3 minute read

IGNITE October 2020

Your mental health is essential. I’m rooting for you.

Wellbeing means taking time to take care of your mind

Is anyone else ready to say goodbye to the past 12 months? I know I am. It has been mentally draining and, honestly, it has been hard to keep up with the changes. Have you found that the lines have been blurred by a global pandemic, historical revolution and working in your pajamas?

You are not alone.

We are grieving. I would argue that each of us has lost something since 2020 began. It is normal to not feel OK right now. Thankfully, our society is moving in the right direction as it begins treating mental health as physical health’s equal. We’re talking about it, but now it’s time to act.

Taking care of your headspace is not one-size-fits-all. You have to find what works for you. Real self-care brings tough decisions and demands limitless willpower. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “If you want to change the world, start with yourself.”

Each aspect of your life could benefit from routine. When you make time to eat, sleep, exercise and do your work, you can lower your levels of stress.

Six Habits to Improve Your Mental Health

1. Healthy Body, Healthy Mind

I know it’s an old cliché, but taking care of your body is important to your brain health (and vice versa). Getting exercise to release feel-good endorphins and maintaining that wellbalanced nutrition we all hear so much about can make a huge difference. Finding what you like takes time, so you have to be patient. Eventually you can see an increase in energy, mood and confidence levels — not to mention the wonders this could do for your physique.

2. Embrace Creativity & Let it Out

Expressing your past traumas is never easy. Sometimes there are no words to explain what you feel. Outlets like journaling, drawing, dancing and making music can all help lower stress and increase focus and productivity. Many benefits evolve from being in fl ow, psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s term for that state we enter when we are so engaged in a creative task that all else disappears (Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, 1990). So, if you like being creative, go with your flow.

3. Get Some Shuteye

Sleep is foundational to our wellbeing. A lack of sleep can cause issues with regulating your emotions and leave you feeling irritable. Sleep problems can lead to changes in mental health, but mental health conditions can make sleep problems worse. If you have trouble catching your Zs, you can try things like disconnecting from technology early, monitoring caffeine and alcohol intake, and establishing a concrete sleep-wake cycle. If all else fails, reach out to your doctor (National Sleep Foundation).

4. Intentional Routine

Each aspect of your life could benefit from routine. When you make time to eat, sleep, exercise and do your work, you can lower your levels of stress (Northwestern Medicine). Just make sure you leave yourself something to aspire to each day. You don’t need to plan everything — but with a plan, you will be more efficient and a little healthier.

5. Take a Mental Health Day

A mental health day may be your ticket to preventing future distress. A recent study estimates that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy $1 trillion U.S. dollars each year in lost productivity (World Health Organization). Give your mind and body a break. Take one day to decompress and focus on what makes YOU happy. You deserve it. Your future self (and employer) will thank you.

6. Ask for Help

If you’re experiencing changes that aren’t going away and interfering with your functionality every day, it is time to reach out to someone for help. That someone can be a friend, family member, co-worker, doctor, counselor, hotline or even your local NAMI office, 815-963-2470. We all need an extra hand sometimes.

You make this world a better place. Treat yourself as such.