How we think, feel and act is greatly affected by our mental health. It is also how we cope with stress, relate to other people and make decisions. The World Health Organization highlights the importance of mental health in these demanding times of the COVID-19 pandemic and poor mental health can lead to a variety of mental and physical illnesses.
In the United States, one in five Americans experiences a mental illness in a year while one in twenty-five lives with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or major depression (in CDC, 2018). In some cases, it can also lead to a heart disease or high blood pressure.
Anyone is actually at risk. Whether you’re a mom of three who has “covered” everything, a teacher who seems to have things “sorted out” or a fresh grad, top of their class, who is in their first month at work; one could be suffering from the troubles of mental health without them even knowing it.
It is always easy to assume that we are okay because we can assess ourselves physically. However, the brain is different. We rarely know or rather accept within ourselves if we are overworked, stressed, depressed or just in need of a mental timeout. Here are a few things you can do to improve your overall mental health:
1. Check what you eat
In your mental health journey, your love affair for fast food and junk food needs to be at a bare minimum. These usually have refined, saturated or trans fats. They are also high in calories but give off very low nutrients. Your new best friend is a clean and healthy diet.
According to The Beet (2020), 9.7 million Americans have already made the big switch to plant-based food. These meals are ideally served with vegetables, fruits, protein, grains, fiber and healthy oils in their right portions. For the most part, skip the coffee. While caffeine can reduce anxiety and mood, a research found out that it may increase chances of stress and depression.
2. Practice relaxation techniques
This includes plenty of deep breathing and meditation. You can also go for a massage, attend classes on yoga, Tai chi or make an artwork. These techniques can allow for inner peace and improve brain function. They also play a big role in stress and pain management. If you have the time, go on and try a new hobby.
3. Get a good night’s sleep
As important as eating, drinking and breathing, sleep allows our bodies for natural repair. Sleep and health are strongly related. Thus, improving your sleep quality can favor better outcomes in terms of mental health.
Create a bedtime routine and strictly follow it. Put yourself in the “sleeping mood”. Your fresh linen, essential oils for aromatherapy, dim light and white wine can definitely help you with achieving this state of mind.
Separate yourself from the digital world and turn off any device that elicits bluelight. Bluelight makes you less drowsy and decreases your body’s natural ability to sleep since it blocks the hormone melatonin. Therefore, it’s hard for you to zone out. Release all forms of negative thoughts, feelings of pressure and fears before tucking yourself in – this a form of respect to your bed. You want your nest to be bringing you tranquility rather than stimulating worry.
4. Talk to other people and be vocal about your thoughts
Social interaction helps us in dealing with stress and major life changes. Knowing that we are heard gives us the comfort on days that are just plain heavy. A short chat with a friend and voicing out how you feel can instantly lift your mood.
5. Read a book or listen to a podcast
Flipping pages and reading fiction can make you feel more connected. Reading a book exercises the mind. You get to reflect on the characters, their personalities and their tenacity to keep going despite experiencing any difficulty.
If you are not a fan of literature and find that it only puts you to sleep rather than bring comfort (either way, a book sure does bring good benefits), you can listen to a podcast instead. Podcasts are usually peace-inducing since they channel mindfulness and inspirational talks. If those are not of interest, there are plenty of options: music, comedy, deep conversations and lifestyle advice.
6. Work from the outside in
How much value you give to self-care dictates how much value you give to yourself. Unnecessary and time-consuming as you might think, self-care can yield big results in boosting your self-confidence, self-esteem and self-worth.
Not only doing a 20-minute workout can maintain your body and enhance your cardiovascular health, it also has a great relaxing effect and can allow for a better sleep. Exercise also makes you sweat, this a great way to detoxify the body naturally and improve your skin texture.
Skin is an indicator of underlying mental health problems. Psychological concerns, or simply stress and depression, can trigger dermatological issues like acne, psoriasis and eczema. Skin care, indeed, needs to be emphasized as well. Find the skin care that works for you. The one that you can commit to and do the cleansing, toning and moisturizing consistently. Play with bath bombs, face masks and body scrubs and before you even know it, you are calmed and free from stress even for a while. Most of these stuff can be found online, order them and have it shipped to you for convenience.
Sometimes, it is really important to reassess our psychological and physiological needs as a person. Because we tend to get busy with life’s many demands, we sometimes forget that we are only humans and as social beings, we need to speak out, be heard and slow down.
When you finally have the time, you can check out this list once again and just owe everything in it to yourself. You’ve worked so hard and greatly deserve all the relaxation.
Salman Zafar is an acclaimed blogger, editor, publisher and digital marketer. He is the founder of Blogging Hub, a digital publishing portal with wide following across the world.