Maintain Mental Health in May

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In 1949, the United States government declared May to be the month for mental health awareness. Since this declaration, the idea of mental health has grown to become a holistic approach to a better lifestyle, and community drive towards better understanding of how mental health affects everyone. To get you inspired to improve your mental health this year, we have put together a list of the most common variables that affect your mental health, and some of the ways that you can overcome them to improve your mental health. Feel free to share these tips, and add some of your own in the comment section.

Stress. We consider stress to be a permanent part of our everyday lives, whether it’s not getting enough sleep, overworking, or dealing with physical exhaustion, but the reality is that too much stress can cause physical damage

Symptoms of too much stress include:

  • Muscle aches and tension
  • Nausea, stomach pain, and heartburn
  • Dramatic changes in appetite or weight
  • Digestive issues

The best way to relieve stress is to first be aware of where the stress in your life is coming from.                   Evaluate and consider where you can drop an activity or delegate a task to someone else. If you need         to be more organized, start using a calendar and schedule your day so that you can tackle one task at         a time and keep track of your progress. Other ways to relieve stress include:

  • Creating an exercise plan that is easy to follow (10-20 minutes per day)
  • Meditate at least 10-20 minutes per day through relaxation exercises, reflection, or listening to soft music
  • Find a hobby that you really enjoy doing and can devote time to daily/weekly
  • Vent to someone you trust (don’t complain, but look for advice or compassion)
  • Try to be more flexible with every day challenges that don’t have a great impact on your day as a whole (like changing a meeting time, or losing your favorite pen)

2. Sleep. We often lose sleep to stay up late for a television premier, or instead of sleeping we lay                   awake and worry about what happened during the day. Not only is sleep important for our brain                 function, it is also fundamental to brain and body health.

Symptoms of lack of sleep include:

  • Mood swings
  • Decreased cognitive ability (like making memories and retaining information)
  • Depleted immune system function
  • Loss of appetite and digestive issues
  • Higher risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity

Depending on your age, there are a specific number of hours that you need for a good night’s sleep. Good quality of sleep is defined as being asleep for at least 85% of the time you are in bed, falling asleep within 30 minutes of getting into bed, and waking up no more than once per night (for no longer than 20 minutes). Teens between the ages of 14-17 should be getting at least 8 hours of sleep per night. Adults 18-64 years should have about 7-9 hours of sleep at night. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, here are some tips to help you get a better rest at night:

  • Plan to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends
  • Spend time in the sun (seriously!), it will help your sleep-wake cycle to spend at least 30 minutes of your day in the sunlight
  • Don’t eat right before going to bed because it can cause indigestion
  • Ask your doctor if any medications you may be taking can affect your ability to fall asleep at night, and if there are any alternatives you can take
  • Limit caffeine to just your morning routine/meal
  • Get rid of distractions in your bedroom like anything that makes noise throughout the night, or has a bright light (like a TV or computer screen)

3. Diet and Nutrition. It is well known that what you eat affects your body’s health, but it can also affect your own mental health. Eating more nutritious meals at proper intervals throughout your day can go a long way to achieving a healthier lifestyle.

Symptoms of a poor diet include:

  • Obesity
  • Depression
  • Decreased cognitive ability in the hippocampus

A healthy diet includes a full range of vegetables, fruits, legumes (lentils, chickpeas, beans), fish, whole grains (rice, quinoa, oats, breads, etc.), nuts, avocados and olive oil to support a healthy brain. It is often believed that a healthy diet has to be an expensive one, but that is not the case. You can save money by choosing canned and/or frozen vegetables and dried nuts and beans which often cost less and stay fresher longer. You can create a better diet with the following steps:

  • Create a meal plan for each week of the month, including dinners
  • Meal prep for your week by cooking larger quantities of food items that can be used in various dishes, or can be used in every dish for the week
  • Subscribe to a service that delivers produce from local farms to your door, or deliver whole meals, for you to make in your own kitchen at home
  • Make yourself a ‘cheat sheet’ of nutrients to keep in mind when you are shopping, and make sure to read the label on your foods so that you know what ingredients are in your favorite foods

Not only is mental health a ‘mental’ process, it is also a physical one. Taking small steps towards maintaining or improving your own mental health can make a great difference. For more information on mental health best practices and resources visit


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