We all need to care for our mental health. It doesn’t matter if you’re struggling with something major or minor - you will always benefit from taking care of your Brain. Fortunately, we have some guidance to share on how you can do that.
Mental Illnesses are among the most common health conditions in the United States. More than 50 percent will be diagnosed with a mental illness at some point in their lifetime according to the Centers for Disease Control. 1 in 5 Americans will experience mental illness in a given year, the most prevalent being depression and anxiety disorders.
According to the CDC, mental health encompasses our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. The state of our mental health impacts our daily life and how we think, feel and behave. By taking care of your mental health, you are much better placed to handle life stresses and difficult experiences.
The importance of mental health runs throughout life, so it’s great to discover techniques and ways to prioritize it.
Prioritizing your mental health needs will encourage you to take better care of your overall health. For example, learning new ways to manage stress will decrease your likelihood of physical conditions - such as heart disease.
When your mental health care is taken seriously, you start to notice your value in being alive, encouraging you to make better, healthy decisions.
There isn’t a picture-perfect example of what this looks like because it will differ from person to person. However, here are some things you may notice when your mental health is in a good place:
Including a healthy diet in your daily life doesn’t only benefit your physical health but also your mental health. This is because your brain and your gut have a close relationship, to the point where the gut is called the “second brain”. This is how it works: your gut houses billions of bacteria that influence the production of chemicals that carry messages from the gut to the brain. An example is serotonin.
The more nutritious foods you eat, the more “good” bacteria grow to produce these chemicals, which then reflects positively on your mental health. The link between a nutritious diet and better mental health is a strong one.
An unhealthy diet, especially one that includes a lot of refined sugar, can put you at an increased risk of heart disease, a weak immune system, as well as poor mental health. So, prioritize a well-balanced diet and drink plenty of water to improve your energy levels and mental focus.
Intentionally moving your body every day is great for balancing your mood and improving your mental health. Regular exercise doesn’t mean that you have to be in the gym every day or you have to take long runs that you don’t enjoy. Research has shown that low-intensity aerobic activity is best to encourage positive thoughts, increase focus, manage stress, and manage symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Simply taking a 30-minute walk in the fresh air, if you can, works wonders for your physical and mental health. This is because small amounts of exercise add up, so try and add some small activities into your daily life.
If you’re someone who struggles to get into exercise, here are some activities you can try to get yourself used to 'intentionally' moving your body:
Sleep plays a significant role in your physical and mental health. It helps reduce feelings of anxiety and improve your energy levels, productivity and focus. People living with mental disorders, like major depression, for example, often have sleep disturbance as a symptom, and this shows us the strong link between rest and mental health.
To ensure you’re getting enough sleep, try and stick to a schedule that makes sure you’re getting about 7 hours every night. Also, avoid certain activities an hour or two before bed that can make it hard for you to fall asleep. For example, reduce drinking caffeine, and avoid blue light exposure from your phone or computer close to bedtime.
There are many beneficial self-care, relaxation, and wellness programs out there to help your mental health and emotional well-being. They often include mindfulness meditation, breathing techniques, and muscle relaxation.
These self-care activities can be included in your daily routines to help to keep you grounded. They are especially useful if you struggle with mental illnesses like anxiety and depression but are good practice for each and every one of us.
Some other great relaxing activities to practice that can focus on creativity or taking care of your mind and body are:
Learning something new or taking up an enjoyable hobby can help you boost your self-confidence, allowing you to develop better overall mental health. This is because you’ll be building your sense of purpose by discovering new possibilities and new passions.
Don’t limit yourself when it comes to finding a new hobby or interest - it can range from learning a completely new language or trying new food to traveling to a country you’ve never explored before.
Research has concluded that learning new, unfamiliar skills that require engagement of working memory, long term memory and other high-level cognitive processes actually helped preserve memory.
Unfortunately, we can’t avoid the stressful situations life throws at us. But, we can learn how to cope with and manage them. A great way to prioritize your emotional health and avoid being overwhelmed and letting symptoms of anxiety and depression take over is to practice gratitude.
You can start by engaging in gratitude talk in the mirror by expressing everything you’re grateful for. It’s best to begin with the simplest of things - such as the ability to talk, eat, and breathe and move on to having a roof over your head, family, friends, and so on. If you feel uncomfortable talking to yourself - you can write in a gratitude journal.
Expressing the simple things you’re grateful for has a huge positive impact on your mental health and limits negative thoughts because your attention is set on the positive aspects of your life.
People who maintain strong social connections through healthy social interaction have better mental health than those who don’t have as much of a support network.
If family connections are not an option, try out new activities where you can meet new people as well as discover new passions - a double win for your mental health.
If it’s difficult for you to travel and visit people - voice calls, video calls, and chat messages can be a great start.
Of course, life can be very difficult sometimes, and it is easy to think the best way to avoid its pain is to numb it with alcohol and, in extreme cases, drugs. The problem is these substances will impact both your physical and mental health, and the impact is even greater for those who are already struggling with mental illness or mental health conditions.
Enjoying a drink here and there at social gatherings or with dinner is fine - the issue comes when you drink to avoid negative things that may be happening in your life because then you lose your resilience and are more likely to become dependent on the substance.
If you want to prioritize taking care of your mental health, it’s better to find healthy long-term ways to manage stress and anxiety and cope with the downsides of life.
When you experience negative thoughts, you don’t always have to push them aside. Try and talk to someone about how you are feeling or write in a journal to help you process your emotions. This will help you to develop beneficial mental health habits because good mental health doesn’t mean the absence of stress or negativity - it’s all in how you deal with those feelings.
Once you get used to expressing your emotions in a healthy way, you’ll notice your overall mental health start to improve.
Try to have at least one person you can reach out to for emotional support when you can’t do it for yourself. Staying connected to others helps you not lose yourself in your mind which may be causing you emotional pain.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to family member, a friend, or even join a support group so that you always have a way out of a dark period. Everyone deserves a fighting chance of good mental health - and most people will be supportive.
It’s important to remember that seeking help for mental health is not a weakness – it’s actually a sign of strength. Getting the right treatment can be effective to help you recover from any mental health problems or mental illness you may be facing.
If you’ve been struggling for a long time, you can fall into the trap of thinking that professional mental health care or mental health treatment is unnecessary because that’s just “who you are” or "how you feel". But it’s not. You deserve to have good mental health as you would physical health.
You should consider seeking mental health treatment when you experience any of the following symptoms that have lasted over two weeks:
It’s best not to wait until your feelings become too overwhelming to seek professional help. Talk to your primary care provider first to discuss your initial mental health problems, then if necessary, they can advise you to get the right professional help.
At GIA Miami, we’re dedicated to prioritizing people’s mental health by offering care and support for anyone who doesn’t know how to cope with their personal stress.
We offer cutting-edge treatments and therapies performed by caring and talented medical professionals and tailored to your specific needs so that you can get back to feeling like yourself. It may be difficult for you right now, but we’re positive we can provide you with the help you need to return to a happy and healthy life.
You’ll find our calming wellness center in the heart of Miami. If you need more in-depth care, we can organize an overnight stay for you - please contact us today so you don’t have to battle your mind alone.
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