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7 ways to look after your mental health

Did you know that today, October 10th is World Mental Health day? I'm always surprised at the amount of stigma that is still attached to seeking support from a counselor for mental health. I believe that awareness is key to improving access and social acceptance of counseling. In honor of today, I'd like to share with you seven ways that you can improve your own mental health.

We all know the general rules for a healthy body- eat right, exercise, take your vitamins, drink plenty of water... But did you know that there are mental health essentials that help us keep in tune with our minds, to understand when we are struggling and make it less bewildering to admit when we need help to resolve an issue that arises? 1. Be in the moment

Lao Tzu once said “If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present”. Time spent dwelling on things that have already happened, or worrying about things which might happen in the future is a short cut to anxiety and unnecessary stress. A good place to start living in the moment is by taking a deep breath and becoming aware of where your bottom is in your chair, how your body feels right now, and making a conscious effort to sit up straight and relax your neck and shoulders. You can also practice catching these thoughts as they appear and to reassure yourself with positive affirmations. ‘That happened. I can’t change it. I have learned from it’ or ‘right now I am safe’. Even if you don’t struggle with anxiety, these exercises help to put things into perspective.

2. Beware of negative self-talk

Our subconscious mind is where all of our insecurities, phobias and fears live. The only thing that permeates our deepest mind effectively is repetition. If we are constantly talking down to ourselves, eventually it becomes embedded in the subconscious and starts to affect the way we feel and see the world. This is why positive affirmations work so miraculously! Tape positive affirmations that you want to reinforce -- "I am beautiful, I am smart, I am lovable, etc..." -- to your mirror, coffee maker, or computer screen at work and say them to yourself daily! Practice talking to yourself the way you would talk to your best friend i.e. realistically, but with compassion and fondness.

3. Put down the phone

In our busy modern society, our social networks are vying for our attention day and night. Studies have shown that checking work emails after hours is bad for your mental health, and when you see your friends' accomplishments and happy moments on social media it can make you feel discouraged and inadequate. While cell phone technology can be remarkable at helping us connect with the people and services that help make life easier, constantly stimulating your brain with information can lead to feeling panicked and overwhelmed. Also, try to 'unplug' from screen time at least one hour before you go to bed. Using technology at night time can interfere with sleep, which leads me to….

4. Make sleep a priority

Sleep is essential for mental health! Anyone who has had a lack sleep for even one night can attest to how detrimental it is to a functioning brain the next day- so those who suffer from chronic sleep deprivation have an automatic disadvantage compared to those who do not. The recommended amount of sleep is seven to eight hours per night for adults, but everyone's body has different needs. Don’t be fooled by a world which encourages a ‘work hard, play hard’ life that doesn't create enough time for sleep. Eventually, it will break your brain. If you have difficulties falling or staying asleep- contact a health care provider to help you pinpoint the problem. Vickie Sorensen is a Master Herbalist in our office who provides holistic health consultations and has a remarkable track record for helping people achieve quality, restful sleep.

5. LESS stress

You can’t avoid some stress in this life. But too much stress floods our system with the "fight or flight" hormone adrenaline, which diverts energy and blood to the body rather than the mind. Because of this, chronic stress creates brain fog, depression, and insomnia. The healthiest way to combat stress is to carve out regular time every day to ‘empty your stress bucket’. Some people exercise, some prefer meditation or scripture study, others take refuge in creativity like music, writing, dancing or art. Whatever your relaxation is, find it and make it a regular event!

6. Question, question, question

Toxic social narratives exist which tell us what it means to be a woman, or successful, or attractive, but they’ve largely been invented by people trying to sell us stuff. Having a strong sense of identity is essential to psychological well-being, so if we’re constantly told we aren’t thin, pretty, rich or well-dressed enough to be a ‘proper’ ______, that will impact us negatively. Critical thinking around our beliefs and cultural programming is therefore essential for good mental health.

7. Identify your go-to person

Don't wait until symptoms of poor mental health manifest to start talking about them. Find least one person in your life you can call upon to respond with empathy if you ever came to them in emotional need -- someone who will listen to you without judgement and help you get any help you may need. If your problems seem too large for a friend or family member, a licensed mental health professional can sometimes be just who you need in your corner to help you find peace of mind and clarity. I love helping my clients find their inner strength and peace of mind. Give me a call at (435) 590-6579 to schedule your appointment today!

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