Special to Palmetto Counseling’s Blog | August 13, 2019 3:00 PM EDT
This issue features an article by Maria Cannon

Mental health issues aren’t a new thing. Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Newton, and Beethoven all struggled with depression, OCD, and bipolar disorder. And yet the stigma remains that mental health problems are the fault of the person who’s suffering.

Social stigma occurs when individuals suffering from mental illness experience discrimination and prejudicial treatment from others. Self-stigma often results from social stigma when individuals internalize that negativity and feel ashamed of their mental health struggles. 

Professionals worry that the stigma of mental illness is only making us sicker and recommend making it a public health priority. They suggest fighting stigma by talking openly about mental health, showing compassion for those suffering from mental illness, choosing words wisely, and taking every opportunity to educate others.

Nurture your well-being

Here is your new mantra: Self-care is not selfish. If you’re struggling to maintain a healthy mental mojo, be proactive. Talk to a professional—there is no shame in asking for help.

Experts know that everyone’s lives experience ups and downs, changing moods, and good days and bad, but having a plan in place to help cope with life’s stresses goes far to promote overall good mental health.

Reflect on what you need each day to feel fulfilled, whether it’s exercise, time to read, hanging with friends and family, playing with your pets, or doing something creative. Create a mental checklist (or write it down) and see where you’re hitting your needs—and where you need to fill in some gaps.

Mental self-care

Be mindful. When you take time to appreciate what’s going on around you and observe the moment, that’s mindfulness. Turning your focus on whatever you’re doing—even if it’s vacuuming or washing dishes—increases awareness of being in the moment, and that promotes happiness. 

Be nice to yourself. Self-compassion through speaking to yourself kindly (rather than harshly and critically) builds resilience and strength. Science suggests that treating yourself well increases your health, happiness, and success.

Free yourself of clutter. Too much stuff in your home can leave you feeling stressed, unfocused, and distracted. Start decluttering today by letting go of items you no longer need, including clothes that haven’t left their hangers in the past two years. Organize sentimental items in a filing cabinet, and recycle outdated electronics. A decluttered home makes for a relaxing haven.

Make time for yourself each day, even if it’s just a few minutes of time spent in the garden or soaking in a bubble bath before bedtime. You might also consider:

  • Incorporating a fitness and exercise routine into your day—even just 20 to 30 minutes of exercise each day boosts the body and mind.
  • Picking up an old hobby or trying something new.
  • Creating a good, healthy sleep routine.

Good mental health = good physical health

Several studies show that people who seek treatment for severe mental health issues reduce their risks of cardiovascular disease. Those with depression and anxiety have higher mortality rates from cancer and can suffer more severe symptoms of diabetes.

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that “there is no health without mental health,” and experts know that:

  • Poor mental health is a risk factor for chronic physical conditions.
  • Those with serious mental health conditions are at a higher risk of suffering from chronic physical conditions.

A healthy mental outlook makes it easier to cope with stress and life’s inevitable curveballs. It promotes inner strength and feelings of well-being. Your body also benefits when you take care of your mind, because the steps you take for brain health are good for your body, too.

Spending time in nature—gardening, playing with kids, swimming in the ocean, walking the dog, stretching your legs after dinner—boosts your mood and exposes you to vitamin D, which boosts immunity and helps facilitate nutrient absorption.

Relaxing with a hobby, a good book, a family game night, or meditation helps reduce stress, which is known for its negative effects on both mental and physical health. 

Choosing healthy foods that are low in refined sugars and carbs and high in essential nutrients (such as lean proteins) directly affect your energy level, physical health, and mood. Often, your mental health reflects your body’s health.

Self-care benefits your mental health in more ways than one. Furthermore, good mental health contributes to improved overall wellness. Remember to have patience with yourself when trying out different strategies, and don’t hesitate to talk to a professional for any assistance.

About the author

Maria Cannon believes we’re never too young to dedicate ourselves to a hobby. She created HobbyJr to encourage young people to find a hobby they love. Maria
has suffered from depression and anxiety for years. Her hobbies include gardening, quilting, sewing, and knitting–play a major role in maintaining her mental health.

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