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September 3, 2020

Be Kind to Yourself

Eleven simple steps to chase away the blues

1. Cultivate a daily routine

Travelling may call for spontaneity and having fun but keeping your spirits up can in itself be tiring sometimes. Achieving simple tasks such as getting out of bed to see a new city, showering, or even eating can become daunting. I find building in an element of predictability, such as a schedule and a little routine can avoid things form feeling overwhelming and my mood becoming low.

A great trick to get you up and moving is planning a comfortable; sustainable daily routine, which you can incorporate when travelling or not. For instance, you can consciously decide every morning; to take part in a few minutes of regulated deep breathing, thinking only about the sound of your breath as you are breathing in and out. Add three or four light yoga stretches to wake up your muscles, even while still in bed, stretch hard in a few directions, feel your body tension release and become a little more mobile. Then simply drink a glass of water to rehydrate after your sleeping before having your shower.

No matter how little this seems, they can be surprisingly useful to your wellness, and if repeat them, they evolve into habits and the eventually a natural behaviour. These types of simple habits reduces the needless stress of worrying about what you need to do and giving your brain the relaxing feeling of some sense of control.

2. Be active and move your body

It is a well-known fact that exercise is good for the body. When your mood is low the last thing on your mind is exercise, more so when in unfamiliar territories. But engaging your body in different activities has been proven to have a considerable positive impact on mood that go far beyond placebo. How does this work?

Depression is characterised by an imbalance of the hormones like dopamine, and serotonin, which are responsible for the happiness, and feeling of wellness we get when we’re ecstatic. When you engage your body in physical activities, your brain releases these much-needed happy hormones.

So as counterintuitive as it may sound, if your mood is low, you need to get your body moving. It need not be high-intensity exercises like running or boxing, which I personally dread. Something as simple as going for a 5 min brisk walk around your accommodation or taking the stairs instead of the elevator, is sufficient. Whatever you chose is completely up to you, but get your body moving daily. Starting small is the key and then build your way up as your energy levels and motivation increases.

3. Get a dose of vitamin sunshine

Sunlight has immense power. It is the reason why some countries that undergo winter seasons report seasonal depression because of lack of sunshine. So, what role does the sun play in a human’s well-being? The sun affects us in many ways but if we split it down there are essentially two main reasons; The most obvious and famed one is what’s referred to as the “sunshine vitamin.”

When you expose your skin to the sun, the UVB radiation from the sun turns cholesterol from the skin’s surface into Vitamin D. This vital vitamin performs immeasurable tasks in the body, one of them being, it assists in regulating hormones such as testosterone, which affects the mood in both men and women.

Second, the sun sets the body’s circadian rhythm, also known as body rhythm, which is essential for better sleep patterns. It sets you up to feel tired at the right time and energised at the right time. Humans need this natural light for their bodies to correctly function so if you can’t make it outside to the park or the beach, consider opening up blinds in your hotel room every morning and sitting out for breakfast for your tea to get in some much-needed sun time.

4. Eat healthily

So even though you’re travelling, you need to remain conscious of what goes into your body. For instance, instead of ordering that English breakfast for every breakfast, swap it for some Greek yoghurt, muesli, and some fruits. The adage “you are what you eat” has never been more accurate. What you eat affects your brain and every part of your body.

If you were to open up your brain, biologically its nutritional content is fats, protein, traces of micronutrients and glucose.

All these elements work together to influence your brain’s capability to function and the mood you feel. Eating regular healthy meals filled with green leafy vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats, and carbohydrates is essential for your brain and body as a whole. The leading nutrient being essentially fatty acids and amino acids as they have an immediate effect on how neurotransmitters function. Unfortunately, our bodies do not produce fatty acids on their own, which is why we’re required to get them from other sources, i.e. fish, meat, or consequently, is advisable to get them as supplements on hand to ensure you have your daily dosage.

5. Stay away from drugs and alcohol

Some people turn to recreational drugs or alcohol when they’re feeling depressed, low or lonely. But if there is one thing that all mental health specialists agree on is that you should avoid alcohol and drugs, particularly when on prescribed medication as it can interact with the medicines leading to grave consequences.

The brain is one of the most complex organs in the human body. It can be likened to the central processing unit in computers. It is where all other body functions receive instructions on what to do. Treat it well, feed it correctly and moods can stabilize. Slowly you can take more conscious control of how fast you take the turns on your personal roller coaster ride.

When your mood is low taking intoxicants can be mind-altering, i.e. target the brain, so when you introduce them to the mind, you further infringe its coping process, which makes you ebb into an even lower mood. It is more so the case with alcohol as it is, literally, a depressant. Other drugs may give you a sudden, explosive spike in your euphoric neurotransmitters but when they wane out, you will be entirely depleted, drained and end up feeling worse than you were initially. Therefore, drugs and alcohol are not your allies in this fight.

6. Get under the sheets if you can!

Sex is an escape from the stresses of everyday life. Although sex is not a cure, sex can lead to the release of hormones and chemicals that can temporarily reduce symptoms of depression. These hormones include dopamine, endorphins, and oxytocin which can improve mood, increase compassion, and your general wellbeing.

While the levels of those chemicals increase with sex, the level of cortisol, the primary stress hormone, also lowers with sex: more sex, less stress. In short sex is good for the brain, although I wouldn’t use that as your latest chat up line.

7. Hit the Snooze Button

Most times, when your feeling low, if you trace your patterns, one of the primary things you lack is often proper sleep or rest. Have you been working all day? Are you an entrepreneur or a digital nomad who cannot stay off the phone or laptop?

Remember that absence of proper sleep can be a herald of bringing you down. Insufficient amount of sleep profoundly affects your body and brain function. Compound this with when you are low, negative thoughts stubbornly linger occupying your mind for prolonged period and prevent sleep. Steps 1-6 will help you stabilize your sleep patterns.

Good sleep, 7 to 8 hours per day on average, leaves you well rested and able to function optimally. To increase your chances of getting better sleep avoid the use of electronic gadgets at least one hour before bed and be active enough to get tired enough to sleep. Remember listen to your body, rest when you’re tired.

8. Talk About It

It is not easy to talk about your feelings especially if you’re feeling low, depressed or not your best. It’s especially true for men who are not expected to talk about their feelings for the belief that feelings emasculate them. They are taught from a young age that emotions are not manly, with words such as, “man up,” or “stop being a girl.”…….what a load of nonsense!!!

In my experience, it is better to talk about it than keep it a secret to yourself. Secrets will eat you up! No need to shout it out to the whole world. Choose a friend you trust: your friends, family, or professionals. And thanks to technology, they are only a call, a message, or a Skype away. Get on the phone!

There are therapeutic benefits to letting it all out. Close friends care, they may not completely understand but they care and if they are not within your reach, journal and write it all down; how you feel, everything, just let it all out. Are you an influencer with an audience or a regular social media user? Talk about your experience on your platform. Your thoughts can help others

9. Be Kind To Yourself

The most important tip is to remember to shower yourself with some self-love and compassion.

Think about it the same way you would treat your best friend or a loved one. Would you criticise them or make them feel bad if they had low mood? No, you would treat them with love and compassion. Treat yourself with that same love and compassion. Try to remind yourself you are worthy, beautiful and empowered.

10. Know When to Seek Professional Help

Although it might be hard, you need to own your reality and recognise that sometimes low mood can become depression which is an illness. Remember what you’re going through is temporary, and you cannot just simply get over it or adjust your attitude towards life to see the glass half full. That’s not how it works. Accept it like any other sickness, seek professional help and if you already have, take each day as it comes.

11. Take it with strides

Lastly, remember life is a journey filled with ups and downs. Some of the downs can even be depressive episodes, which many experience. Remember, you are not alone, so try not to be hard on yourself when everything doesn’t go as planned on your trip. No matter how far you are from home, using these strategies can get you going through those tough times so that you can enjoy your journey again.

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