How to Stay Healthy When You Have Mental Health Issues

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It’s important to look after your mental health—that is your emotional, psychological, and social well-being—especially when you have an existing mental health issue like anxiety, depression, or other condition. 

With the effects of COVID-19, working and schooling from home, isolation from friends and family, and so much more, it’s more important than ever to keep ourselves mentally healthy.

In this article, we’ll talk through some ways to take care of yourself when you’re dealing with mental health concerns. And if you’re not sure whether you or a loved one have a mental health issue, there are ways to identify the early stages of mental health issues.

Taking Care of Your Mental Health

If you’re feeling like an outcast because of a mental health disorder, you’re not alone. It’s human nature to struggle through these issues. 

For those with an addiction, it’s common to have a co-occurring mental health disorder. And for those who are in school, working, or dealing with the stresses of everyday life, issues like anxiety, stress disorders, and sleep disorders are all too common. 

Here are a few ways that you can take action to live and feel healthier.

1. Surround Yourself with a Community

Oftentimes when you’re dealing with the effects of a mental health issue, it almost feels natural to isolate yourself. Research has found that social isolation has a major negative impact on physical and mental health. And this 2018 study from Cigna revealed that only 53% of Americans have meaningful in-person interactions on a daily basis.

You may be self-isolating if you:

  • frequently cancel plans
  • avoid social interactions or gatherings
  • spend a majority of your time alone
  • feel panicked when you think about social situations

But studies have also found that when people have solid social connections, they see stress reduction, a feeling of purpose in life, a greater sense of control, and other mental health benefits.

Though COVID-19 restrictions may have kept you from seeing loved ones, there are still ways you can connect with your community.

If you’re comfortable, meet up with a friend or loved one. Get takeout and have a socially distanced dinner at a park, in separate cars, or other open spaces.

For those who can’t meet up with others face-to-face, schedule phone calls and video chats with people you care for. The important thing is to spend time in community with others, whatever that looks like for you.

2. Take Care of Your Physical Health

Experts say that exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative moods. It also works to improve self-esteem, cognitive function, and lessen feelings of isolation.

Just 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week has been found to provide multiple mental and physical health benefits.

Eating healthy foods packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants is also crucial to mental health. If you’re going through a difficult period in your mental health issues, you might benefit from switching up your diet to include healthy foods that nourish your body.

Your gastrointestinal tract is responsible for producing 95% of your serotonin, so what you eat has a major impact on your emotional well-being.

3. Practice Relaxation Techniques

Whether you’re dealing with a sleep disorder, social anxiety, PTSD, or another mental health issue, your body and mind will benefit from regularly practicing relaxation techniques.

Here are a few you can try:

  • deep breathing exercises
  • yoga
  • art therapy
  • music therapy
  • aromatherapy
  • visualization of peaceful spaces

4. Identify a Purpose in Life

One of the best things that you can do for yourself is to find something meaningful to spend your time pursuing. This study of adults aged 36-84 years found that the participants’ mental health benefitted from having a purpose in life. Finding meaning helped them to confront life’s challenges, be more resilient, reframe stressful situations, and recover from trauma.

Find something that gives you purpose, like:

  • engaging in your community or volunteering
  • starting a new hobby
  • taking care of a pet
  • identifying your goals and setting out to accomplish them
  • building relationships

Staying healthy when you have a mental health issue is not always easy. Use the ideas in this list or take them as inspiration to find what works for you.

Author bio: Hannah Bennett is a content specialist for AddictionResource.net, an informational content guide that provides resources for individuals and their families who struggle with addiction.

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