Life will throw us challenges—in a way that’s what keeps it interesting. But with good mental health it’s easier to stay positive and “bounce back” from stress during tough times.
May is Mental Health Awareness month, and to celebrate we’re sharing 7 ways to improve mental health, get a grip on stress, and stay mentally fit.
Why is mental health important?
Good health is more than just physical exercise. Health is 2 tightly connected components: physical health and mental health. Together, they make up your entire wellbeing.
Mental health includes the way you feel about yourself, the quality of your relationships, and your ability to manage your feelings and deal with difficulties and stress.
How does stress impact mental health?
Everyone gets stressed from time to time, and not all stress is bad. We’re generally able to recover from short periods of stress. In fact, it can help you quickly react in dangerous situations like avoiding a collision. But stress that lasts a long time can strain your health and affect your mental health.
What are 7 ways to improve mental health?
Everyone gets stressed from time to time. But if you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s time to try these 7 ways to improve your mental health and reduce your stress.
- Don’t skimp on sleep
- Quiet your mind
- Be present
- Take care of your physical health
- Build good relationships
- Do what makes you happy
- Challenge yourself
Don’t skimp on sleep
Ever feel groggy or irritated when you don’t get enough sleep? Sleep affects your mood in a big way. If you don’t get enough sleep, you may become easily angered, annoyed, and more easily stressed out. So it's important to make sure that you have a regular sleep schedule and get enough quality sleep every night (most people should aim for at least 7 hours of sleep each night).
Your routine before bed is also important. Take some time to relax and wind down from your day before bed. One hour before bedtime turn off your phone and computer. Don’t look at them until morning. And lastly, try to go to sleep and wake up at a consistent time each day.
Quiet your mind
Life moves fast, and our minds spin even faster. Worries, concerns, stress, to do lists — it can get overwhelming. When you need to pump the brakes and quiet the noise, explore relaxation or wellness programs, which may incorporate meditation, muscle relaxation, or breathing exercises.
Guided meditation apps are another great way to distract yourself from the stress of daily life and take the 5, 10, or 15 minutes to just slow things down and unplug.
What is the 3-3-3 rule for anxiety?
A popular relaxation technique is the “3 3 3 rule”. It’s meant to help you center yourself and calm down in a moment where you’re feeling particularly anxious or overwhelmed from stress. Start by looking around you and naming three things you see. Then, name three sounds you hear. Finally, move three parts of your body — your fingers, arm, or ankle. Whenever you feel your brain going 100 miles per hour, this mental trick can help center your mind and bring you back to the present moment.
Too often we’re thinking about the past or worrying about the future. Focus on living in the moment. Think about today.
Remember to take the time to focus on details. Go for a walk and notice the sun, or wind on your face, or feel your feet hitting the pavement. Make a real effort to be aware of the world around you, today.
Take care of your physical health
Physical and mental health are tied together. It’s easier to feel happy if your body feels good. Small amounts of exercise add up—even a short walk each day is a step in the right direction.
Start slow and build up. Regular exercise or activity can have a major impact on your mental and emotional health, relieve stress, improve memory, and help you sleep better. If you don’t have the time to work out, even doing some simple stretches every day can help improve your mood as well.
Build good relationships
Humans are social creatures. Having healthy relationships with your friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors can increase your sense of emotional wellbeing and give you a feeling of connectedness.
Spend time with people whose company you enjoy. Spending time with people you like and get along with gives you a sense of being valued, safe, and appreciated. Seek people who energize you. Have lunch with a colleague, or make plans to meet a friend you haven’t spent time with in a while. These days it’s even easier to connect. You can easily hop on a video call—though if it’s an option, it’s better to spend that quality time in-person instead of using technology.
Do what makes you happy
Keep doing the stuff you love to do and the things that are important to you. It’s important to find things to be grateful about. It can help keep the fun in your life, give you a sense of accomplishment and purpose, boost your confidence and help you connect with others.
Especially when life is hectic, remember to take some time to relax, contemplate, and pay attention to the positive things as you go about your day — even the small things. Write them down if you can in a “gratitude journal” because they can be easy to forget. Then reflect on them later if you’re feeling down or overwhelmed. You might think you don’t have time to take a “time out”, but leisure time is a necessity for your emotional and mental health.
Learning improves your mental strength. Challenge yourself to learn a new skill or set a difficult (but achievable) goal. Shake it up, try something different. For example, if you’ve never cooked, find a simple recipe online and give it a shot. Doing something new will increase your concentration levels, giving you a tremendous sense of accomplishment and self-worth as you reach the finish line. It also increases your confidence in being able to face unfamiliar situations and new challenges.
Self-care looks different for everyone, and it is important to find what you need and enjoy. It may take trial and error to discover what works best for you. It's also important to recognize when you need to get help. When you feel sad, challenged, frustrated, confused, angry, or just simply overwhelmed and unable to cope, speak to someone you trust – a spouse/partner, friend, parent, sibling or relative. If you think you need even more support, reach out to a physician or counselor. The earlier you reach out, the better.