Spring symbolizes new life or new beginnings for many. As we enter the season of “new” we should take the opportunity to put ourselves first and strike a balance in our lives. As anything, it often easier said than done, as there are endless demands placed on our time. Yet to be able to meet these demands or take care of others we must also take care of ourselves. Mental health is as important as physical health. While we often associate taking caring of ourselves with eating healthy and working out that we forget that it also means keeping our mind healthy.
Here are 10 things we can do for our mental health.
1. Value yourself: Treat yourself with kindness and respect, and avoid self-criticism. Make time for your hobbies and favorite projects, or broaden your horizons. Do a daily crossword puzzle, plant a garden, take dance lessons, learn to play an instrument or become fluent in another language.
2. Take care of your body: Taking care of yourself physically can improve your mental health. Be sure to:
Eat nutritious meals
Drink plenty of water
Exercise, which helps decrease depression and anxiety and improve moods
Get enough sleep
3. Surround yourself with good people: People with strong family or social connections are generally healthier than those who lack a support network. Make plans with supportive family members and friends, or seek out activities where you can meet new people, such as a club, class or support group.
4. Give yourself: Volunteer your time and energy to help someone else. You’ll feel good about doing something tangible to help someone in need — and it’s a great way to meet new people.
5. Learn how to deal with stress: Like it or not, stress is a part of life. Practice good coping skills: Exercise, take a nature walk, play with your pet or try journal writing as a stress reducer. Also, remember to smile and see the humor in life. Research shows that laughter can boost your immune system, ease pain, relax your body and reduce stress.
6. Quiet your mind: Try meditating. Relaxation exercises and prayer can your state of mind outlook on life. In fact, research shows that meditation may help you feel calm and enhance the effects of therapy.
7. Set realistic goals: Decide what you want to achieve academically, professionally and personally, and write down the steps you need to realize your goals. Aim high, but be realistic and don’t over-schedule. You’ll enjoy a tremendous sense of accomplishment and self-worth as you progress toward your goal.
8. Break up the monotony: Although our routines make us more efficient and enhance our feelings of security and safety, a little change of pace can perk up a tedious schedule. Alter your jogging route, plan a road-trip, take a walk in a different park, hang some new pictures or try a new restaurant.
9. Avoid alcohol: Keep alcohol use to a minimum. Sometimes people use alcohol to “self-medicate” but in reality, alcohol can only aggravate problems.
10. Get help when you need it: Seeking help is a sign of strength — not a weakness. And it is important to remember that treatment is effective. People who get appropriate care can recover from mental illness and addiction and lead full, rewarding lives.
Putting all or some of these tips into place can improve your overall health. It can take as little as a minute to help improve both mental and physical health by using simple strategies. Too often our minds are traveling at the speed of light bouncing from thought to thought, many of which are stressful. Taking a full deep breath or focused breath can help relieve tension and lead to physical relaxation. All we have to do is start.
Submitted by: Tyrae Word (Behavioral Health Consultant at Sun Life Family Health Center)