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Did you know that you are more likely to experience a mental illness than diabetes, heart disease or cancer? Fortunately, there are many ways that you can care for your mental health and help prevent the onset of common mental disorders including depression and anxiety. By adding a few simple self-care practices to your schedule, you can become more resilient in the face of daily stress and keep your mind in top operating condition.
1. Amp Up Your Sleep Quality
Many people are not aware of this, but sleep is one of the most important determinants of a healthy mind. According to The Harvard Medical School, sleep disruption impairs thinking and emotion regulation. If you get up in the morning feeling unrested or tend to wake often during the night, you may benefit from improving your sleep hygiene. Try to avoid alcohol, nicotine and caffeine for several hours before bedtime since these substances can cause sleep disruptions. Keeping your bedroom dark, cool and free from distractions is also recommended to improve sleep quality.
2. Reduce Stress at Work
Work stress is the number one cause of chronic stress for people, wreaking havoc on our mental health. This is why it’s important to reduce the amount of stress you experience on the job. Eliminate as many interruptions as possible so that you can get your work done more easily. For example, only answer emails during certain hours or close the door to your office when you need to focus. Say “no” to tasks that aren’t in your job description or any optional requests that you just don’t have the time for.
When you’re faced with a tense meeting or have a lot of overwhelming tasks on your plate, try stopping for a few minutes of deep breathing. Don’t forget to take regular breaks to step away from your work. Better yet, take a quick walk outside through a nearby park to benefit from the rejuvenating effects of nature.
3. Learn How to Relax
Lounging on the couch and watching television can be an enjoyable way to wind down at the end of a stressful day. However, this can cause negative feelings of guilt for people who think they should be doing better things with their time. Instead, try meditation or yoga the next time you need to relax your mind. Due to the focus on deep breathing and mental awareness, these activities can actually change your brainwaves from excitatory to relaxation. Yoga has even been shown to increase levels of certain chemicals in the brain, which help us relax and fight stress.
4. Build a Support Network
As mentioned by Very Well Mind, social support plays a very important role in our mental health because it helps us deal with times of stress. In fact, poor social support has been linked to higher rates of depression and substance abuse. Social relationships can even improve your motivation to stick to new goals. So, part of your self-care lifestyle should involve building a social network by developing various social relationships. Try joining new groups in your community or talking to your neighbors when you’re out for a walk.
5. Care for Your Mental Health Through Addiction Recovery
Taking care of your mental health is even more important if you’re a recovering addict. Building a strong and healthy mind following addiction will help prevent relapse and make it much easier to adjust to your new, sober life. Picking up a hobby is a great way to do this. Hobbies provide an outlet for stress and act as an enjoyable distraction from negative thoughts. You could try painting, volunteering in your community, or joining a new sport. As mentioned before, meditation and yoga are also valuable tools for relaxing the mind and avoiding anxiety.
Although you may feel obligations to care for others in your life, don’t forget about the small steps you can take every day to care for your own health as well. If you need time to re-energize or relax, don’t be afraid to call off a meeting with friends so you can retreat into your meditation space. In the end, self-care is all about you.