Five ways to improve your mental health this month
Welcome back to “Raising Healthy Minds,” a column dedicated to your mental health and wellness. It is great to be back with you all after my hiatus.
I couldn’t think of a better time to restart than this month, as it is National Mental Health Month. I want to talk today about things you can do to upkeep your own mental health.
Life throws a lot at us. Demands from work, family crises, and financial worry come our way at some point or another. They make us anxious, concerned, and even depressed at times. With what seems like a constant barrage coming for your peace of mind, what is one to do? The key lies in effectively managing stress and coping with negative experiences.
As defined by the American Institute of Stress, “stress is the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change.” Not all stress is bad. The stress from going on a date with someone you like is considered good stress, while the stress from struggling to pay an overdue bill is bad. It depends on what you perceive as a rewarding or harmful experience.
The bad stress is what takes the wind from our sails. We feel frustrated, despondent, and defeated. If you have psychological disorders such as Bipolar Disorder or Schizophrenia, bad stress has the capacity to trigger or worsen symptoms. There are ways to not fall victim to the effects of stress. Here are 5 ways to manage your stress and stay mentally healthy:
1. Recognize Your Own Limitations
We all have limits. Denying them does not make them go away. Accept and be honest about them with your loved ones. When you start reaching your breaking point, take a step back and give yourself time to relax. Over time and with practice, you can stretch your limits. However, always be aware of them.
2. Diet and Exercise
You can’t escape them. A balanced diet and adequate physical activity are essential to a healthy lifestyle and effective stress management. Bad stress breaks down our bodies, a healthy diet builds them up. Exercise relieves stress and releases endorphins, which give you feelings of relaxation.
3. Adequate Rest
Another one that you can’t escape from. There is no substitute for sleep. Your body and mind’s ability to handle stress is compromised when you are sleep deprived. Get the recommended seven to eight hours. An hour before bed time, get away from the phone and other sources of light, and get your environment quiet. This helps to put you at ease to get a better night’s rest.
4. Practice Relaxation Techniques
Related to number one, find activities that put you at ease. It might be reading a book you love, drawing, playing a game or taking a walk in nature. Give yourself at least 30 minutes to do these things when you feel heavy bad stress coming on.
5. Social Support
Human beings are social in nature. That goes for men and women, young and old alike. When you are getting overwhelmed, talk to a trusted loved one or peer about what’s happening. Sharing it allows us to externalize versus keep the matter internalized. It does not have to be a therapy session or the like.
Talk about what’s going on over a good meal and share some jokes or funny stories with your friend. If you do not have family or friends in the area, reach out to local mental health resources or social organizations. There are also help lines, apps and online chats for those struggling with specific psychological challenges.
As I’ve mentioned before, nothing worthwhile is easy. This is especially true in mental health. However, the benefits of making lifestyle adjustments and putting techniques into practice pay tremendous dividends.
The results are powerful and give you back control over yourself. Circumstances change all the time, but your ability to work your way through them is able to be a stabilizing constant. Take care of yourselves and see you next month.
For local mental health resources, visit www.mccslejeune-newriver.com/mflc/.
Editor’s note: “Raising Healthy Minds” is a monthly column that sheds light on mental health topics. DeWitt holds a B.S. degree in Psychology from Regent University. Facts not attributed are the opinions of the writer.