Highlights from the U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory on Loneliness

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy produced the advisory, “Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation,” this year, which labels loneliness as a significant health concern for individuals and society. A Surgeon General’s Advisory calls the American people’s attention to an urgent public health issue and provides recommendations for how it should be addressed.

In Murthy’s introductory letter to the advisory, he tells of embarking on a cross-country listening tour, where people told him they felt isolated, invisible, and insignificant. He said it was a lightbulb moment and that social disconnection was far more common than he realized.

“In the scientific literature, I found confirmation of what I was hearing,” he said. “In recent years, about one in two adults in America reported experiencing loneliness. And that was before the COVID-19 pandemic cut off so many of us from friends, loved ones, and support systems, exacerbating loneliness and isolation.

“Loneliness is far more than just a bad feeling – it harms both individual and societal health. It is associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, stroke, depression, anxiety, and premature death. The mortality impact of being socially disconnected is similar to that caused by smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day…”

One area the advisory highlighted was technology overuse, which can displace in-person engagement, monopolize attention, reduce the quality of interactions, and even diminish self-esteem. Technology overuse can, in turn, lead to greater loneliness, fear of missing out, conflict, and reduced social connection. In a U.S.-based study, participants who reported using social media for more than two hours a day had approximately double the odds of reporting increased perceptions of social isolation compared to those who used social media for less than 30 minutes per day.

Murthy said the profound effects of loneliness can be felt by anyone and are best helped by a strong community.

Consider these tips from the advisory about what you can do if you feel lonely or socially isolated.

* Participate in community groups. Try to participate in at least two community groups per week, such as religious, sports, civic, or other groups. This provides opportunities for socializing, meeting new people, and feeling connected to a group.

* Reduce distractions. Put your phone away, particularly when having a meal or an important conversation. Make time with your family and others a priority by focusing on them in the moment.

* Invest in relationships. Spend consistent and frequent time with others. Make sure the time is high-quality by decreasing distractions.

* Don’t go it alone. If you’re struggling, look for help from others. Family members, friends, counselors, and healthcare providers can help you. You can also call 988 or text HOME to 74174 during an emergency to connect to a professional 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

* Core values of connection. Take time to reflect on how you approach others in your actions and conversation. Consider how kindness could change a situation or the importance of treating others with respect.

Loneliness is a complex issue, and the causes are varied. Take action by trying the tips listed above or learning more from the Surgeon General’s advisory. He has also written a book, Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World

Breaking Free from Pornography

A recent study from The Journal of Sex Research found that over 90% of men and 60% of women ages 18-73 reported having consumed pornography in the past month, based on an online sample. Many who struggle with pornography use find it challenging to stop due to its highly addictive nature. Luckily, researchers and therapists have found effective strategies for those working to escape pornography use. Consider the following research-based and clinically tested strategies, which are most effective when focusing on one or two at a time. 

  • List your goals and envision how you see your ideal future self. Thinking about your desired future can help counteract the natural human tendency to sacrifice what you want in the future for what you want now. For example, ask yourself, “If I don’t want to be viewing pornography in 5 years, do I want to be viewing it now?”

  • Incorporate technology filters and other tools to limit access. Creating barriers can reduce impulsive pornography use. Apps such as Fortify provide education, tools, and resources to help you reduce pornography use. Search online for the most relevant tools for your situation.

  • Identify how and when pornography fits into your days, then modify your routines. For example, if viewing pornography often follows scrolling through Instagram at night while home alone, consider replacing that time with hobbies or activities with people in another location.

  • Identify underlying emotions that lead to pornography use and develop alternative coping skills. For example, if you view pornography to avoid or cope with difficult emotions such as sadness or loneliness, consider how to meet those emotional needs more directly, such as seeking support or spending time with friends or family.

  • Develop healthy habits that promote self-care. Adequate sleep, diet, and exercise, among other things, can help you reduce and manage emotional distress and pornography use.

  • Identify thought patterns that lead to pornography use. When you notice these thoughts, acknowledge them, then redirect your attention.

  • Develop the habit of practicing mindfulness. Daily meditations can improve your mental health and help you respond mindfully when experiencing the desire to view pornography.

  • Form and strengthen relationships with supportive people. For many, viewing pornography is a way to cope with a lack of meaningful connection, so spending quality time with friends and family can help meet this emotional need.

  • Seek out therapy professionals who have experience with those working to reduce/quit pornography use. Experienced therapists can support and help you identify and meet your core emotional needs. To start, ask people you trust for referrals, search Psychology Today by topic (e.g., sexual addiction, Internet addiction, etc.), or find an AASECT Certified Sex Therapist. Many therapists offer free consultations, where you can ask about their level of experience helping clients reduce pornography use. Don’t be afraid to keep searching if they are not a good fit for you.

  • Attend support groups. Many find it helpful to join a supportive and understanding community, check in with an accountability partner, and learn about and implement the addiction recovery 12-step program.

  • Increase self-compassion. Many people cope with shame by viewing pornography, so give yourself the grace to stop the shame cycle. If you feel hesitant to give yourself grace, remember that self-compassion does not mean you are making excuses, but it does give you the space to learn and improve. 

  • Practice a growth mindset rather than an all-or-nothing mentality. Some feel they’re starting over if they have “slipped up.” In reality, any time away from pornography is positive. Celebrate the small wins.

  • Focus on the present. Trying to succeed one moment at a time can empower you to make positive choices, especially if the prospect of trying to avoid pornography for the rest of your life feels daunting.

Reducing/quitting pornography use can be challenging, and it can be easy to feel discouraged. However, it is possible with committed action and adequate social support. Choose to have hope. Remember that avoiding pornography will get easier with less exposure, more social support, and each positive habit you develop. 

Click here to see article references.

By: Jared Hawkins, Utah State University Extension assistant professor, Jared.Hawkins@usu.edu, 435-336-3218

Five Ways to Find Peace by Staying Present

It is easy to get caught up in the events of the past or the future. However, doing so only brings worry and causes you to miss out on the present. On the other hand, mindfulness – or focusing on the present moment – leads to better health, lower anxiety, and greater resilience to stress. Learning to incorporate the concept of “flow” is one of several ways to increase mindfulness.

Have you ever enjoyed an activity so much that you did not feel time passing? This intense absorption and involvement in what you were doing in the present moment is called flow, and it is generally pleasurable and fulfilling. In addition, the enjoyment is usually lasting and reinforcing and provides a natural high that is not accompanied by negative feelings.

Although it is easy to experience flow during our favorite activities, we can enjoy this feeling more often during other activities with practice, and experiencing flow will come more naturally. Consider these five tips:

  1. Control your attention – Try to keep your full attention on the task at hand. If your mind

wanders, bring it back to the present moment. If you are having a conversation with another person, try to stay completely focused on what they are saying. Be patient with yourself as you work to develop the ability to stay focused.

2. Adopt new perspectives – Try to enjoy life, even if it unfolds differently than you had planned. (Which it often does!) In order to do so, be open to new and different experiences, and be willing to keep learning until the day you die.

3. Recognize flow – Many times we do not realize that we are having these experiences. In order to create more of these in your life, you first have to recognize when they are happening so you can increase them.

4. Transform routine tasks – During dull, daily tasks, seek to add microflow activities to make them more meaningful. For example, while you are waiting at the doctor’s office, you could read a book or draw a picture. You could try to make your work more meaningful by viewing it as your calling in life rather than just a job. When brushing your teeth, try doing some lunges or squats. When driving, instead of listening to the radio, listen to audiobooks, podcasts or TED talks to learn new ideas.

5. Find the balance between challenge and skills – Flow experiences occur when we are sufficiently challenged to the point that our skills are stretched, but not so much that the task seems daunting. Activities that challenge your skills too much result in anxiety, while activities that are not challenging enough result in boredom; herein lies the paradox of flow experiences.

            The intrinsic rewards of engaging in these kinds of activities make you want to keep doing them, yet you have to continue stretching yourself because your progress will eventually leave you bored during the same experiences that were once exciting.

Finding activities that result in flow is exhilarating. Change things up by trying new things. Our brains crave variety and novelty. The key to finding flow is developing a balance between skills and challenges – finding something you are good at and enjoy, but that still stretches you a bit.

Five Tips to Help Beat the Winter Blues 

As winter drags on into spring this year, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is becoming a challenge for many. SAD is a type of depression that occurs primarily during winter and is caused by various factors, including decreased exposure to sunlight and altitude. The higher the altitude where you live, the more likely it is that you could experience mood shifts and SAD. 

Symptoms of SAD can include weight gain, increased appetite, carbohydrate cravings, excessive sleep, decreased interest in activities, and low energy levels during the day.

The good news is there are things you can do to combat SAD. Consider these tips. 

* Exercise outdoors. Regular physical exercise can reduce depressive symptoms by up to 50%. And if you exercise outside, the exposure to natural sunlight can increase the benefits. Dress warmly and get outside as often as possible for your daily exercise routine. If you can’t, exercise in a room with as much natural light as possible.

Outdoor activities to consider include: snowshoeing, skiing, snowboarding, trail hiking, neighborhood walks, ice skating, sledding, shoveling snow for a neighbor, building snowmen or igloos, ice fishing, bird watching, or hunting.

* Reframe negative thoughts. Our thoughts influence how we feel. Identify and question negative thoughts, focusing on disproving them or considering what advice you’d give to a friend experiencing similar thoughts.

* Practice gratitude. Focusing on gratitude can improve overall happiness and help stave off depressive symptoms by shifting the brain’s focus toward positive experiences. Click here to read how gratitude can actually change the brain. 

* Strengthen connections with loved ones. Our level of connection to friends and family influences our mental well-being. Create positive experiences and atmospheres with friends and family through phone calls, playdates, walks, hugs, or sharing daily highs and lows.

* Prioritize self-care. Be aware of your personal needs for optimal well-being, and take action to meet those needs. Remember, self-care is crucial for maintaining mental and emotional health. If you don’t take care of yourself, who will? 

Click here to see references and links. 

By: Eva Timothy, Utah State University Extension assistant professor, eva.timothy@usu.edu, 435-864-1483

Relax and De-stress with Meditation

It can be a challenge to make the time to rest our minds, relax, and find peace. But it is definitely worth the effort. 

According to a study reported at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University, chronic stress may be linked to many physical illnesses and can negatively affect our mental health. The study showed that:

* 43% of adults experienced adverse health effects from stress.

* 75-90% of visits to a physician’s office are for stress-related conditions and complaints.

* Stress has been linked to the six leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide. Developing the ability to relax will help alleviate the impacts of stress and anxiety.

How can we learn to relax and enjoy life’s simple moments with all our duties and responsibilities? Meditation may be the answer. Consider this information.

Meditation has been used for years as a way to increase calmness and help with physical relaxation. Meditation is a combination of the mind and body working together to calm the mind and help us find peace. According to the National Center of Complementary and Integrative Health, there are numerous types of meditation, but most have four common elements:

  1. A quiet location with few distractions.
  2. A comfortable position (sitting, lying down, walking).
  3. A focus of attention on something specific.
  4. An open attitude to let distractions come and go without judgment.

There are numerous benefits to meditation. It calms, restores, reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, frees our mind from worries, helps us focus on happiness, creates a more stable mood, and increases our feelings of control over life’s situations. It also decreases muscle tension, helps with weight loss, enhances energy levels, improves memory, promotes greater tolerance, gives deeper spirituality, slows the aging process, and helps us put things into perspective.

Learning to relax through meditation is a skill that takes time and practice. There are many online resources and apps available. Take time to explore different methods and find what works best for you. Dedicate 10 minutes each day for meditation, and learn ways to relax and reflect on the positive in life. 

How Much Caffeine Is Too Much?

Caffeine can provide a boost of energy, help you become more alert, and improve your mood. Sounds great, right? Unfortunately, many people don’t realize that caffeine is a drug that stimulates the nervous system and can cause negative side effects.

Depending on the amount of caffeine consumed, one or more of the following may occur: jitteriness, anxiety, irritability, increased blood pressure, stomach irritation, decreased length and quality of sleep, headaches, and abnormal heart rhythm.

The impacts of caffeine and the intensity of side effects can differ for everyone. What is okay for one person could be too much for another. The key is to watch for adverse side effects and decrease or avoid caffeine intake. Extremely high caffeine ingestion can trigger serious health problems such as heart attack, stroke, or even death. Caffeine can cause serious health challenges for children.

The Mayo Clinic recommends the following daily limits of caffeine:

·         Adults: less than 400 mg/day

·         Adolescents: less than 100 mg/day

·         Children: 0 mg/day

Caffeine can be harmful to some groups of people. Seek advice about caffeine consumption from your health care provider if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, have a sleep disorder, migraine, anxiety, GERD, ulcers, or high blood pressure. Problems with heart rhythm, heart rate, and certain medications can also have detrimental consequences.

If consumed regularly, a person can become dependent on caffeine. As little as 100 mg/day can cause dependency, so monitor your intake. The chart below shows commonly consumed caffeinated beverages and the amount of caffeine they contain.

Name Standard Amount Caffeine in Standard Amount Caffeine in 16 Oz.
Energy Drinks
5-Hour Energy 2 oz. 200 mg 1,600 mg
Sobe No Fear 16 oz. 182 mg 182 mg
Monster 16 oz. 172 mg 172 mg
Rockstar 16 oz. 160 mg 160 mg
Red Bull 8.4 oz. 79 mg 151 mg
Coffee, Tea
Brewed Coffee 8 oz. 163 mg 324 mg
Average Coffee 8 oz. 95 mg 190 mg
Iced Tea 8 oz. Average of 47 mg 94 mg
Soft Drinks
Mountain Dew 12 oz. 54 mg          72 mg
Coke 12 oz. 34 mg          45 mg
Diet Coke 12 oz. 45 mg          60 mg
Pepsi 12 oz. 38 mg          51 mg
Sprite 12 oz. 0 mg           0 mg
Chocolate Milk 8 oz. 5 mg 10 mg
Dark Chocolate 1 oz. 20 mg 320 mg
Milk Chocolate 1 oz. 6 mg 96 mg
Cold Relief Meds 1 tablet 30 mg
Vivarin 1 tablet 200 mg
Excedrin 2 tablets 130 mg

To reduce caffeine consumption, gradually swap caffeinated drinks with non-caffeinated drinks. Read labels on drinks, food, and medications to determine caffeine content, and stay away from those that contain high amounts. Replace your caffeinated beverage with water. Water can help flush caffeine out of your system and keep you properly hydrated. Indications of caffeine withdrawal include drowsiness, headaches, irritability, or trouble concentrating, but symptoms should last only a few days. Monitoring your caffeine consumption and following these recommendations and guidelines can lead to improved health and a longer life.

To view all references, see the article on Extension.usu.edu.

By: Cindy Nelson, Utah State University Extension associate professor, cindy.nelson@usu.edu

Stress vs. Anxiety: Understanding the Difference

Regardless of your background, socioeconomic status, education, or talents, you will inevitably experience stress as a normal part of life. However, when the stress turns into persistent anxiety, it is important to get extra help. So what is the difference between stress and anxiety? What can be done to alleviate the discomfort caused by these feelings? This fact sheet will outline the differences between normal day-to-day stress and persistent anxiety, specifically Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and how to deal with them both.


Stress is the body’s reaction to a threatening situation, challenge, or demand in the present (ADAA, 2016b; Vorvick, 2016). It is especially common when circumstances require change (Mishkova, 2013). Stress can also occur when doing something new or exciting, even though these things are often seen as positives. Stress can be helpful to an extent, such as helping you to avoid danger or meet a deadline, although chronic stress (i.e., stress that does not go away) can cause problems. This is because when the body experiences stress, hormones are released that make the body more alert, the muscles more tense, and the pulse increased (Vorvick, 2016), and thus prepared to react fast to the threat (APA, n.d.). When the body stays like this for an extended period of time, it can become harmful to the body and lead to health problems (Vorvick, 2016).


Anxiety results from situations that cause nervousness, fear, or worry, especially about the future. We all feel anxiety from time to time, but when it becomes a daily occurrence that disrupts day-to-day functioning, it is problematic (Mishkova, 2013). When worrying takes up much of one’s day and the worrying is not proportionate to the actual severity of the stressor, it is classified as being excessive (Glasofer, 2017). There are several forms of anxiety disorders, including phobias, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and social anxiety. However, for the purposes of this fact sheet, the focus will be on generalized anxiety disorder (also referred to as GAD; Mishkova, 2013). According to the official Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (more commonly referred to as the DSM-5; ADAA, 2016c; Glasofer, 2017), GAD is identified in adults as experiencing three or more of the following symptoms on the majority of days for at least 6 months, in addition to excessive worry on most days that is difficult to control:

  • Restlessness
  • Easily fatigued
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Sleep disturbance (sleeping too much or too little, sleep not restful)

In order to be diagnosed with GAD, these symptoms cannot be caused by any other condition or substance, and must interfere with daily life (Glasofer, 2017). Those who experience anxiety disorders have difficulty tolerating uncertainty and feel that their worrying helps to keep bad things from happening. This way of thinking is what makes it so difficult to let go of the worrying. Those with GAD tend to expect the worst from situations. This worry is different than normal stress because it is persistent regardless of the situation, whereas normal worry is situation-related. In the United States, in any given year, approximately 3.1% of the population will experience GAD, with women being twice as likely to be affected. Biological factors and stressful life experiences have been found to contribute. The impact of GAD can range from mild to severe, with some people being able to live very highly functioning lives, while others are immobilized by even the smallest of tasks (ADAA, 2016a).

Dealing with Stress and Anxiety

Stress can lead to anxiety and anxiety can lead to stress (Mishkova, 2013). Because of the relationship between stress and anxiety, it can be assumed that learning to better cope with either stress or anxiety would also help with the other. There are many selfhelp techniques for coping with the stresses and anxieties of day-to-day life, such as the following (APA, n.d.):

  • Get involved – This is a great way to surround yourself with a good social support network. In addition, serving helps you to feel good about yourself.
  • Take care of yourself – Get adequate sleep, eat healthy meals, and exercise regularly in order to give your body the best chance of functioning properly.
  • Focus on the positive – Avoid negative self-talk and focus on what you can do, instead of what you cannot do. Think about how you have successfully coped with stressful situations in the past.
  • Participate in activities you enjoy – Take time to step away from the stresses and worries of life to do something that you enjoy. Taking this kind of break will help you come back to the stressors with a clearer mind and renewed energy.
  • Apply relaxation techniques and meditation – Learning how to calm a troubled mind can be very helpful. Even just a few minutes spent relaxing the mind and body can be effective.

While these self-help techniques can be very useful, if the stress or anxiety becomes overwhelming, it interferes with your responsibilities and relationships, and/or you have thoughts of suicide or self-harm, it is time to seek professional help (Vorvick, 2016). Therapy and medication, either alone or in combination, have been found to be effective at relieving persistent stress and anxiety (ADAA, 2016a).


There are myriad causes of stress and anxiety in the world today. What causes one person to feel stress and/or anxiety may not be the same for another person (Mishkova, 2013). However, regardless of the cause or the severity, there is help available. Try learning some self-help techniques and seek professional help, if needed, in order to bring more peace and happiness to your life today.



Jennifer ViverosDr. David Schramm

How To Relax After a Stressful Day

We can all agree that stress is a part of human existence. Dealing with short stints of stress is not bad for us. This type of stress can propel us into action or increase our energy levels and memory to help us complete a task or goal (Jaret, n.d.). Conversely, when people experience high levels of stress for long periods, it can lead to major health concerns. The American Psychological Association (2018) tells us that these health concerns range from heart disease to exacerbated reproductive difficulties. Prolonged stress can also lead to what is known as burnout- a state of mental, physical, and emotional fatigue that reduces productivity. So, whether you are experiencing good or bad stress, that is either occasional or prolonged, practicing self-care through the use of calming can benefit you.  Here are some calming practices you can try at the end of a stressful day to calm your mind and body. This will reduce the negative impacts stress can have on your health and relationships. 

1. Do something you enjoy. Whether it be indulging in a hobby or soaking in a bubble bath, do it. When we engage in activities we find enjoyable it allows our mind to take a break from what is causing our stress. We can lose ourselves in something that fuels our sense of passion for life, thereby, reinvigorating our ability to healthily cope with the next stressor. 

2. Find a quiet place where you can practice deep breathing and focus on the here and now. When we get stressed, we get stuck in the brainstem, the fight, flight, or freeze part of the brain meant for survival. Deep breathing calms the brainstem and allows us to move to higher levels of thinking. Once we are in those higher levels of rationale, we can focus on how we feel physically and our current thoughts.

3. If you require a quick way to relieve stress without acquiring a quiet space, practice those deep breaths. Just breathing deeply for a few minutes can help reduce stress levels. 

4. The American Psychological Association (2018) recommends utilizing our circle of friends and family to help us manage our stress levels.

5. If you find that your muscles are tense from the day’s stress, try some progressive muscle relaxation. For this form of stress relief, you will tense and release various muscles in the body. Work from one end of the body to the other, tensing for 5 seconds and resting for 30 seconds before going to the next area. This technique also helps to refocus the mind and make us aware of what is occurring in our bodies (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2022).   

For more ideas on what you can do to reduce the effects of a stressful day, visit https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/relaxation-technique/art-20045368


American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Stress effects on the body. American Psychological Association. Retrieved May 2, 2022, from https://www.apa.org/topics/stress/body

Jaret, Peter. (n.d.). The surprising benefits of stress. Greater Good. Retrieved May 2, 2022, from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/the_surprising_benefits_of_stress

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2022, April 28). Relaxation techniques: Try these steps to reduce stress. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved May 2, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/relaxation-technique/art-20045368

By Eva Timothy, Professional Practice Extension Assistant Professor

The Balancing Act of Work and Family

What does riding a bike, using a wheelbarrow, arranging flowers, and placing furniture in a room have in common? All of these tasks require balance. It is hard to explain what balance is in each circumstance, but it sure is easy to tell when it’s missing! The term work-family balance refers to the proportion of time and focus spent on work and on family. Research shows that family conflict increases when work and family time are out of balance (Chang et al., 2017). When work and family time are out of balance, both suffer.

Too often we think of balance as equal portions, but when achieving balance in life we have to focus on appropriate proportions. There is no one size fits all when it comes to balancing work time and family time. Re-evaluation from time to time is essential as the correct proportions change over time.

Here are a few tips to help evaluate and improve work-family balance:

  1. Take the time needed to evaluate and think about work-family balancing. This sounds simple, but often when under stress it is easy to feel there isn’t time for this. Uninterrupted and unhurried time will allow for good thought processing, which can improve relationships and productivity at home and in the work place.
  2. Gather feedback from family members and sincerely listen to what they share. Recognize what makes them feel second to work and listen for ideas for improvement. Make a plan together and evaluate it over time.
  3. Explore what can be changed. A drastic employment change could be the key, but often there are many smaller changes that can be made with schedules, locations, setting boundaries, and using time more efficiently both at home and at work.
  4. Technology makes it easy to stay connected to work around the clock and around the world. Remember to be at work at work and be at home when at home, in your thoughts and in your actions. Time fully away from work is important to work-family balance.

Remember that work-family balance is a process, not a one-time achievement (Lupu & Ruiz-Castro, 2021). Consistent small steps of improvement ensure that changes can be maintained long-term and improve family relationships.


Chang, X., Zhou, Y., Wang, C., & de Pablos Heredero, C. (2017). How do work-family balance practices affect work-family conflict? The differential roles of work stress. Frontier of Business Research in China, 11(8). https://doi.org/10.1186/s11782-017-0008-4

Lupu, I., & Ruiz-Castro, M. (2021, January 29). Work-life balance is a cycle, not an achievement. Harvard Business Reviewhttps://hbr.org/2021/01/work-life-balance-is-a-cycle-not-an-achievement

The Importance of Routines

Having a routine helps keep us on track both mentally and physically, which can help make our days more positive and productive. According to Mental Health America, a routine is a tool used to improve mental health by organizing the overwhelming everyday tasks into a pattern that seems easier to accomplish. If you are struggling with creating routines, here are five things you can do to get started.

 1. Personalize your routine.

 It can be hard not to compare yourself to others, especially when you can view the highlights of peoples’ lives on social media. Having a routine that is personal to your situation and needs can make it easier for you. Remember, it is about what works best for you.   

 2. Keep it simple.

 There are many ways to set a routine, and a long list of tasks can feel overwhelming. If you focus on one small thing each month, your routine can look the way you envisioned it by the end of the year!

 3. Stack your habits.

Stacking habits is something dentists often recommend when it comes to flossing. Instead of trying to remember to floss at a specific time each day, stack the habit of flossing with something else you do already, such as watching TV in the evenings. Adding one new habit onto something you already do can make it easier to adjust your routine. 

 4. Add something in for you.

Self-care practices have always been essential, but they are more important than ever with the pandemic. With more anxiety about sickness, more responsibilities due to quarantines, and more unknowns in the world, taking time out of your day to do something for yourself is crucial. For some, there may be more time to devote to self-care, while others may only be able to find a few minutes. Whatever your situation, make sure to find a way to put yourself first in the day to recharge and be your best self. 

 5. Recognize that not every day will be perfect, and that is okay!

 No matter how well we plan or how perfectly timed our routine is, there will always be things that throw it off. Make sure you recognize that plans may change, and allow yourself to be okay if you don’t have a perfect routine each day. 

Additional routines that help keep our bodies and minds healthy include eating at regular times, exercising daily, and getting the right amount of sleep. These can all help you stay mentally and physically healthy. Additionally, knowing your schedule can reduce anxiety, keep the winter blues at bay, and help you feel more accomplished at the end of the day.

For article references and citations, click here. For more information and tips on mental health, click here.

By: Tasha Howard, Utah State University Extension assistant professor, Tasha.Howard@usu.edu