We all have days where we feel stressed out, sad or anxious. Feeling this way occasionally is completely normal even if you’re living a fairy tale life, as unlikely as that is. But if you feel out of sorts all the time, you might need to pay attention.
Unless you have severe mental illness requiring intervention, you have the power to take control of your emotional well-being with a few changes that you can accomplish on your own. Here are five suggestions to get you started.
1. Improve Your Physical Health
Not long ago, the prevailing notion was that the body was one thing and the mind another. But genuine, scientific research proves that the health of one absolutely affects the condition of the other. Simply allowing your body to become stronger and more effective can enhance your emotional stability. Good physical health comes from three important sources.
Get enough sleep.
Life is full of distractions. Family, work, school and endless engagements with a screen can prevent us from getting good sleep for the seven to nine hours you need each night. Chronic sleep deficits cause your body to react as though it’s in a crisis which disrupts your hormonal balance and keeps your mind from recharging as it must. Turn off the televisions, computers, tablets and cell phones earlier and jump into bed instead. If you can, take cat naps in the daytime to give yourself a boost in the midst of your daily bustle. If you constantly commit to activities to fill every moment of your time, consider dropping some so you can unwind in the evening and go to bed on time.
Eat nutritious foods, not junk.
The need for proper nutrition can’t be overstated. Cook from scratch and include protein, fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains and dairy. Definitely stay away from pre-cooked meals, hydrogenated oils, artificial sweeteners, fast food and sweet and salty junk snacks. Basically, if it wasn’t in the common diet a hundred years ago, it probably isn’t good for you now.
Exercise, it’s nature’s antidepressant.
Equally as important as good sleep and nutrition is exercise. You don’t have to work out like a fitness model, but taking the time to walk, swim, ride a bike or play a fun sport will get your heart to pumping the toxins out of your body. Getting in better shape physically goes a long way towards clearing up a cloudy mental state.
2. Don’t Squelch Your Stress, Deal with It
If your stress lingers past those moments when everything seems to be attacking you all at once, then you need to take an honest look at it. What is keeping you from relaxing? If you ignore your chronic stress, your mind and body will add to it in a vicious cycle. Rather, you should process your stress. If you know what’s bothering you, you can take the steps necessary to avoid it in the future.
3. Ditch the Alcohol and/or Drugs
Many people turn to alcohol and/or drugs as treatment for mental and emotional distress. This is throwing gas on the fire. Self-medication never cures the problem but it will significantly add to it. You can’t effectively handle your responsibilities while in an altered state, much less work on the underlying issue keeping you down. Addiction only serves to disappoint, sadden or anger those around you, which adds yet more problems to deal with.
4. Make Time for, and Dump the Lies You Believe about, Yourself
If you believe you are not a worthy human deserving of dignity and respect, you obviously believe a lie. In fact, almost all mental health issues have erroneous self-perception at their core. Digging into those falsehoods and dispelling them require courage and time, which may account for why so many people load themselves up with activities. It’s a way to avoid thinking about why they treat themselves like dirt. Buck up and wade into those feelings. You are a wonderful, miraculous creature. Yes, like everyone else on the planet, you make mistakes. Take the time to get past them and to stop believing the lies when other people put you down.
5. Don’t Go it Alone, Get Help
Finally, if you just can’t find the energy to take the steps to improve your mental health, you should seek some help. It’s no shame to avail yourself of counseling. Millions of people do every day. Many services are available in your community for little or no cost. When the suggestions above just aren’t enough, professional and confidential help can put you on the road to healing.
Usually, though, boosting your physical health, dealing with stress, staying sober and re-thinking the way you treat yourself might just turn your mental health around.