When I graduated college a few (OK, a little more than a few) years ago, I suddenly found myself plunged into adulthood with no direction. Up until that point, every step in my life had been laid out for me. But now, the next steps were up to me and I had no clue where to go. I started just going through the motions and hoped to fake it ‘til I made it, but it didn’t take long for that plan to completely fall apart. The days grew monotonous, I had no idea what I was doing with my life, and I started becoming incredibly anxious about the future. I overthought every decision and let my mind run away with my deepest fears. I started trying to control every aspect of my life, even though I knew deep down that was a fool’s mission. My mental health had truly never been worse—I just didn’t realize I was on a downward spiral until I was already fully in it.
When I finally realized what was happening, it took a ton of work to get out of it. But now, I’m in a better place than I ever was before and know exactly what I need to do if I ever catch those anxious thoughts and feelings worming their way back into my mind. The key to keeping my mental health where it needs to be is consistency, but I’m not about elaborate routines that I have to build my entire life around. Instead, I focus on five simple things to make sure I prioritize my mental health on a daily basis. This is what works for me:
1. Stick to my treatment plan
I know I’m not alone in this, but I used to feel a ton of shame talking about my anxiety. I hid the fact that I went to therapy and heaven forbid anyone knew I was taking medication to help with it. But truthfully, there’s no shame in putting your mental health first. Now, I’ll be the first to recommend someone seek therapy and will happily share my experience with SSRIs (common medications used for anxiety and depression) with anyone wondering or curious. This kind of treatment only works if you stick to it, and having worked with my doctor to figure out what’s best for me, I’m now settled into a medication that actually eases my anxiety. To make it super easy for myself, I leave my prescription right on my desk so I never forget to take it in the morning. For anyone hoping to do the same, I recommend turning to Hers, a one-stop solution for all of your personalized mental health needs.
When I first started on this journey, I had to go to a bunch of different doctors for various parts of the process: the initial referral, the prescription, talk therapy. It was so much to juggle while also not being in the best place mentally. I love that Hers offers personalized anxiety and depression treatment plans that include both counseling and prescriptions—all online. With Hers, hours spent on the phone trying to find an in-network provider and driving all over town to pick up prescriptions or sit in waiting rooms are a thing of the past. Access to care is a huge barrier when it comes to seeking help; Hers makes it so easy by providing patients treatment plans that work with their needs and schedule rather than the other way around.
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2. Move my body
I have terrible news: Exercising regularly is good for your mental health. Prior to beginning therapy, I didn’t really have an exercise routine. Sure, I would work out here and there, but I was one of those lifelong athletes who suddenly didn’t have a clue how to stay in shape after quitting sports. When my therapist recommended I try to get a routine going, it gave me the push I needed to finally do it. I knew my body needed it physically, and setting aside the fact that exercising produces endorphins, which, thanks to Elle Woods, we know make people happy, my therapist provided this logical explanation: When you’re exercising, you can’t really focus on anything else, and afterwards, you’re too tired to.
I try to work out at least four days a week and absolutely notice a difference in my mental health when I fall off this routine. Whenever I’m feeling particularly down or anxious, even just a little bit of movement is enough to make me start to feel better. And sticking to a consistent routine has allowed me to manage my anxiety so much better overall.
3. Take a sleep supplement
One of the biggest ways my anxiety affects my daily life is in my sleep. To put it simply, I don’t sleep well. No matter what time I go to bed, I always find myself struggling to fall asleep and instead just chill with nothing but my thoughts for company. In addition to a strict wind-down routine (I’m talking skincare, no phone, a good book), taking a sleep supplement is a crucial part of lulling me to a restful sleep. I usually take a simple melatonin gummy I get from the drugstore, but I have recently tried Equilibria’s CBD sleep gummies and am a true convert. They help me relieve any lingering stress and fall into a gentle sleep—but they’re not so strong that I’m super groggy in the morning.
4. Get out of bed right when the alarm goes off
This is probably the hardest adjustment I’ve made to my daily routine, but the payoff has been huge. As someone who loves a good nap and looks forward to bedtime every single day, I relish the opportunity to hit snooze and steal a few extra minutes of sleep. Sometimes, I’d even hit snooze until the minute before I needed to be logged on for work, roll out of bed without properly waking up, and get right to work. Unfortunately for my sleep-loving self, that’s not sustainable and those few extra minutes of sleep actually make me feel worse rather than more rested. When I started foregoing the snooze button (one of the hardest breakups of my life, TBH) and getting out of bed right when my alarm went off, I found myself feeling more energized after going through my morning routine, allowing my mind and body to wake up, and then getting to work. On days I sleep in a little too late, I’m sluggish, irritable, and simply not my best self.
5. Take breaks from work
Repeat after me: “I do not have to be glued to my monitor for eight straight hours every single day.” This one became absolutely crucial when I started working from home. It became so easy to sit at my desk for hours at a time without getting up to go anywhere. I didn’t have coworkers to chat with, have to head to a conference room for meetings, or go out to lunch—all things that used to be part of my daily life. Since I started working from home full time, it’s just me, my desk, and my computer for eight hours a day. The “bed to desk to couch and back to bed” cycle was so real and allowed me essentially no time to actually de-stress throughout the day. To help combat this, I try to take a few-minute brain break from the screen every hour or so. And I don’t mean I look away from my laptop and scroll on TikTok for a few minutes. I’m talking about a real break. Whether I stretch for a couple of minutes, play a quick game of fetch with one of my dogs, or go for a walk, I try to give my brain short breaks throughout the day to keep stress and anxiety at bay.
This post contains a sponsored inclusion of Hers, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board.