Most of us intend to take good care of our bodies, even if we don’t always succeed in doing so. We’re aware of the importance of eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep as a way of setting the foundation for physical health.
But when was the last time you thought about tending to your mental health? This might not be something you often think about, especially during hectic days or periods of stress like the pandemic. In this article, we’ll discuss easy ways to give your mental health the care it deserves.
Check-in with your needs
Mental health involves your social, emotional, and psychological well-being. According to the National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH), mental health isn’t just the lack of mental illness—it’s an essential part of your health and quality of life.
When you’re busy caring for others, trying to make ends meet, or worrying about events in the news, your own mental health needs can easily get pushed aside. It’s often only when a need is left unmet for extended periods and things build up that we begin listening to what our minds and bodies need. Take some quiet time each day to check in with yourself, notice how you feel, and focus on what’s calling out for attention.
Develop a self-care routine
You’d be mistaken if you think it’s selfish to take time for yourself. Taking care of your mental health means putting on your life vest before you help someone else put on theirs.
Give yourself well-deserved, and much-needed time each day for self-care so you don’t feel like you’re running on empty and unraveling at the seams. The NIMH suggests simple self-care steps, such as:
- Setting small, realistic goals
- Cultivating a sense of gratitude
- Practicing a relaxing activity like yoga or meditation
- Getting regular exercise
- Staying hydrated
- Eating a healthy diet
For help building healthier eating habits, try the free ScriptSave® WellRx Grocery Guidance App, which offers nutritional information and tools to help you stay on track with your health and wellness goals.
Find an outlet
Expressing your feelings isn’t always easy. Try to avoid bottling up your emotions, so you don’t inadvertently let them out in unhealthy or destructive ways (like picking fights with your spouse, nagging your kids, or engaging in emotional eating, for example). Find a way to process emotions and events of the day so you can release steam and gain insight, find creative solutions to problems, and work things through.
For some people, this might mean talking about their feelings with others, whether in person or through virtual means. For others, spending time alone and journaling or engaging in other creative activities, such as music or art, can be beneficial. Find what works for you and set aside time each day to explore your emotional landscape.
Change your environment
Sometimes, a physical change of scenery is all we need to cultivate a fresh outlook, especially when working from home. When you’re stuck in the same environment day after day, you can also start to feel emotionally stuck.
Try making simple changes to your environment, like getting outside for a walk during your lunch break, rearranging your home office, or buying a new comforter for your bed. Or make a bigger change by spending a long weekend in nature or visiting relatives or friends.
Seek professional help
At some point in our lives, we all likely realize that we can’t handle everything independently. While this can be true at any point, it’s probably truer than ever for most of us during the pandemic. You might feel like you have a shorter fuse than usual. Maybe you’ve noticed that your appetite has changed, or perhaps you’re having trouble sleeping (a phenomenon dubbed “coronasomnia”).
You don’t have to deal with stress, mental health symptoms, or other problems on your own, especially when you feel more isolated from others than usual. Reach out to a qualified mental health professional by asking your doctor for a referral or checking out the in-person and telehealth provider listing on GoodTherapy.org.
Stacy Mosel, LMSW, is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, and substance abuse specialist. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in music from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, she continued her studies at New York University, earning a Master of Social Work degree in 2002. She has extensive training in child and family therapy and in the identification and treatment of substance abuse and mental health disorders. Currently, she is focusing on writing in the fields of mental health and addictions, drawing on her prior experiences as an employee assistance program counselor, individual and family therapist, and assistant director of a child and family services agency.