUTTER: A cluttered environment can contribute to feelings of overwhelm and unease. Take the time to organize your belongings and streamline your living and work spaces. Make sure everything has a place. That way when the kids throw their shoes and backpacks down in the middle of the kitchen floor, you can remind them, there’s a place for that.

My husband is rolling his eyes reading this because I have a long way to go to clear out the closets in our house. It’s OK to be a work in progress!

PRACTICE SELF-COMPASSION: Be kind to yourself as you work to reset your mind. Self-compassion involves treating yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would offer to a friend. Practice self-care, self-acceptance, and self-forgiveness.

I often would speak negatively in a joking manner about myself. I still do on occasion because it’s my personality, but I’ve cut back a lot because my subconscious absorbs that negativity. Remind yourself: You are amazing!

SET INTENTIONS AND GOALS: Having a sense of purpose and direction can help provide motivation and clarity. Start by reflecting on what you hope to achieve and how you want to grow personally and professionally in the coming year. Make a vision board! Put your goals on paper and think about them as if they’ve already happened.

BUILD POSITIVE RELATIONSHIPS: Supportive relationships are crucial for mental well-being. Take the time to nurture healthy connections with friends, family, or others in your support network. And know it is OK to chop those who are sucking the life out of you. Sometimes you must take a pause from people so you can be your best self.

LIMIT NEGATIVE INFLUENCES: Pay attention to the media, social media, and other sources of information that may be contributing to negativity and stress, and cut down your exposure where you can.

By incorporating these healthy ways to reset your mind, you are setting yourself on the right track to a fulfilling 2024. Self-improvement is an ongoing process, and it’s important to be consistent in your efforts and patient with your struggles. If you ever feel stuck, need advice, or want an ear to listen, reach out! It takes a village! @EricaDeLong

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