The nation celebrates its 68th annual Mental Health Awareness Month this month of May. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than a quarter of adults living in America experience depression, anxiety or some other mental health problem in any given year. Millions of Americans face the reality of living with a mental health condition.
Your well-being doesn’t only apply to your physical health. It’s multi-dimensional and includes your mental, financial, emotional, spiritual and social health. If one is not functioning well, you will not be able to function at your best. You probably take great care to enhance your physical health so why not do the same for your mental health? I’m glad you asked. Your mental health is important at every stage of development in life. It includes your emotional, psychological and social well-being. It affects the way you think, feel and act as well as how you respond to stress. Protecting your mental health is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Here’s a list of ways to protect and maintain optimal mental health.
1) Have realistic expectations of yourself.
Try to avoid being a perfectionist. There really is no such thing. As you evolve, so will your needs and your expectations will need to be adjusted accordingly.
2) Take care of your body.
Exercise, get adequate sleep, maintain a balanced diet and be sure to drink plenty of water. These simple things can help to make your body more resilient to stress.
3) Set aside some alone time daily.
In a concerted effort to fulfil life’s obligations, self is often neglected. Quiet and alone time is essential. Take time for reflection, rejuvenation and respite to tap into your inner self. Consider even time spent on social media. What effect is that having on your mental health? Are you spending too much time there? Take a moment each day to unplug from it all. When you’re functioning at your best, you’re able to give more of yourself to the things that matter most to you. Fill your tank first and stop giving from an empty tank.
4) Purse goals of interest.
Be intentional about pursuing things that bring you joy and passion. Go after that job that you really want. Volunteer and do something meaningful. Pursue a new hobby or perhaps revisit an old interest. If you’re ready for a new direction, go back to school and pursue that degree or certificate that you have been thinking of for so long. Remember that idea you had to start your own business? Whatever it is that you desire, take the steps towards making them a reality.
5) Keep hope alive.
Stay positive and focus on what’s good in your life. Your life may not be ideal but if you look closely there’s still something good about it. Find the good in every day.
6) Keep a good work/life balance.
This struggle is very real. As best as you can, try to keep a healthy balance between the two.
7) Practice forgiveness.
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you” – Lewis B. Smedes. Forgiveness is one of the best gifts you can give to yourself. Harboring negative feelings only harms your emotional well-being.
8) Make a joyful list.
Create a list of all the things you love about yourself and your life. Keep this list handy for when you experience some difficult days and need a little something to put a smile on your face. Sometimes you just need a gentle reminder.
9) Have a positive support network of friends and family.
All support networks aren’t created equal. You may have support but be sure that is the right support for you. Toxic relationships often cause deep wounds and can negatively impact your mental health. Sometimes people don’t access their support system when necessary out of fear of burdening others or appearing weak by asking for help. Your support system is there to do just that; to be there for you unconditionally, to love and support you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
10) Be your biggest advocate.
Being able to advocate for yourself is an awesome thing to do. Saying no is okay and you need to be able to give yourself permission to do so when necessary. You can’t be everything to everyone. Establish clear and firm boundaries that you consistently follow. This will help you to protect your mental and emotional well-being.
11) Don’t leave things unattended.
Leaving things unattended won’t make them go away. If there are unresolved issues in your life, take care of them. You may feel that because it hasn’t been dealt with, that it will eventually go away. That may be true but only for a time. Eventually it will re-surface. If you have not been able to resolve your issues on your own, consider seeing a counselor to help you through it. You don’t have to have a mental illness to see a professional for help. Counselors help with a host of issues and can help you live a more balanced and happy life. If your unresolved issues are keeping you from doing this, then get help.