NINE WAYS TO TAKE CARE OF YOUR MENTAL HEALTH
Most of us also realize that good health isn’t just being free of any physical disorders; it is also being mentally and emotionally fit. As everyone wants to lead a healthy and balanced life, mental health becomes an integral part of the ‘good health’ goal.
Why we Need to Take Care of Mental Health
Mind and body are interconnected and mental health is a part of overall health. It impacts how we think, how we take our decisions, how we behave, and how motivated we feel in tackling life’s stresses and challenges. A person’s productivity is directly linked not just to their skill set and opportunities available but also to their mental health. After all, without mental fitness, how can a person make use of their skills and opportunities!
Mental health also impacts how we connect with others. Do remember that man is a social animal. Being part of a community, having healthy familial and social relationships is important to us and mental health plays a large role in those too.
Why Follow a ‘Prevention Rather Than Intervention’ Approach
For mental health too, the dictum of ‘prevention is better than intervention’ holds true, like it does in physical health. In everyday language we can also phrase it as, ‘a stitch in time is better than nine’ or ‘an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure’.
If unresolved, small mental health issues can accumulate to become bigger ones. Then it may require a higher level of treatment including medication, hospitalization, and therapy. This not only can deplete your resources and time, but it will also impact your ability to work and enjoy a happy personal life. A lot many people prefer to ‘tough it out’ when faced with initial symptoms of anxiety, depression, lack of emotional connection, and obsessive or compulsive behaviors. This approach actually makes a potentially bad situation worse.
Here are Nine Ways to Help Keep Your Emotional Health in Good Shape:
1. Talk about it. Or write it out.
Something as simple as giving words to whatever stresses you or bothers you acts as a safety valve for the mind. So, join a support group, or talk to a trusted friend or family member, and articulate whatever’s causing an emotional block or giving rise to negative feelings. If there is no one you trust enough, write it all down (you can later tear up the pages if there are privacy issues). The main thing is to articulate, to give words to what you are feeling.
2. Stay active. Exercise is a mood booster.
Moderate and enjoyable activity on a regular basis boosts production and release of serotonin which is the feel-good hormone that helps boost mental health. Aerobic activity like brisk walking, jogging, swimming, and cycling are especially recommended. Yoga, tai chi, and similar activities that combine physical movement with mental focus also help.
3. Eat healthy. Drink water adequately.
You must have heard the old adage: you are what you eat. Apparently it is not very far from the truth as food and mood seem to have an interconnection. Foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, probiotics, and vitamin B complex all help increase the sense of well being. Similarly, a well-hydrated body is essential to wellness. So drink at least 8 glasses of water a day. More if you perspire or feel thirsty.
4. Remove/Reduce dependence on addictive substances.
Addictive habits such as smoking and alcohol are linked to a false and temporary sense of wellness that needs more and more of the same addiction to achieve the same effect. Smoking and excessive alcohol are also linked to serious side effects to physical health. For longer-lasting well being, try to give up smoking altogether and keep alcohol intake to the minimum possible.
Goes without saying; drugs are a complete no-no if you want wellness of any sort at all.
5. Stay connected. Get social.
As humans, we have evolved to be social beings. Loneliness and being asocial are damaging to our mental health. An easy way to stay mentally fit is to build and foster healthy interpersonal relationships. In family or with friends or even with friendly acquaintances or on social media, interactions are a good way to stay connected with people and keep your morale high.
This excludes toxic relationships, of course. Do not engage with people who are abusive or narcissistic. Disengage if you are in abusive relationships.
6. Get me-time. Be with yourself.
Much as social connections are important, we also need some ‘alone-time’ or ‘me-time’ in moderate doses. It can be something as simple as a 10-minute break with your cup of coffee in the balcony, enjoying it sip by sip. It can even be an hour of mindfulness meditation. Whatever brings you peace and fits into your schedule!
7. Find a hobby. Have a creative outlet.
Creative expression is a great way to gain a sense of well-being. Writing poetry, short stories, limericks, jokes or memes, cooking, baking, stitching, embroidery, crochet, knitting, pottery, gardening, carving, carpentering, there are 1001 hobbies waiting for you to pick a few for yourself. Even a couple of hours per week spent on doing something you enjoy gives a great mood boost.
8. Learn stress management.
Stress is an escapable part of life. Same with stressors. Neither can be wished away. However, both can be managed. Slow breathing, reducing negative interactions, cutting down on worthless social media engagements, learning the art of ignoring what can be ignored, setting realistic life/ work goals are all recommended ways to manage stress. Even watching comedy movies that make you laugh is a healthy way to manage stress.
9. Get enough sleep.
At least eight hours of restful sleep are crucial for mental health. Sleep is when the conscious mind relaxes and the body rests and repairs. Sleep is when immune function peaks. So, build a healthy bedtime routine – shower, comfy bedclothes, clean linen, no outside noises, switched off the phone, time with family, recalling things to be grateful for – all boost healthy sleep that in turn boosts mental health.
Last but not the least; if you feel your mental health is suffering, reach out for professional help from a qualified psychologist or psychiatrist.