Why Basic Self-Care Is the Key to Good Mental Health

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Hello, World.

As the bar approaches, I wanted to share this guest post by Brad Krause about self-care!

Approximately 18 percent of Americans — that’s nearly 43 million — suffer from a mental health condition, half of which are related to a substance abuse disorder. Sadly, most people lack access to care — a whopping 56 percent don’t receive any type of treatment. While healthcare reform is helping, there is still a shortage of providers. While it’s crucial to get help if a condition worsens, prevention is the key to good mental health, but there’s no magic pill to take; instead, the secret lies within self-care. Here are the top ways you can keep your mind, body, and soul in check.

 

Eat Well

There is a direct relationship between the food we eat and how we feel emotionally. While you might feel some satisfaction during the time it takes to plow through a sleeve of cookies, they’ll only drag (and weigh) you down in the long run. As often as possible, aim to eat healthy meals that promote good gut health. There are bacteria in your gut that play a major role in your overall well-being. Choosing foods rich in gut-healthy nutrients — such as probiotic-packed yogurt, fiber-dense vegetables, and prebiotic-infused honey — will help your body run efficiently and make you feel better in both body and mind. If you need a quick and easy way to introduce fresh food into your life, as well as a way to practice portion control and lose a little weight in the process, joining a food delivery service can provide you with the ingredients necessary to fix your own delicious dishes.

 

Exercise

A daily 30-minute workout can do wonders to your mental health. Exercise produces “feel-good” chemicals in the brain, improving mood and decreasing symptoms of anxiety and depression. It also increases your energy and self-confidence levels and helps treat and prevent health conditions, all while helping you lose weight. Group classes, YouTube workout videos, and online exercise guides are all available to help you get in shape. Seniors can also take advantage of the SilverSneakers program, a benefit of some Medicare Advantage plans. This program includes yoga, sports, outdoor activities, and other fitness classes for qualifying seniors.

 

Take Care of Your Oral Health 

The health of your teeth and gums has a bigger impact on overall wellness than a lot of people realize. Poor hygiene habits are common in people struggling with a mental health disorder, including basic oral hygiene practices like brushing and flossing. This can not only lead to tooth and gum disease, but can also impact your appearance, leading to lowered self-esteem — which continues this unhealthy cycle again and again. Be sure you’re taking two minutes out of your morning and evening to brush, floss at least once per day, rinse with a fluoride-based mouthwash regularly, and visit your dentist twice a year to stay on top of this often-overlooked component of your health.

 

Learn How to Say ‘No’

Learning how to say “no” can help you get a hold of your life while reducing stress and anxiety. While it may take a bit of practice, some tips for drawing the line include keeping your response simple, buying yourself some time (“Let me get back to you”), considering a compromise, being true to yourself, and letting go of guilt.

 

Get Enough Sleep

You know you’re supposed to get around seven to eight hours of shuteye each night, but what you may not know is the negative effects that can occur if you don’t. Lack of sleep affects your ability to think clearly, causes driver fatigue that’s as dangerous as intoxication, and can exacerbate an existing mental health condition  — or even cause one. Before seeing a doctor, make an effort to improve your sleeping habits by avoiding stimulants (caffeine, alcohol, nicotine) four to six hours before bedtime, transforming your bedroom into a sleep-inducing respite (think sound machine, blackout blinds, and a quality mattress), implement a soothing ritual before bed, and setting a consistent sleep schedule — but only go to bed when you’re truly tired. Nothing prompts anxiety more than watching the clock.

 

Make Time To Relax — Every Day

 Relaxation is a vital part of everyone’s life, as it reduces elevated heart rate and blood pressure, slows breathing, and relaxes the muscles, thus reducing stress levels, boosting the immune system, and increasing energy and productivity. Without implementing relaxation techniques daily, you put yourself at risk for digestive problems, chronic headaches, sleep difficulties, and perpetual stress. Some easy things you can do include practicing breathing exercises, listening to soothing music, meditating, or simply going for a walk in a quiet environment.

While people don’t hesitate to take care of their physical health, many often forget about addressing any mental health issues they may have. However, it doesn’t take much to incorporate self-care into your life — and improve your mental well-being as a result.

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