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Mental Health

Stressed, Burned Out, and Tired of Trying? Mental Health Experts Offer Guidance

Whether you’re facing a specific setback or life has thrown you several curveballs, you can’t live without addressing the issues. Here, our mental health experts offer their guidance, and reveal how to overcome hardships with confidence.

It’s okay to feel bad.

Mental health guidance tip number one: The first thing to do when trying to pick yourself back up after a slip-up is to let yourself feel bad.

“How do we reach the light at the end of the tunnel? Not by grasping at the light, but by learning to see in the dark,” says psychologist Susan David, PhD, author of Emotional Agility (Buy from Amazon, $14.99).

That doesn’t mean languishing in negativity; rather, it’s accepting our feelings without self-judgment. “Once we admit a setback hurts, we feel less stuck and more motivated.”

Get specific.

“We tend to use broad brushstrokes to describe our emotions, like, ‘I’m stressed’ or, ‘I’m burned out,’” says David. But getting specific helps us recover faster. “For example, rather than say, ‘I hate my job,’ pinpoint what makes you feel this way — you might say, ‘I feel unsupported at work.’ This helps you visualize what you need.”

Be kind to yourself.

The most resilient folks are the most self-compassionate, observes Karen Salmansohn, author of The Bounce Back Book (Buy from Amazon, $12.95). “This means having the courage to allow yourself time to recover from a setback.”

When Salmansohn was getting over a difficult breakup, she took out a blank journal and wrote a “12-month healing plan.” “I jotted down activities like reading and taking walks,” she explains.

Putting it down on paper is like making a contract with yourself that ensures you commit to self care: “As the weeks pass, this new habit will be automatic.”

Savor your victories.

Before you fret about the future, look back, advises expert Cami Smalley, author of Mindful Pause (Buy from Amazon, $12.99). “Ask yourself how you accomplished the things you’re proud of — was it by taking risks or asking for help?” she says.

“This ‘inventory of victories’ lets you reflect on your successes in a deeper way, helping you discover what worked for you in the past so you can plan ahead.”

Consider 2 percent shifts.

“Picture yourself on a boat. Steering just two degrees in a different direction leads you to an entirely different place on the bay,” says David. In less poetic terms, making tiny tweaks leads to big changes. Say your diet got derailed and you haven’t been able to get back on track — instead of trying to do it all at once by eating veggies at every meal, aim for what David calls “two percent change,” which symbolizes a small step, like adding one vegetable at dinner. “Just thinking about goal-setting in terms of incremental progress boosts motivation instantly.”

Lean into humanness.

When we’re emotionally or mentally drained, we tend to lean into “busyness,” or the appearance of getting things done, to distract ourselves, reveals David. “Lean into your humanness instead by looking for joy, the heart of resilience.” This may mean watching a gorgeous sunset or playing with your dog — whatever brings you happiness boosts your resolve to reach for the stars.

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.

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