Ever have one of those days where everything goes wrong? Your schedule is way overbooked, you feel all anxious and flustered, and the word “overwhelming” just doesn’t do it justice? When that happens, it’s necessary to stop everything and take care of your mental health before things get out of hand.
Because there’s really nothing fun, or healthy, about feeling like your mind is spinning out of control. This is especially the case when your stress spills over from regular everyday pressures, to full blown anxiety or depression. This ends up being the case for millions of Americans. In fact, about 18 percent of people fall victim to an anxiety disorder such as PTSD, OCD, or a phobia in a given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Having a healthy outlook, well-managed stress, and a good attitude goes a long way in making life that much easier, and more enjoyable. Of course calming down everyday stress is way easier than reigning in something like OCD. I know — the two just don't compare. But it does all fall under the mental health umbrella.
So whether you're one of those millions dealing with anxiety, or just someone who's looking for everyday coping skills, then check out this list for ways to take better care of your mental health.
1. Get Yourself Checked Out By A Doctor
If you think something's up with your mental health, it's worth it to go get checked out by a doctor. But even if you don't think there's an issue, it's still a good idea to give your brain a once over at your next physical. As Lindsay Holmes noted on HuffingtonPost.com, "General physicians are able to offer depression screenings (in fact, some even recommend that they should be a requirement) and mental health consultations. They can then refer you to a clinician who is able to tailor to your specific needs."
Whether it's medication, counseling, or group therapy, make sure you follow through with any treatment recommendations. And remember, it often takes quite a while before positive results kick in, so don't get discouraged if you don't feel better right away.
2. Work It Out
It's obvious there's a direct connection between physical health and mood. Anyone's who's ever experienced runner's high can attest to this, as well as anyone who's ever felt low after a blood sugar crash.
That's why taking good care of your body is important when it comes to your mental health. In fact, studies have shown that exercise and proper diet can improve mental capacity and longevity, according to Paul Jenkins on PsychCentral.com. So adopt a healthy routine that works for you. Whether it's a hardcore gym life, or just a daily walk around the block, do whatever you can to keep your physical health on point. And again, be consistent.
3. Jot Down All Those Feels
When I was a little kid, I'd write in my diary every night. Now I can't say that I remember being any mentally healthier for it, but I can say I wish it's something I'd do more often as an adult. That's because journaling has been shown to be pretty great for improving your emotions, and who wouldn't want a little more of that?
As Amanda L. Chan noted on HuffingtonPost.com, "Expressive writing has been linked with improved mood, well-being, stress levels and depressive symptoms, as well as more physical benefits of lower blood pressure, improved lung and liver functioning and decreased time spent in the hospital. Some research has also suggested that expressive writing could help people with post-traumatic stress disorder..." If that's not enough to send you running to the stationary story, then I don't know what is.
4. Reach Out To Some Friends
If you do happen to be suffering from any issues (depression, anxiety, what have you), it can be pretty difficult to drag yourself out of the house. But take a moment to consider science, which is showing that being social can help improve mental health. According to Holmes, "A 2011 study found that spending time with your [friends] can reduce stress. [And other] research also shows that social connection is imperative to mental health." So maybe don't cancel those Friday night plans (at least not every time), as the friend time could really do you some good.
5. Deal With All That Stress (In A Healthy Way)
It doesn't need to be said twice that stress is bad for you. That goes for your body, as well as mind. And it's especially bad if you have anxiety, which can be made worse by the effects of stress, according to CalmClinic.com.
You may not be able to control your schedule, or the constant business that is life, but you can take steps to remain relaxed in spite of it all. Do yourself a favor and learn a few coping mechanisms. Get all into yoga, do a little Tai Chi, stick to that exercise regimen we were just talking about, or start the habit of morning meditation. And OK, have the occasional margarita. Your mental health will thank you.
6. Make Time For Plenty Of Sleep
Oh sleep. Beautiful sleep. You are so wonderful, and yet none of us ever make any time for you. And why not? Is it really so difficult to go to bed on time?
If I want to answer my own question, I can say the answer is "yes, it really is that hard." If you're anything like me, you know how a busy schedule (or an intense desire to binge watch TV until 2AM), can really eat up your nighttime hours. But sleep is imperative to your sanity. In fact, "research shows sleep deprivation can make it difficult for someone to regulate their emotions. Poor sleep is also a sign of more serious mental health problems," according to Holmes. So get more protective of your beauty rest, and feel better for it.
7. Consider A Social Media Vacay
How often do you look at your phone? Every five minutes? Every minute? I totally get the constant desire to check your social media, but research is showing that people can feel depressive symptoms from scrolling Facebook. This is likely due to the internal comparison that's taking place, Holmes noted, especially when we see someone's awesome vacation photos or work promotion status updates. If this sounds like something that happens to you, then take a break every now and then. And work on keeping some healthy perspective when you do decide to take part.
Managing mental health can be tricky, especially if you're dealing with issues like anxiety or depression. But, despite how difficult it may feel, it is possible to help yourself feel even the tiniest bit better.
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