According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. (43.8 million, or 18.5%) experiences mental illness in a given year. When we talk about our health, we don’t want to just talk about our physical health, such as heart disease and diabetes, but we want to include our whole selves, including our mental and emotional health. We are not just simply our physical selves. We know that our physical and mental health are intertwined. For instance, when we become stressed, our stress hormones increase and cause physical symptoms, including increased blood pressure and increased risk of heart attacks.
In order to maintain your mental and emotional health and prevent more serious problems, it’s important to remain aware of your own needs and feelings. Understanding your emotions is important. Many people label their emotions as “good” or “bad”, or they try to push aside their feelings instead of dealing with them. Once we understand our emotions are normal, they don’t have to interfere with our living. Here are a few things you can do to manage your mental health and emotions.
Don’t allow your stress and emotions to build up. Talk to a safe, trusted friend. Write your feelings in a journal. Cry. Do what it takes to release the stress and understand your emotions.
Balance! Maintain a good balance between your normal responsibilities and the things you enjoy. Ignoring your desires for good things does not allow for balance.
Be a helping hand. Do things that positively impact others. Being useful to others and being valued for what you do can help build self-esteem.
Practice self-discipline. Self-discipline leads to a sense of happiness and accomplishment, which can help you overcome feelings of helplessness and other negative thoughts.
Learn or discover new things. Think of them as “intellectual sweets.” Take an adult education class, join a book club, visit a museum, or simply travel somewhere new and exciting.
Set safe and healthy boundaries. A boundary is simply a “fence” or a “property line”. It differentiates between your needs and others’ needs, and helps you learn to say “no” when you need to.
Take good care of yourself. Start off by getting enough sleep! Eat healthy meals as opposed to meals high in carbohydrates and unhealthy fats. Get adequate exercise. Find joy in what you do.
In May, we will celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month. Follow along to learn more about mental illness. #CureStigma.