Maybe it’s because of the celebrities who have spoken openly about their struggles with their mental health.
Or maybe it’s because of the soaring rates of depression and anxiety that so many people experienced during the pandemic. (One study found that at least four in 10 U.S. adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression in 2021.)
Either way, mental health, once an issue that people were reluctant to talk about, is finally getting the attention that it deserves.
Whether in the media, among policymakers, or among our friends and family, there’s growing awareness that our mental health is important. Mental health affects us physically, socially, and emotionally. Mental health enables us to learn, cope with the stresses of life, and thrive throughout each stage of our lives.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. It’s a good time to continue to raise awareness about mental health conditions, and the importance of seeking help. This year’s theme is “Together for Mental Health,” which emphasizes the role of community support in promoting mental health.
One in five adults in the United States experiences mental illness each year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. This means that millions of people are struggling with conditions such as anxiety disorders, depression and other mood disorders, post-traumatic stress-disorder (PTSD), addiction and substance use disorders, and eating disorders.
Mental health problems can have a profound impact on a person’s life, affecting their ability to work, maintain relationships, and enjoy life. While great strides have been made in reducing stigma around mental health issues, many people who are struggling with these conditions still do not seek treatment.
Mental Health Awareness Month is helping to break down these barriers and encourage people to seek help. There are many resources available to people with mental illness, including therapy, medication, and support groups.
How to Take Care of Your Mental Health
Many people are familiar with ways of taking care of their physical health, such as eating a healthy diet and exercising. Did you know that some of these same things can also help your mental health? Here are some mental health self-care tips.
Go for a walk.
Just 30 minutes of walking every day can relieve stress and improve your mood. Even better, get out in nature. A recent study by researchers in Germany found that a one-hour walk through a forest lowered activity in brain regions involved with stress processing compared to a one-hour walk on a busy urban street.
Eat a nutritious diet and stay hydrated.
Studies have shown that good nutrition can help your brain health. One study found that eating a diet high in fruits vegetables, whole grains and legumes (such as beans) may even be protective against depression. Staying hydrated and not skipping meals can also help prevent mood swings.
Get your Z’s.
Difficulty sleeping, or insomnia, is a symptom of many mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety, and research shows that improving sleep has a positive effect on mental health.
How to do this? Start by practicing good sleep hygiene. Go to bed and wake up about the same time each day. Make sure you’re sleeping in a dark, quiet, comfortable space. Turn off the TV, and put away your phone. Avoid caffeine and alcohol a few hours before bedtime. Try to get out and get some exercise during the day, which could help you doze off at night.
Social connection improves mental and emotional well-being. Conversely, isolation and loneliness negatively affect the mood and overall health. If you feel you could use more social connection, try to find ways to get more involved with people and the world around you.
Try reaching out to a friend you haven’t spoken to in awhile.
(You may find they are feeling some of the same things that you are). Join a club, such as a book club, volunteer organization, or walking group. Take a class, such as learning new language or a special interest you want to explore. It can be hard to overcome feeling unsure of yourself or shy about trying something new, but chances are there are other people there who feel the same way.
When To Seek Help
If you’re finding your mental health self-care strategies just aren’t helping enough, or if your symptoms linger for more than a couple of weeks, seek the help of a mental health professional. Signs that it may be time to seek help include:
- Withdrawing socially
- Changes in behavior, such as drinking too much or other destructive activities
- Appetite changes that result in unwanted weight changes
- Struggling to feel motivated to get out of bed in the morning
- Difficulty concentrating
- Loss of interest in things you once enjoyed
- Sleep problems
Avance Care: Here to Help
With over 60 therapists, Avance Care can help you quickly get the support you need to improve you or your loved one’s mental health. Serving patients in personalized, outpatient settings in the Raleigh-Durham area and Charlotte, we provide the most advanced treatments for a full spectrum of psychiatric and behavioral health needs, including mental health, substance use and chronic pain disorders.
If you are struggling with your mental health, please know that you are not alone. There is help available, and you deserve to feel better.