may IS national mental health month

Did you know 1 in 5 (46.6 million) adults in the United States will experience a mental health disorder in their lifetime?

Mental health disorders are common and treatable, but often people feel isolated and unable to talk about what they are going through. This National Mental Health Month is the perfect time to check in on your mental health and focus on goals that will help you care for yourself:

  1. Be kind to yourself. Whether things have been going well for you or if you have been having a tough time lately, it is important that you treat yourself with the same kindness and encouragement you would extend to a friend. If you would not say it to someone you love, then you should not say it to yourself.

  2. Practice good sleeping habits. Getting enough sleep can be hard when you are living with a mental health disorder, but studies show the importance of prioritizing sleep for improving mental health symptoms. Rather than relying on medication, aim to maximize your relaxation before going to sleep. Make sure that your bedroom is a tranquil oasis with no reminders of the things that cause you stress. Avoid caffeine during the evening, as well as excessive alcohol if you know that this leads to disturbed sleep. Stop doing any mentally demanding work for as long as possible before going to bed so that you give your brain time to calm down. Going to bed at roughly the same time each day gives your mind and body the opportunity to get used to a predictable bedtime routine.

  3. Eat healthy and get your body moving. Physical activity can restore your body and mind to a calmer, more relaxed state. Try to incorporate some physical activity into your daily routine on a regular basis. Just five minutes of brisk walking at a decent pace releases endorphins into your body, and neurotransmitters release chemicals into your brain that tell your body that things are good. Instead of putting the focus on the scale, think about how you can include more veggies in your weekly meals or maybe going for a walk with a friend. This goal is about caring for your body, not pushing yourself to attain a certain look or weight.

  4. Listen to music. Listening to music actually changes the way your brain functions. It stimulates an ancient reward pathway. In the brain, encouraging dopamine to flood part of the forebrain associated with motivation. Music can help you regulate your mood and improve your mental wellness by reducing the body’s response to stress, relieving symptoms of depression and anxiety, and improving cognition and sleep.

  5. Implement relaxation techniques. Each day try to relax with a stress reduction technique. For example, find a quiet space, close your eyes, focus your breathing, and transport yourself to your happy place for a few minutes. Research shows your body actually produces less of the stress hormone cortisol when engaged in meditation. There are many relaxation techniques to reduce stress, so try a few and see what works best for you.

  6. Talk more about your mental health. Being more open about your mental health helps others understand your needs and allows them to be supportive. It also helps to build connections. Your friends and family members may also be struggling, but if one of you does not open up the conversation, you may never know.

  7. Visit http://screening.mentalhealthscreening.org/readinghospital to take a free, anonymous, confidential mental health screening, learn more about mental health disorders, and receive information on resources available in your community.

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