Making Space for Mental Health + Mindful Eating
Updated: Jan 7, 2022
I took a little trip this weekend and took some time away from my phone. I know I spend too much time looking at a screen most days, so it was a nice change for me to be in nature, read actual paper books and meditate.
Working from home has me feeling like I need to be available 24/7 so I’m trying to create a little more balance in my day-to-day life with it. When we think about health, it's easy to focus on our food and exercise but forget to take care of our holistic wellness, including mental health. I'm guilty of this myself, especially with a job that requires me to be in front of the computer most of the day.
How do you know if your relationship with your phone or social media is impacting your mental health? It can be harder than you think to identify when it's a part of your routine but if you find yourself feeling more burnt out, it might be time to take a pause. I recommend checking out your screen time report - it might be surprising to see how many hours a day you're logging and where that time is spent.
If you feel like you need to create some better boundaries around this, here are some of the ways I manage this:
No phones in the bedroom. I put my phone down 30 minutes before bedtime and don’t pick it up again. Also, I leave it in another room so it’s not the first thing I look at when I wake up, which allows me a hot minute to get grounded before the stressors of the day creep in.
Time limits on certain apps - Hey, we're all guilty of mindless scrolling. You can set limits for groupings of apps and will get a reminder when you’re approaching this timeline for the day. This has really helped me be more conscious of where I’m spending my time. I think you’ll be surprised how much time you spend without realizing it.
Daily Meditation - I’ve always wanted to be the person who meditated consistently and have struggled to make it happen. This year it seemed more important than ever so I’ve doubled down on this commitment. I found an app that works for me - Balance - and schedule it. I put it in my personal and work calendars and set a reminder on phone so I don’t forget. I don’t get to make it work every single day but I do it a lot more consistently with these reminders in place.
Get outside - I know not everyone has the ability to do this in their workday but it makes a huge difference. Even if it’s 5 or 10 minutes, breath some fresh air, move your body and you’ll feel the reset, I promise.
Manage expectations - If you have set a precedent for always being available, it can create a cycle of guilt if you miss something or have a delayed response. Once you clarify when you're available and start sticking to it, people will start to respect those boundaries and you can get back some much-needed mental space from work and screen time.
Lead by example - If you want to have space away from your device, you have to be mindful of holding space for others to do the same. Don't expect a co-worker to get back to you at an odd hour and consider what's really an emergency. Can this email or chat wait until business hours?
Eat mindfully - Your gut is regulated by your central nervous system and when your body is stressed, it can slow things down, reducing the absorption of nutrients, and increasing heartburn, indigestion, and bloating. Taking the time focus on the food you're eating means you create space in your body for digestion and calm.
Mindful Eating Exercise
So how do we eat mindfully? What is the special formula? Well, there isn't just one answer because EVERYONE is different! But there are some basic general steps you can think about when sitting down for a meal, yes that’s right, I said sitting- not standing or driving.
Find a quiet place without distractions- if you can control distractions, do so. This might be turning off the TV, putting your phone away, and sitting down at the table.
Try to make sure your meal looks appetizing. I don't expect you to be a food styler, but add some color, or arrange it in a fun way so that it looks appetizing. Maybe even put it on a special plate and use a fancy cup.
Take a few deep breaths. Times are stressful, I get it, especially if you're rushing in the morning or fitting lunch in between meetings. Give yourself a few moments to just be there and take a few belly breaths before taking your first bite.
Eat slowly and think about how your food tastes, smells, and feels.
Put the fork down once in a while. This will allow you to taste your food more and be more mindful about what you are eating. Finish chewing your food and swallow before taking another bite.
Try to take at least 10 minutes to finish your meal- ideally 15-20, but I'm trying to be realistic.
As important as nutrition & exercise are, if you’re doing them at the expense of your mental health, you aren’t going to get anywhere. Rather, think about your wellness and health goals as a pie, where nutrition & movement are big pieces but are equally as important as water, sleep, and mental health.
What are some ways you find to carve out space for yourself away from the screen? Do you have any tips and tricks that work for you?