words Alexa Wang
Everyone deals with their mental health differently. There are various reasons why our mental health may be affected positively or negatively. Positive impacts can be relationships, acknowledgments for job performance, career advancement, or other achievements. Negative impacts can stem from external factors such as financial or environmental stress, such as the pandemic which has affected almost every person.
Some seek out professional help. Others seek out personal solutions to find healthy ways to mitigate the stress that can impact mental health. The key to improving mental health is recognizing the importance of daily habits that can be built upon to enhance moods and increase our quality of life.
Why Regulating Mental Health Is Important
Our mental health has important effects on many different aspects of our lives. Relationships, careers, motivation, energy, sexual desire, self-esteem, and self-image can all be affected by mental health. Most importantly, our mental health impacts ourselves and everyone we interact with and are involved in our lives.
Get Adequate Sleep
Sleep is often the first thing sacrificed when we are dealing with stressful situations. This action is counterintuitive because rest does various things to benefit the body. For example, sleep helps the body and brain recover and repair itself, elevates moods, and lowers blood pressure and heart rates. In general, it’s thought that an adult should sleep 7-9 hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep a night. Avoid sugars, alcohol, and caffeine 4 hours before you plan on sleeping to allow your body the best rest possible.
Eating the correct type of nutrition fuels the brain and body, providing enough energy to perform critical functions throughout the day. Additionally, some foods are known to alleviate stress, enhance the immune system, and regulate other negative emotions. A balanced diet high in fruits and vegetables avoids fats, sugars, and salts. Taking plenty of water is the best practice for healthy eating.
Getting regular exercise helps strengthen the skeletal-muscular system and enhance the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. One hidden benefit to regular exercise is that the brain releases powerful mood-enhancing neurochemicals that help regulate moods.
“Box breathing” is a practice of slow-breathing that reduces anxiety in the body caused by high-stress situations. It is a mindfulness technique taught and practiced by the US Navy Seals to calm themselves in challenging, stressful situations.
How to practice box breathing: The practice of box breathing is simple. It’s a process of slow breathing, holding it, exhaling, and holding it again for four seconds each time.
- Inhale slowly counting to four.
- Hold your breath for another count to four.
- Exhale slowly, counting to four.
- Hold the remaining breath in your lungs, counting to four.
Repeat the process for up to 2 minutes or until you feel yourself become calmer and more relaxed.
How does box breathing work? Box breathing is a type of slow breathing technique that helps the body become more relaxed by calming your autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system comprises two parts: the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems.
The sympathetic system is the part of your nervous system that stimulates the body in stressful situations and creates a fight or flight response to stress. For example, higher blood pressure and heart rate are byproducts of the sympathetic system. The parasympathetic system is the part of the nervous system that aids digestion and relaxation. An example of the parasympathetic system is lower heart rate, easier breathing patterns, and a calmer demeanor.
The process of box breathing as a slow-breathing practice works by increasing the amount of CO2 in the body. This increase is caused by holding your breath, which causes the rise of CO2 in the bloodstream. Increased CO2 in the bloodstream enhances the cardioinhibitory response, lowering the heart rate. As a result, the relaxed state that is caused by the parasympathetic system creates a calming effect in the body.
This breathing technique has proven to work for high-stress environments experienced by the US Navy Seals and can help others dealing with anxiety and stress from various situations. For example, a person that suffers in claustrophobic cases, box breathing can create a calm, relaxed state when confronted by the harmful stimulus of being confined in small areas.
A combination of daily exercise, eating well, getting adequate sleep, and practicing mindfulness will help you strengthen and maintain your mental health daily. In some instances, may consider professional help.