My first job out of graduate school was my psych dream job. Wow, right? I was hired as head of Counseling Services at The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in downtown San Francisco. And it was amazing. I worked with an incredible team of creative educators, talked fashion with my colleagues all day long and was blessed with the most creative hard working fashion students as clients. It was fun and hard and all you can imagine working on a creative college campus might be. For me, it was a near perfect match. This might be news to you, but art students work hard. Really hard. And fashion school is no exception. The workload is brutal, the hours are impossible, and the creative burnout is real. To embark on this path is to 100% feel it in every single part of your body. Otherwise making it through is an impossibility. You don't just love fashion, you are fashion. As such, most of my patients there were tired, severely stressed, and trying to sew together their passion with the constant hurdles thrown in their way at every turn. The stress is real. 

As a way of helping students manage stress and understand the significance of small changes, I began to tell a story about chimpanzees. It became known as the 2% clause and when a student would visit my office, we’d check in on their 2%. This 2% refers to the difference in genetic material between humans and chimpanzees. Why is this significant? Well, for one, we drive cars and chimpanzees don’t. For all of the seemingly massive differences in how we live versus chimpanzees, all of those differences live in the 2%. Amazing, right? 

After my conversation about Blue Mind and the power of water with Dr. Wallace Nichols for Joy Episodes 65 + 67, I was inspired to present a few easy, free mental health game changers that can make a big difference. They are things that I practice myself and have shared with patients throughout the years.  While they do not replace therapy or treatment, not at all, they do represent the significance that small practices have on our mental health and wellbeing. I figured since we are approaching a time of year that many of us will be spending with family for better or worse, now was a good time to talk technique. Heads up, your Uncle is still an ass. He’ll never go to therapy. But you can change how you respond to him by doing your own work and taking care of yourself. Try these tips and download this episode to reference for when Thanksgiving dinner gets real. 

  1. Water, or as Dr. Wallace Nichols suggests, get in it. Countless studies point to the beneficial impact water can have on our mind and body. The science is real and the data is plentiful. If you want to geek out to some serious numbers head on over to Dr. Nichols website - I’ve linked it in the episode notes and read his book, Blue Mind. The amazing thing about water is it’s not just water in one shape or form. It’s all water. Drinking it, standing before it, getting in it, even hearing it or looking at a picture of it. Water reduces anxiety and makes us feel better. Whether it is taking a quick break from work to wash your hands in some warm water, grabbing a glass of water when you feel anxious, or taking a bath before bed, all things water help to balance our nervous system and reduce stress. What;s so great about this and speaks so directly to the 2% clause is that you don’t have to go swimming for 2 hours or surfing at 7 am. The benefits of water can be gained from simply looking at a picture of it. So the next time you start to feel anxious, hit the water. Whether it is a tall glass, washing your hands and face, or a full on trip to the coast, water does a body good. A mind too.

  1. Air. Remember breathing? We do it all the time without even thinking about it. We are amazing. High five to us. Did you know that breathing is the single most detoxifying thing we can do? Cool, right?  And it doesn’t have to be the empty mind, let's meditate kind of breathing. Here’s a simple breathing technique designed to balance your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system that you can do anywhere and it only takes a minute or two. 

Sit upright in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. If you can close your eyes, that’s great, if not, this still works. Breath in for 5 slow counts. Hold your breath for 2 counts and slowly release the air like you are gently blowing out a candle for 5 counts. I have used this technique for years and have found it to be effective both breathing through the mouth and the nose. You can repeat this cycle a few times. I find three times to be effective. 

  1. Environment. We take in a lot of data. Like a lot. Between what we see, what we hear and what we feel, we are like little overstimulated hummingbirds speeding from stimulus to stimulus. And when we get overwhelmed or anxious all of the things we see and hear can feel like a lot. That’s when it’s a good time to shut a little of it out. Ultimately closing your eyes and using headphones or earplugs works best, but you can also reduce your stimulation with headphones alone or by simply closing your eyes. And just 5 minutes can make a big difference. Whether it is closing your eyes, listening to music or the Calm app, or going all out and lying down in a quiet dark room, give yourself the gift of 5 minutes without stimulation. It helps the body repair and can really reduce stress. 

Give these a try when you are feeling overwhelmed and see which one works for you. And don’t be afraid to straight up do it during Thanksgiving dinner. You survived this year. Give yourself a 2 % break whenever the hell you want. High five. 

Thank you for being here.


Listen to this episode of JOY IS NOW here. 

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