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7 mental hygiene tools students need to take into 2022

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Give your mindset a refresh and check your thought patterns as we head into what can still be a productive and exciting year.

After the last two years, we all need a decent wash, mentally and emotionally. It’s funny to think that during covid, the number one best-selling items at supermarkets was cleaning agents and toilet paper. If we were going to die, we wanted to die clean! Right? Yet even though we rigorously sanitised our flesh, we neglected our souls. 

Yes, our world is still in flux. But I believe we can ready ourselves for the inevitable battles to come. Armed with hope, let’s endeavour to make this year terrific and set our intentions to capture some highlights. Covid has an uncertain life span… we need a posture of readiness to seize the positive moments. 

As 2022 opens, a fresh chapter gives us the potential to make it a year filled with renewed hope. The last two years have truly been a ‘winter of discontent’, and change is long overdue for many of us. We had all plans for vacations, school formals and national sporting championships. Many of them were nuked, often with just a few moments’ notice.

If you’re like me, you were prepared to withstand a fight in 2020. By the time 2021 rolled in and lockdowns were a clear and present non-negotiable, your staying power diminished!  With so much uncertainty and little control, it was easy to throw in the towel. For many, 2021 lived up to its name as the year of the Great Resignation. 

But school is always in session. Sometimes learning happens in positive, uplifting experiences, and sometimes it comes in negative, distressing situations. Below are seven tools you need to give your psyche a cleanse now that 2022 is underway. 

1.Take a Word

What overarching theme do you want to create for 2022? What north star can you throw out and anchor to when the winds get rough? This ‘word’ will help ground you and bring you back into alignment with your overarching goals. It will help guide your behaviour, projects, intentions and patterns of thinking. 

When you choose your word, decide to embody it. Let it become alive in your heart and mind. Say the word out loud three times when you wake up and at night before you go to bed. Examples of good words are Awe, Bloom, Bounce, Calm, Focus, Intention or Trust. Frame this year around this word and let it take on a life of itself. 

2. Generate a narrative traction

Narrative tractions can best be described as creating interest in your own story.  The best way to do this is by focusing on a project for this year that uniquely needs you. As humans, we love stories. They stir emotion and help us connect. They also have the power to influence our thinking, attitudes and behaviour. In 2022, be the hero in your own story and paint it with a gorgeous setting, deep conflict and epic conquest. It might be starting a business, writing a book, learning a new skill, being a more supportive member of your family or helping an organisation you believe in. Life is so difficult; it is vital to stay connected to the heroic part of our being. We have sources of our strength upon which we can draw. 

Deepak Chopra recently posted this on his Instagram, “Once I realised that Deepak Chopra was a fictional character, I stopped taking him seriously.” 

When I first saw this post, I thought someone was joking around, then I realised how deep this comment is. We are all in some way fictional characters created by our own thoughts, feelings and environment and influences of other people. 

American sociologist Charles Cooley said, “I am not who you think I am; I am not who I think I am; I am who I think you think I am”. This statement helps us understand the complex nature of our identity and just how easily it can be influenced. If we are all fictional characters, why not write your own hero’s journey and make the choice to believe in you, even if nobody else does. 

3. Defragment your mental software

Back in the day, we had to take the time to defragment our computer. This involved a manual process where you consolidated all the data on the disk so it worked more effectively. Without this process, the computer would be slow, overwhelmed, run down and constantly throwing us spinning pinwheels/hourglasses of death. If you have ever felt overwhelmed or stressed for seemingly no reason, it might be because you have not pulled the plug and allowed your mental software time to consolidate and ventilate all of its inputs. 

One of the best ways to defragment is to allow yourself to get bored. Boredom is the foundation for creativity; the pause is where ideas come to us. Being truly bored will allow you to see things in a different way. Docilely scrolling does not allow time for our mind to connect all the information consumed; it can leave us run down and frazzled.

Set a time in your diary at least an hour a day to be absent from all things digital and nature bathe. Your soul will thank you. 

4. Embrace the Fear and live with Courage

Courage is not the absence of fear; Courage is fear walking.  Susan David

Before covid, there were other diseases you could die from. We live in a dangerous world, but the only way to live is to not focus on the danger but to look towards the opportunity and the promise this life has to offer. Fear is inadequacy being translated into emotion. This is why knowing we are ‘enough’ is such a powerful tool. 

When you live in fear, you feel fear and when you live with courage you feel fear. The reality is there is no getting around feeling afraid. When we allow fear to run our decisions and emotions, our mind fills in the blanks of the future with anxiety for things that have not happened, leaving us paralysed. 

Comfort zones are hiding places. We cannot allow fear to navigate our thoughts or behaviours. The main problem with fear is it causes us to forget who we are and our past victories. Remember those times where you have persisted and overcome in the face of fear and let those mindsets guide your choices. 

Let courage be the dominant narrative in your life and you will see yourself rise to new levels of performance. We need faith over fear, not denial but the undeniable belief that in the end we will prevail.

5. Get big on recovery 

Lebron James spends a million dollars a year on recovery at 37 years of age. After 18 seasons as a basketballer, he is looking forward to staying in the game long enough to play in the NBA with his son. To have a career as long as he has, you have to get serious about recovery. 

His recovery routine includes a personal cryochamber, elite physiotherapists, high performance compression gear, nutritionists, electrostimulation machines, yoga and Pilates and meditation classes. 

Most of us don’t have a spare million we can dedicate to recovery! But we can all spend 20 minutes a day stretching and working on our flexibility. The key to long term agility is flexibility, both mentally and physically. Spend a little time every day this year in recovery, from eating a nutritious meal to engaging in a two-minute meditation. Look after yourself for the long haul. 

6. Avoid decision fatigue 

One of the reasons we are so tired after a good night’s sleep is because as soon as we wake, our fingers and eyes passively lurk through the contents of our phone. We don’t realise we are constantly making decisions about whether we should, like this post, comment on that photo, delete that email, file that article, respond to that text, snap back that friend or leave them open, accept that follow request etc. etc. These endless decisions drain our cognitive tank and disrupt our ability to make good decisions. 

One way to alleviate decision fatigue is to establish routines. There is a reason why Steve Jobs wore almost every day a black turtleneck, blue jeans and new balance sneakers. For Barack Obama it was either a blue suit or a grey suit and for Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook it’s the same grey tee every day. Carrie Donovan, the fashion editor for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, was famous for only wearing large eyeglasses, black clothing and pearls. 

I personally have eaten the same breakfast for over 40 years. I like my mind clear in the morning. I don’t want to spend time mulling over what I will eat. I have seen people wander aimlessly throughout the kitchen, contemplating what they will eat in the morning. It drives me nuts. Establish as many habits as possible. Keep your decision-making muscle robust for the important choices and automate the trivial. 

Try staying off your phone for the first hour you wake, and you will find your imagination comes alive with fresh ideas and visions for your future. 

7. Seek transcendence 

Pursue experiences that fill you with awe and wonder. Experiences that make you feel like you have risen above the humdrum of the everyday world and felt a higher reality, climb a mountain, see a sunrise, help those in need for support, befriend the lonely. 

For some of us, covid has beaten away the wonder and awe. We’ve become jaded, sceptical or even cynical about everything. Life has lost its colour. When we lose our sense of excitement we also lose our sense of gratitude and humility because we’re trapped in the banal of life. 

We get enmeshed in the “this person gave me a weird look today” or “they didn’t return my text” or “why didn’t anyone like my post”. While we are worried about all these tedious thoughts, galaxies the size of our Milky Way are tumbling into the unknown faster than the speed of light! For real… click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cadNZJvfl7s.

Our whole existence is awesome, absurd, miraculous and mind-numbing all at the same time. Instead of seeking out the wonder, we fuss about calls from unknown numbers or long queues or “we missed you” cards for failed parcel deliveries. Do you really want to spend your life down in the mundane?

You can walk around with your head held low, complaining about first world problems or you can walk through this life full of awe and wonder at your own amazing existence. 

A final thought that will set you on a better path for 2022: Don’t allow the news to dampen your enthusiasm for life. There is still so much longing to be experienced. 

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