How to Help Your Mental Health

Depression, anxiety and mood disorders are ranked among the top national health conditions across every county of every state in the U.S.

Thankfully, initiatives like Mental Health Month, which takes place every May, encourage open dialogue and highlight the risk factors, symptoms and methods of treatment associated with various mental health conditions.

Knowing the Signs

Though the symptoms of depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions differ from person to person, some of the most common indicators of mental health concerns include:

  • Carelessness
  • Changes in Appetite
  • Changes in Sleeping Patterns
  • Fatigue
  • Isolation/Social Withdrawing
  • Mood Swings
  • Paranoia/Delusions
  • Partaking in Risky/Dangerous Activities
  • Suicidal Thoughts or Talk
  • Substance Abuse

How to Help Yourself

Regardless of mental health history, practicing self-care on a regular basis ensures a healthy mind, body and spirit throughout life. Some simple habits to integrate in an everyday routine include:

  • Focus on Physical Health: Diet and exercise play a large role in mental and emotional health. Physical activity can be a natural antidepressant with the body’s release of endorphins, or “happy hormones.” Healthy eating habits have a similar effect and certain foods even have the power to relieve stress. Avocado, blueberries, milk, nuts/seeds, oatmeal and dark, leafy greens have all been shown to lower stress levels.
  • Prioritize Personal Needs: Asserting personal time and finding a work-life balance is essential to maintaining a state of good mental health. Allowing daily responsibilities to consume every moment of the day can lead to burnout and negatively impact mental and physical well-being. Rather than becoming overwhelmed by the needs of others, make a habit of dedicating time to the things you enjoy doing alone or with others.
  • Unplug: Detaching from technology and social channels is a great way to clear the mind and de-stress. Studies have shown that just the presence of a phone is distracting enough to negatively impact productivity and the ability to accomplish simple tasks. To truly separate from a device, it’s best to turn phones and/or computers off, place them in a separate room and focus on engaging in another task such as reading, working out or spending time outside.
  • Speak Up: Talking through negative thoughts and feelings with friends or family is a powerful way to manage mental health. Not only can it help ease the mind, it allows others to validate emotions and in some cases, offer a solution you may not have considered. If symptoms progress and begin to interfere with everyday life, it may be an indication that professional help is necessary. Recognizing the need for treatment can seem daunting, but it is one of the first steps to properly addressing a mental health issue.

About the author: Dr. Tanya Martin is a clinical psychologist and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan provider.

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