Guest Blog: Seven Tips to Improve Mental Health Right Now
Seven Tips to Improve Mental Health Right Now
One good thing about the events of 2020...it has elevated the conversations about mental health among young adults. Now that people are more motivated to take care of themselves and seek help, the flood of information about mental health and wellness may be overwhelming. Here are some things you can try right now to help improve your sense of well-being:
1) Get good sleep and drink enough water. Most of us are walking around sleep deprived and thirsty which impacts every area of our functioning including our mood, energy, thinking, interactions with others and productivity. Sleep: Most experts agree that we need at least 7 hours of sleep. Here are some sleep tips: Unplug from your phone, have a consistent bedtime and wake time, have a bedtime routine and limit caffeine throughout the day. If racing thoughts keep you up, keep a pad of paper by your bed and write down those thoughts, then give yourself permission to forget them until the morning…they’ll still be there if you want to return to them.
Water: Rather than focus on the amount you are drinking, take cues from your body. If your urine is dark yellow you are not drinking enough water. If you go 3-4 hours without going to the bathroom, you are not drinking enough water. In general by the time we feel thirsty, we are already dehydrated.
2) Control what is going into your body and mind. If you know that eating junk food hurts your stomach, then don’t eat it. If you know that watching the news makes you feel anxious or depressed, turn it off. If you know that playing video games late at night will interfere with your sleep, don't play them. By monitoring what goes in you cut down the time and energy you will spend dealing with your mind and body's reactions.
3) Circle of Control. There are things in life that we cannot control. Focusing our time and energy on things we cannot control can make us anxious and depressed. Try this: Get a piece of paper and draw a circle. On the inside, write the things that you can control (drinking water, turning off the phone, what you say to yourself and others). On the outside of the circle draw the things over which you have no control (other people, weather). By focusing and working on what is inside the circle, it can keep you too busy to worry about what is out of your control.
4) Mind over money: Money is directly connected to mental health wellness. Having money saved can decrease anxiety, depression and create a sense of safety. You do not need to save a lot to experience the benefits. Start where you are, one dollar saved is better than nothing. How do you start? A lot of people spend money mindlessly. Marketing people are paid a lot of money to manipulate us into buying things we do not need. Don’t fall for it! If buying $300 shoes is going to change the way you feel about yourself, something else is going on. Stop impulse shopping and buying based on emotions and you will find extra money. Try this: take a day or week and think about every penny that you spend. Ask yourself "is this a need or a want?" Netflix is a want and clean water is a need. Food is a need, but take out is a want. You may need a phone, but do you need an IPhone? The more mindful you are about how you are spending money, the more control you will feel over your life. Online shopping tip-leave it in your cart for a day or two, go back later and ask yourself can you live without it. You just saved some money.
5) Make friends with your feelings even the painful ones. Your feelings are always valid and they are trying to tell you something. The problem is that feelings are not always logical and sometimes they do not fit the current situation. Example, my friend shows me a photo of her new dog and I feel fear. The fear is valid because a dog bit me last week and the photo triggers that memory, but there is no need for me to be afraid in that situation because there is no threat. In that moment, if I act on the fear (scream, smash the phone, run) it will likely have negative consequences. You can feel and acknowledge a feeling without acting on them. If there are strong feelings that you cannot label or tolerate because they are too painful to face alone, you might want to get some help. Therapists and professional counselors are trained to help people with this process.
6) Seek help. There are professionals trained to support individuals struggling with mental health issues. You do not have to have a mental disorder to seek professional help. From problems brought on by recent stressors or other problems that are deeper, help is available. It will require making some calls and maybe meeting with more than one person to find the right fit, but that work is within your circle of control. You can start the search here:
7) Take suicidal thoughts seriously. We are often afraid to talk about suicide and that can make it hard if you are having these thoughts. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Everyone has a unique value that they bring to the world, but when you are depressed or in emotional pain it can be hard to know that. It is one thing to have a passing thought that you can easily dismiss without any plan of acting on it. However, when the thoughts are frequent, hard to shake or there is a plan, then help is crucial. If you do not have someone in your life to talk to, there are emergency resources available 24/7. If you are afraid that someone you know might be suicidal, you can also use these resources for guidance and support.
Emotional Crisis Resources
Acute Psychiatric Services at Hennepin County Medical Center, 701 Park Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55405. 612-873-3161.
Hennepin County COPE: 612-596-1223 (Hotline active, but Mobile Crisis team is currently not available due to COVID 19)
National Crisis phone: 1-800-237-8255 (TALK). (National 24/7 crisis hotline)
Minnesota Crisis Text Line - Text MN to 741741
For a medical emergency call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department
About the Author: Dr. Stacey Jones is a licensed psychologist with over 20 years of experience as a mental health provider. She is the founder and director of the Mary Ellen Strong Foundation. The foundation works to increase access to mental health treatment in the Black community in Minnesota and Wisconsin. She is passionate about mentoring Black/African American individuals pursuing careers in mental health and about promoting culturally centered wellness practices.