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Boosting Your Mental Health and Wellness

Published on May 19, 2021

Mental health is more important than ever before – and it’s just as important as your physical health. In fact, mental health can manifest in physical symptoms, such as pain and chronic disease. Have you focused on your mental health lately?

Approximately one in four people will struggle with mental illness in their lifetime. Moreover, one in three COVID-19 survivors are struggling with mental or neurological disorders in the six months following infection, according to new research. This alarming statistic follows a study on over 236,000 COVID-19 survivors.

What Defines Mental Illness?

The term mental illness is often associated with schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. But millions of people – including people you know and love – are impacted by more common types of mental illnesses, including:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Personality disorders
  • Mood disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Addiction

Has mental illness impacted your own life at some point? Keep reading to understand the common warning symptoms.

Mental Illness: Common Warning Signs

Just like with our physical health, our bodies often warn us when our mental health may be in jeopardy. While there are many warning signs, changes to our daily functioning are typically the strongest signals. This includes:

  • Changes in Sleep. Are you sleeping more than usual and struggling to get out of bed in the morning? Or perhaps, on the other hand, you’re suddenly tossing and turning from insomnia? Unusual sleep patterns are a very common warning sign that something is eating away at us (anxiety) or bringing us down (depression).
  • Change in Appetite. Changes in how much we typically eat also signal a change in our mental health. And similar to our sleep patterns, our appetites can fluctuate on either side of the spectrum – so while some people may experience more ravenous hunger than normal, the thought of eating anything may feel difficult for others. The important thing to observe is to recognize any growing change in your eating habits.
  • Change in Mood. Many mental health experts believe we all have a mood set-point, or a fixed level of happiness that we tend to feel overall. Think about your own general mood. You might be more animated and vivacious – or cool, calm, and collected. There is no right or wrong set-point. However, what can be detrimental to your mental health is a dip in your day-to-day mood. For example, if you’re not smiling, laughing, or feeling as even-keeled as you normally do, pay attention.

We all have difficult days from time to time, so it’s important to distinguish bad days from the onset of mental illness.

“It is good to understand that these changes are not simply representing a ‘bad day’ but are changes that are noticeable to you and/or others, which typically last two weeks or more,” shares Terri LaCroix-Kelty, Service Line Director for Munson Behavioral Health Services.

If you experience any of these symptoms, please don’t ignore them.

Helpful Treatments to Improve Your Illness

Embrace Self-Care

Self-care is the practice of routinely caring for and nurturing yourself in order to honor your physical and mental health. Examples include:

  • Getting enough sleep each night
  • Heading outdoors routinely
  • Making room in your day for movement (walks, stretching, playing with your kids, etc.)
  • Including at least one vegetable at each meal

You may already routinely practice some self-care rituals. In fact, many people have successfully implemented a great physical self-care plan for themselves that includes regular exercise, rest, and a nourishing diet. But what about mental self-care?

Mental self-care includes activities and daily practices that positively influence your mental and emotional well-being, such as:

  • Spending quality time with people who lift your spirits
  • Participating in treasured hobbies
  • Brain-boosting activities like puzzles
  • Feeding your mind with a positive inner dialogue (“You did your best!” or “You are enough.”)
  • Finding ways to laugh and have fun
  • Prioritizing your feelings
  • Connect with people, nature, and religion or spirituality

A large component of mental self-care includes giving yourself the time and space to process emotions. When is the last time you quietly considered your feelings on a particular topic or pondered the true source of a reaction you had that didn’t feel well (like an outburst or a crying session)? Our feelings matter – and they often drive our thoughts and reactions throughout the days and weeks.

Use the feelings wheel on page 3 of our Resilience Toolkit to help identify the emotions your experiencing.

Download the Resilience Toolkit

Ask for Help

While self-care is something you can do for yourself each and every day to help alleviate some of what you’re experiencing, it’s also important to consider talking to a mental health professional who can help you uncover buried emotions and even connect you to treatment options. “There are many science-based treatment options that work,” LaCroix-Kelty explains.

Ready to get started? Talk to your family doctor about next steps or learn more about the many resources available to you – including free and no-insurance options.

Other Ideas for Lifting Your Spirits

  • Stay in touch with family and friends. Maintaining relationships is good for your mental health. Call and visit your loved ones. If you don't have family or friends nearby, join a local church or synagogue, or a community organization.
  • Give yourself time to adjust to major life changes. This includes not only obvious negative events, like the death of your spouse or a friend, but also “positive” events like moving or retiring. These can be accompanied by a sense of loss. Grieving any loss is natural and necessary.
  • Keep busy with mentally stimulating activities. Consider volunteering or taking a class. Explore new interests like learning another language.
  • Consider getting a pet. A pet can be a wonderful companion. Pet owners get more exercise and often have more social contact than those without a pet.
  • Exercise. Take a walk or ride a bike. Exercise improves how you feel mentally, as well as physically. 
  • Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep can contribute to depression. Try to get as much sleep as you need. Although we often say that a person needs about 8 hours of sleep per night, this is only an average number. Some people find they need more. It's important that you find out for yourself how many hours you need for restful, restorative sleep.
  • Practice optimism and good humor. A positive attitude and laughter boost your mood. Spend time with people who make you laugh. Watch funny movies or shows.
  • Stay Open-Minded. Be open to learning about new technology and what aspects of it may fit with your lifestyle and interests.

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Help is Available

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free, confidential, 24/7 emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. Call or text 988 and speak to a counselor today. Click here for our Mental Health Flowchart, a helpful resource to get support, no matter what mental health state you're in.

Mental Health Support Chart