January 27, 2021
by Katie Wojtalewicz, Psy.D, LP

Imagine you are in a tug-of-war with a monster who represents all of your anxieties and bad feelings. You are on opposite cliffs. Between you is a bottomless drop off. You strategize. If you pull hard, the monster can fall into the abyss. If you pull too hard, the monster may jump the abyss and attack you. If you don’t pull hard enough, you could end up in the abyss.

Is there another option? Yes. Let go of the rope. Our first tendency is to solve the problem, but sometimes our job is to let go of the rope. This can be a very freeing feeling.

This brain exercise can help us envision those bad feelings, anxieties and worries that we are hanging onto. You can also use this exercise in situations that arise in your daily life. Ask yourself is this a situation where I can drop the rope?

A new year is a good time to think about what you can let go of in your life. This is not to say you are giving up, but you are willfully accepting things that are outside of your control.

So now let’s move on to the things you can control. “The Brain Bible,” by John Arden, PhD, offers an excellent acronym – SEEDS – to achieve well-being and promote good mental health.

S – Social support: Isolation and loneliness affects the brain and accelerates aging. Social interaction promotes a sense of safety, belonging and security. Socializing actually decreases stress hormones. While socializing may still mean phone calls, Facetime and virtual get-togethers in the short-term, keep reaching out.

E-Exercise: When you exercise, the body releases endorphins which can help reduce your risk for depression and anxiety. A brisk walk can both lift your mood while relaxing and calming you.   

E – Education: Learning new things or picking up a new hobby can keep your mind and body active. You can expand your knowledge, gain new experiences and train your brain to handle new challenges.

D – Diet: Eat well and move away from fatty foods, simple carbohydrates such as sugar, bread and baked goods made with white flour, soda and sugary beverages. Add more fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and nuts into your meals and snacks.  

S – Sleep: Make sleep a priority in your life. Practice good sleep hygiene such as going to bed at the same time each night, making sure your bedroom is quiet and relaxing with the absence of electronic devices such as a TV. Sleep is key to managing our moods and helping us think more clearly.

You can turn SEEDS into a plan by breaking it down. We tend to overshoot and give up when it comes to making resolutions. Instead set small, realistic goals to get to where you want to go. For instance, set goals to call someone every day, go for a walk 3 times a week, add a fruit or vegetable to your lunch, knit a scarf in February, and enjoy the sweet comfort of your bedroom.

Here’s to focusing on what’s in our control.