The Useful 8: This New Yr, resolve to strengthen your thoughts to deal with stress

Every New Year Americans are known to renew their promises to lose pounds and tone muscles, but some health experts say finding ways to strengthen our mental health is as important as getting our bodies in shape.

“Stress can affect job performance, productivity, communication and other aspects of working life,” said Gina McDonald, senior health coach at Capital Blue Cross.

There are ways to get the mind in shape to help meet these mental health challenges, she added.

For example, McDonald and colleagues on the Health, Promotion and Wellness team at Capital Blue Cross are offering employer groups a presentation entitled “Basics of the Healthy Mind” – simple, scientifically based suggestions on how to strengthen the mind to better deal with stress and anxiety.

“Think of it as a balanced ‘diet’ for mental health,” said McDonald. “There are ways to feed your mind nutrients that will improve your brain health. These are things that anyone can do and that any employer can support in the workplace to help employees cope with stress. “

While the list is not exhaustive, McDonald cited eight activities that can help strengthen the mind and lower stress levels.

  • Focus: Spend time each day on a special challenge that involves focus or stimulation. For example, prepare for a big presentation, lead a meeting, or plan an upcoming vacation event.
  • Play: Participate in hobbies and new experiences.
  • Connect: Take the time to reach your inner circle to keep the connections consistent.
  • Exercise: move your body to increase your heart rate. Do 150 minutes of moderate activity per week.
  • Reflecting: Meditating in a quiet, calm place, even for five minutes, can help relieve stress.
  • Gratitude: Find a healthy way to express gratitude, such as journaling, writing thank you letters, or thinking about people who have inspired you. Studies have shown that gratitude makes us happier and more satisfied by changing neural structures in the brain.
  • Relax: downtime matters. Let your mind wander, be it watching TV or a movie, scrolling your smartphone or reading a book. Take some time to relax.
  • Sleep: Try for seven to nine hours every night. This is the time for the brain to rest and recover.

“Pay attention to where your mental health diet may need more attention and where it is very supportive of you each day,” said McDonald. “Just as our body needs nutrients every day to thrive, so does our mind.”

More information about Capital Blue Cross can be found at

This column is sponsored by Capital Blue Cross.

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