How to Leverage Self Care for Improved Mental Health


Guest contributor Sophie Letts

Your mental health is just as important as your physical health, and just like your physical health, it requires effort to maintain. There are many small but significant steps you can take on a day-to-day basis to help nurture a happier state of mind. Best of all, many are low cost and even free. Read more on tips for self-care in the Wellness section of the St. Joseph Healthcare website.

Nourish Your Body and Mind with a Healthy Diet
What you eat directly impacts your mood. For example, if you’re hungry, your blood sugar will drop, which can cause you to become irritable and tired. Keep yourself nourished with a healthy diet. Aim for a rich balance of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy. In general, stay away from processed foods, which contain excess fat, sodium, and sugar.

Find a Fun Way to Work Out
Most people assume exercise is only for physical health. However, regular physical activity is also great for your emotional well-being, as getting your body moving can trigger the production of feel-good neurotransmitters in your brain. If you struggle to work out, the key to motivating yourself is to find an activity you enjoy. Instead of forcing yourself to go jogging, for example, look into alternative workouts like Zumba or Pilates.

Even if you can’t make it to a workout class, make time to take a walk. Look for areas near your home or workplace with high Walk Scores. These are places where you can get around on foot easily, so they make great places to walk. Try to get 30 minutes of walking a day accomplished most days of the week.

Make More Time for Socializing
Sometimes, self-care is as easy as meeting a friend for a cup of coffee. According to the Mayo Clinic, research suggests that people who have stronger social connections are less likely to suffer from mental health issues like anxiety, loneliness, and depression. Make a point of reinvigorating your social connections. If time is tight, you can combine socializing with other self-care steps, like working out—just find a friend to hit the gym with.

Master Some Quick Stress-Busting Techniques
Stress is part of everyday life. From deadlines at work to relationship troubles, there are all kinds of triggers that can cause stress. While you can’t get rid of stressors totally, you can change how you react to them. Master a few simple stress-busting approaches, like meditation or deep breathing. Sometimes, simply removing yourself from a stressful situation and going for a quick walk can help too.

Eliminate negative self-talk from your life
There are certain good habits that can improve mental health. In the same vein, there are bad habits that can harm mental health. Negative self-talk is a great example. People can be very harsh on themselves, internalizing words they’d never say to a dear friend. If you tend to fall into this pattern, it’s time to make a change. Embrace positive self-talk, for example, by creating your own optimistic mantras to counteract negativity.

Transform your bedroom into a snooze-friendly zone
According to the Sleep Foundation, the average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep to function optimally. Make sure you’re getting the Z’s you need to maintain good mental health. Stop using your phone and other screens at least a few hours before bed. Also, eliminate extra light and noise in your bedroom, which might otherwise keep you awake. Finally, invest in some quality sheets and pillows for your bed.

Don’t Be Afraid to Reach Out for Mental Health Help
Even with everyday self-care, mental health can be a challenge. If you’re struggling with anxiety or depression, seek out services available to you through EAP. They can connect you with a provider who can determine the best treatment options to fit your needs, and connect you with a counselor or therapist for additional support. Taking care of yourself doesn’t stop with your physical health. The above guide provides pointers that will help you improve your mental health through everyday self-care.

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