May is Mental Health Month: Mind Your Health
Think about a time when you missed a meal, either intentionally or by circumstance. How was your mood impacted? Were you more short-tempered or irritable? Did it throw you off balance?
What about someone experiencing a major depressive episode? They might feel more sluggish than normal, less motivated to care for themselves, and their physical health often declines.
“Humans are complex creatures, and all of our systems were made to interact with each other—biological, psychological, social, and spiritual,” Monarch Clinical Director Chris Abbey explains.
Mind Your Health—this year’s theme for May is Mental Health Month—calls attention to these interactions and their importance in how our mental health impacts overall health and wellness.
Abbey explained that mental health is the ability to cope with daily life and the challenges it brings. When a person has good self-care habits, they deal better with what comes their way. By contrast, being ill equipped to deal with overwhelming feelings like stress can make even day-to-day life difficult, and can also significantly harm a person’s physical health.
“Unfortunately for all of us, bad things are going to happen and we are going to have stress in our lives. Stress is a universal problem,” Abbey said.
But he also noted that there are ways to manage and cope with our stress, and improve our mental health, by doing a few basic things:
- Make a list of the things that stress you out. Once you have your list, put them in order of most stressful to least stressful. The simple act of making the list can make your day more manageable.
- Get to know yourself. If there is a particular time of day (maybe early in the morning) when you’re at your best? That may be the time to tackle some of the harder things on your list.
- Watch what (and when) you eat. This is a big one for many of us. High and low blood sugar can impact mood and our ability to cope with stress. Fruit is easy to digest and can give us energy early in the day. Foods high in sugars and carbohydrates can weigh us down and make us more sluggish. And eating late at night can interrupt your sleep. Speaking of which…
- Get plenty of sleep. Americans are notoriously tired. The average person needs between 7 and 8 hours of sleep per night to fully recharge the batteries. If you’re not sleeping enough, what’s getting in the way?
- Breathe! Taking a few minutes to just sit and relax and focus on your breath is one of the simplest and most effective things that we can do for ourselves. Close your eyes, or focus on a spot on the wall. In through the nose, out through the mouth.
- And last, but not least, seek help if you need to. There are groups and activities in almost every community to help folks manage stress. Counseling can be very helpful for many people, and professional therapists are trained in a variety of stress-reduction techniques.
Mental Health America has also developed a series of fact sheets available on its web site (http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/may) to help anyone improve their overall mental health and well-being and on how to get help when needed.
May is Mental Health Month was started 65 years ago by Mental Health America, to raise awareness about mental health conditions and the importance of good mental health for everyone.