The following article was written by guest author Brad Krause. Brad is the writer and owner of http://selfcaring.info/
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For years, talking about mental health struggles was pretty taboo. To talk about your depression or anxiety meant you were making yourself vulnerable to other people’s judgements that you are “crazy.” In our current era, however, more people have started opening up about mental health issues and finding ways to cope. For instance, in March 2018 NBA athlete Kevin Love wrote about his struggles with anxiety attacks and how they’ve affected his career. His missive was poignantly titled “Everyone is Going Through Something.”
Taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health. In fact, the two are intrinsically connected– if one is doing poorly, it can have a negative impact on the other. But since we’ve kept quiet about mental health struggles for so long, many people don’t really know how to address these very real issues.
Self-Care and Mental Health
Self-care is a term thrown around a lot, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take it seriously. Practicing self-care is an essential part of mental health maintenance. It’s not selfish — it’s something everybody should do in order to be their best self. A popular metaphor used when describing self-care is the airplane oxygen mask — “in the event of an emergency, please put on your oxygen mask before assisting others.” In short, if you are not taking care of yourself, you can’t take care of others.
Below are some simple self-care techniques everyone can use to promote their mental health and happiness.
Avoid Drugs and Alcohol
Since mental health struggles have historically been something to keep to yourself, many people attempt to self-medicate using drugs and alcohol. Not only does substance abuse harm your health physically, but it also does serious damage to your mental health. Instead of self-medicating, it’s best to avoid drugs and alcohol and talk with your doctor about how you’re feeling and possible remedies he may recommend.
Boost Healthy Habits
Part of maintaining physical and mental health means incorporating more healthy habits into your life. This can be as simple as eating more fruits, vegetables and lean protein, to adding an extra bit of exercise in your day (e.g. parking farther from a building’s entrance, always taking the stairs). You can also do things like stay on top of your oral health, which can easily take a hit if you suffer from depression and anxiety, and overall hygiene. New habits can take a minute to stick, so look for ways to naturally include them. Keep a roll of floss by the coffee table so you can floss while watching TV, or make a point to avoid purchasing any foods that are processed or unhealthy — if they aren’t around, they won’t be a temptation.
Get Enough Sleep
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get seven to nine hours of sleep every night. Yet 40 percent of us get less than seven hours of sleep on average. When you don’t get enough sleep, you aren’t giving your brain the rest it needs to function at its best. We easily feel the physical effects of losing sleep — grogginess and irritability are just two of them. What you may not realize is failing to get enough sleep can also harm your mental health. Proper sleep can help alleviate feelings of depression and anxiety. The thing is, depression and anxiety often lead to poor sleep, which can start a pretty harmful cycle. If you have issues with the amount and quality of your rest, talk to your doctor about available options.
Meditation and Mindfulness
When plagued with anxieties and dark thoughts, it helps to step away and realign your mind with meditation. Meditation helps quiet the “wanting mind” while getting you in tune with your mind and its connection to the physical world. Exploring that connection is a practice called mindfulness, which is a positive influence on a person’s mental health. There’s a reason so many successful people use meditation as a means for reducing stress — it works.
The stigma around mental health is slowly but surely fading. As we open up and discuss mental health struggles more, the importance and popularity of self-care grows. Simple things like avoiding substance abuse, getting enough sleep, and practicing mindfulness can make a big difference and improve your well-being overall.