Due to the stigma around mental health, we tend to ignore issues like depression and anxiety instead of asking for help. The symptoms of poor mental health can be so debilitating they prevent us from functioning normally and enjoying our lives as we should. This is concerning since one in five American adults struggle with mental illness in a given year.
Fortunately, there are many actions we can take as individuals to improve our resilience and reduce symptoms of common mental problems. Self-care might just be the approach we need to fight the mental health crisis once and for all. Here’s how you can give it a try.
Improve Your Sleep
People who experience insomnia or regular sleep disruptions have been found to suffer from higher rates of mental health problems, including anxiety, depression, lower psychological well-being, and reduced daytime functioning. Lack of sleep affects the part of the brain responsible for managing emotions, reducing our ability to manage negative feelings. This is why improving your sleep should be one of the first steps you take in tackling any psychological or emotional problems you’re experiencing. Sleep.org recommends following some sleep hygiene tips to help you fall asleep faster and reduce disruptions during the night:
- Follow a consistent sleep schedule.
- Practice a calming bedtime routine.
- Use blackout curtains, a white noise machine, and turn your thermostat down.
- Avoid heavy snacks before bed.
- Turn off bright lights and avoid screens an hour before bedtime.
Shop for Brain-Friendly Foods
Reaching for the right healthy foods is important for fueling your brain to handle stress and manage emotions. Whole grains provide consistent energy to your brain while fatty fish, like salmon, support your general wellbeing. Also, try to include plenty of antioxidants and vitamin-rich whole foods in your diet, including blueberries, tomatoes, blackcurrants, and broccoli.
Overcome Stress at Work
Overworking is often condemned as the number one source of stress for people in our society. The high-stress levels we experience on the job can get in the way of our mental health goals and even put our physical wellbeing at risk. To combat this, choose some stress-reduction strategies that are realistic for you. For example, taking a short break every 90 minutes gives you a chance to recover throughout the day and avoid burnout. It can also be helpful to break up your day with exercise, get away from your desk for lunch, and do some relaxation exercises at your desk. Deep breathing, meditation, and simple stretches are great activities to do during your breaks. Finally, try to leave your work at the office and set boundaries for checking your email. And, if you ever feel overwhelmed with the amount of work you have, don’t be afraid to say no!
Hit the Ground Running
According to Insider, exercise has been found to improve self-esteem and cognitive functioning while reducing various mental problems. Getting your muscles moving causes your body to release endorphins, flooding your mind with calming and mood-enhancing hormones. Exercise also increases blood flow to the brain, which can boost your memory and make it easier to concentrate. Try to get at least 150 minutes of exercise every week. Some of the best exercises for mental health include walking in the forest, running, hiking, yoga, and resistance training. But, the most important thing is to choose exercises that you enjoy.
Carve Out More Me Time
Taking time for yourself is not an act of selfishness, but an act of self-love. It gives you the refreshing energy you need to think clearly and work more productively. Plus, a little self-appreciation is always good for building self-esteem and confidence. Whether it means sitting outside with a book or engaging in a unique hobby, pick some activities you enjoy rather than building your life around others.
When we prioritize the care of others over ourselves, we often forget entirely to tend to our own completely. Sometimes it seems like we just don’t have enough time in the day to nourish our bodies and minds. Developing a self-care routine will not only make you feel happier and more fulfilled, but it will improve your ability to care for others as well.
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