Posted on May 13, 2021, 5 p.m.
As of late, these have been rather trying times, and everyone will respond to this differently. Many people are feeling the impacts of being isolated, restricted, scared, confused, even outraged, while constantly being bombarded with sensationalized non-stop media coverage which is taking on toll on both physical and mental health.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness 1 in 5 American adults experience mental illness annually and 1 in 20 will experience a serious mental illness. 1 in 6 youths between the ages of 6-17 experience a mental health disorder, and 50% of all lifetime mental illnesses will begin by the age of 14. By the of 24 suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among 75% of those between the ages of 10-34.
Over 20% of American adults experienced mental illness in 2019, 5.2% experienced serious mental illness, and 16.5% of American youths experienced a mental health disorder. 9.5 million American adults experienced a co-occurring substance abuse disorder and mental illness. 1 out of every 8 ER visits involved mental illness and substance abuse. The overall suicide rate has increased by 35% since 1999 making it the 10th leading cause of death in America.
Mental health includes emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, act, make choices, and relate to others. Mental health is more than the absence of a mental illness—it’s essential to your overall health and quality of life. Self-care can play a role in maintaining your mental health and help support your treatment and recovery if you have a mental illness.
Self-care means taking the time to do things that help you live well and improve both your physical health and mental health. When it comes to your mental health, self-care can help you manage stress, lower your risk of illness, and increase your energy. Even small acts of self-care in your daily life can have a big impact.
Here are some tips to help you get started with self-care:
- Get regular exercise. Just 30 minutes of walking every day can help boost your mood and improve your health. Small amounts of exercise add up, so don’t be discouraged if you can’t do 30 minutes at one time.
- Eat healthy, regular meals and stay hydrated. A balanced diet and plenty of water can improve your energy and focus throughout the day. Also, limit caffeinated beverages such as soft drinks or coffee.
- Make sleep a priority. Stick to a schedule, and make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Blue light from devices and screens can make it harder to fall asleep, so reduce blue light exposure from your phone or computer before bedtime.
- Try a relaxing activity. Explore relaxation or wellness programs or apps, which may incorporate meditation, muscle relaxation, or breathing exercises. Schedule regular times for these and other healthy activities you enjoy such as journaling.
- Set goals and priorities. Decide what must get done now and what can wait. Learn to say “no” to new tasks if you start to feel like you’re taking on too much. Try to be mindful of what you have accomplished at the end of the day, not what you have been unable to do.
- Practice gratitude. Remind yourself daily of things you are grateful for. Be specific. Write them down at night, or replay them in your mind.
- Focus on positivity. Identify and challenge your negative and unhelpful thoughts.
- Stay connected. Reach out to your friends or family members who can provide emotional support and practical help.
- 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. In addition, although self-care is not a cure for mental illnesses, understanding what causes or triggers your mild symptoms and what coping techniques work for you can help manage your mental health.
Seek professional help if you are experiencing severe or distressing symptoms that have lasted two weeks or more, such as:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Appetite changes that result in unwanted weight changes
- Struggling to get out of bed in the morning because of mood
- Difficulty concentrating
- Loss of interest in things you usually find enjoyable
- Inability to perform usual daily functions and responsibilities
Don’t wait until your symptoms are overwhelming. You are not alone, talk to your friends and family at the very least if you are not yet comfortable enough to talk about your concerns with your primary care provider, who can refer you to a mental health specialist if needed. There are even support groups that you can talk with in person, on the phone, or online. There are many people out there who want to help you.
If you are thinking about harming yourself or attempting suicide, tell someone who can help right away or dial 911 in an emergency. You also can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Lifeline) at 1‑800‑273‑TALK (8255), or text the Crisis Text Line (text HELLO to 741741). Both services are free and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. People who are deaf or hard of hearing can contact the Lifeline via TTY at 1-800-799-4889. All calls are confidential.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before making any changes to your wellness routine.
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