Maybe it’s been a long day at work, and your brain is just shorted out. Perhaps it’s been a long year, financially, academically, or socially. Maybe you’ve just been feeling a bit more run down recently. Whatever it is, no matter how trivial it feels, it may be a sign of something more insidious going on. If you live with a psychiatric condition or even just get sometimes overwhelmed by life, here are seven significant ways to make your mental health a priority (and keep it in check!)
Treat yourself like you treat others– with kindness and respect. Treatment like this can mean taking breaks when you need to, taking time to develop spiritual health, and being sure to steer clear of negative self-talk. Take time out of every day to spend time on your hobbies and passions– or maybe try something entirely new! Do a daily crossword or sudoku puzzle, take up knitting, plant and manage a garden, take a cake decorating class or piano lessons, or maybe become fluent in another language. Even taking thirty minutes when you wake up or before you fall asleep to keep up with your favorite TV show counts! All of these don’t have to be expensive, either– with the advent of the internet, plenty of free apps exist for puzzles, gardening tips, or language learning.
If you’re having trouble coming up with something, take a personality test online, think about hobbies you had in your childhood, or maybe pop into a local craft or hobby store and pick up the first thing that catches your eye. Keeping up a hobby has been clinically proven to help manage the symptoms of mental illness associated with ailments like depression and generalized anxiety and can be a bright light in your own life!
Take Care of Yourself
Getting enough sleep, exercising, and eating healthy are all great ways to keep your mind and body healthy. As they used to say in Rome, healthy mind, healthy body! Keeping your body healthy in all senses of the word makes your holistic health, and therefore your mental health, a priority, and keeps you looking and feeling your best!
To keep your mind and body healthy, you can quickly get into a groove by making small, gradual changes to your daily routine. Falling asleep and waking up at around the same time every day is a perfect example– this small change allows your body to get into a habit and even get more efficient sleep! Perhaps try walking up the stairs instead of taking the elevator, making it a point to drink more water, or resolving to pack more lunches from home if you want to try a more holistic approach when starting out!
Put Yourself Out There
In general, people with healthier social or familial relationships have been proven to be more emotionally resilient than those who lack a secure support network. If you find yourself stuck in a rut, start by making plans with supportive family members and friends or find places where you can meet new people, such as a club, class or support group. Clubs or classes can be completely free and enjoyable, and meeting with your family members or friends can be healthy for both of you! Exercise classes are a great place to achieve both this goal and the last one– finding a gym buddy can be great for both your mental and physical health!
Spend time volunteering your time and energy to help someone else. Not only will you feel good about helping others, but you’ll also put yourself in a great place to meet fellow volunteers! Volunteering is proven to lower instances of depression, higher instances of both mental and physical activity. If you choose a cause that you’re passionate about, you can work on a hobby or a passion while giving back– talk about a win-win.
Don’t Stress Yourself
Whether or not you like it, stress is a part of your life. Learn different coping strategies so that you can deal with different types of stress: try meditation, Tai Chi, exercise, walking in nature, playing with your pet, or journaling– all of which are proven stress reducers. Also, humor is a great coping mechanism– so remember to smile and see the humor in life! Research shows that fun and laughter can help boost your immune system, relax your muscles, ease any pains, and reduce any stress that you might have.
Try putting yourself in a proper headspace by practicing meditation, doing mindfulness exercises and praying. Mental and spiritual exercises have been proven to up your state of mind and improve your overall outlook on life. In fact, research shows that meditation and prayer may help you feel calm and will enhance the effects of therapy, for those of you who attend therapy.
Many online and digital resources exist for mindfulness activities (like app Headspace, for example,) and many physical resources within any religion exist for prayer and counseling. Try seeking out an elder or a mentor in your religious organization, who can help you pray, pray for you, or pray with you.
Make Goals for Yourself
Sit down one day and write out what exactly you want to accomplish in the academic, professional, and personal fields. Under each goal, write out specific steps that you can take to realize these goals. Although you should aim high, make the goals something that you could realistically achieve, and something that you’ll take pride in.
As you make steps toward your goal, you’ll have an increased sense of accomplishment and hope for the future– two things that are incredibly wonderful for your overall well-being. When you choose your goals, be sure to make them SMART– specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. By selecting particular targets that are relevant to you, you make achieving them that much sweeter. Adding a timeline and a form of measurement makes sure that they are concrete and have specific steps that you can take to get them done!