Want Better Mental Health? Be Proactive.
You exercise and watch your cholesterol to keep your heart healthy. You take a multi-vitamin to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs. You brush and floss to prevent gum disease. Preventive measures like these can go a long way toward heading off illness. But did you know you can also be proactive about maintaining your mental health?
Preventive mental health doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive. There are a lot of simple, cost-effective (or even free!) steps you can take to start protecting your mental health today.
Mindfulness has been shown to increase our ability to regulate emotions and decrease our levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. Practicing mindfulness regularly, especially when you are feeling mentally well, makes you better equipped to get through the more challenging times.
Plus, you do not need to be a master of meditation or have a smartphone app to reap these benefits! Simply set a timer for 5 minutes, sit comfortably with your eyes closed, and draw your attention to your breathing. As thoughts pop up and distract you, acknowledge them without judgment, and gently return your focus to your breath.
Ever hear of the “runner’s high”? Exercises produces endorphins, feel-good chemicals in your brain that boost your mood for hours after your workout ends. A good workout can also improve your sleep and raise your self-esteem – key factors in good mental health!
But you don’t need to be a marathon runner to reap the benefits of exercise. Walking your dog, running around the yard with your kids, or doing a short yoga flow before bed are all great ways to incorporate more movement into your day. You can also build in movement breaks – scheduled times to get up and stretch, take a short walk, or do a few push-ups – throughout your workday. If you are looking to really break a sweat, join a running club or try a new online workout class. Find an exercise routine you truly enjoy, and it will soon be one of the best parts of your day.
Get some vitamin D
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to increased risk for several mental illnesses, including depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). If you are experiencing these conditions, or other symptoms such as lingering fatigue or muscle weakness, your healthcare provider may want to check your vitamin D levels.
Luckily, upping your vitamin D intake is as easy as walking outside! Vitamin D is often called the “sunshine vitamin” because sunlight is one of the best sources of the nutrient. In the winter months, you can also get vitamin D from fatty fish, mushrooms, and egg yolks. Your healthcare provider may prescribe a vitamin D supplement, or you can bring the sunshine indoors with a UV lamp.
Lose the clutter
Our environments play a big role in how we feel mentally and emotionally. For a lot of us, being surrounded by a clutter can quickly become a source of stress. An uncluttered space, on the other hand, can help us feel calmer, more productive, and more in control.
Spend some time at the end of each workday organizing your workspace. Throw away old Post-its and file papers you’re finished with. Use a jar or desk organizer to hold your pens, highlighters, scissors, and other office supplies, and return all of them to their proper place before you shut down for the evening. And speaking of shutting down – make it a habit to fully power down your computer, or at least close your laptop, at the end of the day. This will not only make your desk feel less cluttered, it will also signal to your brain that it’s time to transition from work to the rest of your day.
Upgrade your space
In addition to de-cluttering, making other improvements to your work and living spaces can help you feel more calm, inspired, and productive.
Invest in an ergonomic set-up (chair and keyboard) for your office to help improve your posture. Sitting up straight can help you feel more energetic and even more confident, and proper alignment can help reduce fatigue, backaches, tension headaches, and even the risk of longer term injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome.
Incorporate things that give you joy, both in the office and in your living space. These can include photos of loved ones, houseplants or a vase of fresh flowers, a favorite painting, a funny or inspiring mug – whatever makes you smile when you look at it.
And no, we aren’t talking about your WiFi! Strong, supportive social bonds are critical to both our physical and our mental health. While we still may not be able to gather in person as much as we’d like, it’s important to find ways to reach out and stay connected. Schedule a virtual hangout with friends you haven’t seen in a while, or start a group text to check in regularly. Go for a walk with a loved one or meet up for coffee. You can even go the old-fashioned route and send someone a card in the mail just to say hi.
To feel even more connected, consider volunteering in your community for a cause you care about. Giving of ourselves is a great reminder that we are part of something larger – and doing good feels good!
Ask for help
Finally, don’t feel like you need to “go it” alone. We’re not superhumans, and none of us can do everything by ourselves all the time.
If you’re having a busy day, ask your partner to pick up take-out for dinner. Assign your kids (age-appropriate) chores to balance household responsibilities more evenly. If you’re swamped at the office, delegate tasks, reach out to a colleague for help, or ask your manager what needs to be prioritized and what can wait. Reaching out for help before you reach the point of overwhelm can prevent burnout and help you maintain your peace of mind.
Think of your mental health like a rainy day fund. Even small investments will add up over time, giving you money in the bank when you truly need it.
WORKPLACE SOLUTIONS is a group of dedicated professionals who provide assistance and resources to individuals and families to create a satisfying and meaningful life. We’re counselors, attorneys, financial professionals, and experienced specialists in a wide variety of fields. Because life’s challenges and opportunities show up in a range of different areas, we provide assistance in a number of different ways.