Practicing self-care is essential for supporting your emotional wellness. Even if you don’t suffer from any particular mental illness, looking out for your mental health today can prevent problems down the road. A lot of the things you do for your physical health– eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep– also contribute to your mental wellness. After all, the mind and body are intrinsically connected. But there are also things you need to do specifically for the good of your mental health in particular, such as taking time to relax or saying “no” to people’s requests when you are overwhelmed. These are the things that help reduce stress in our lives while improving mental wellness.
What makes a healthy diet? There are hundreds of fad diets out there that tell you to cut out this or only eat that, but the truth is there are no gimmicks when it comes to eating well. We simply need to eat a variety of whole foods, cook at home more often, and avoid pre-packaged and processed items that are chock full of hidden fats, salts, and sugars.
Another part of a healthy diet a lot of people forget about is getting enough probiotic and prebiotic foods for gut health. Your digestive system is home to billions of different types of bacteria, like Akkermansia and Bifidobacterium. These helpful microbes are essential for many of your body’s processes, including how well you digest your food and the overall strength of your immune system. To keep your gut critters healthy, include probiotic-rich fermented foods in your diet. Fermented foods contain helpful bacteria like Bifidobacteria and lactobacilli and can help restore balance to your gut ecosystem. Prebiotic foods contain fiber or complex carbs that bacteria break down and use for fuel. Eating these foods keeps your existing gut flora healthy and strong. Prebiotic foods include many commonly enjoyed vegetables, legumes, and grains such as asparagus, onions, chickpeas, and oats.
A sedentary lifestyle is as bad for your mental health as it is for your waistline. Exercise is a necessary outlet for both physical and mental stress. Without enough exercise, you are at risk for anxiety and other mental health problems. Furthermore, when you’re physically active, the body releases hormones and neurotransmitters that promote mental wellness and an overall positive outlook.
Exercise does not have to be strenuous to be effective. In fact, too many high-intensity workouts may increase the risk of death by heart attack or developing an irregular heart rhythm. Instead of killing yourself over fitness, aim to get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily while also trying to be more active in your day-to-day activities.
Getting Enough Sleep
Your brain and body perform many vital functions while you’re asleep. When you don’t catch enough ZZZs, neither can function at the level you need to be successful. People who do not get enough sleep have a harder time regulating their mood and being able to concentrate. Sleep deprivation affects memory, appetite, and the body’s immune system.
To make sure you’re getting enough sleep each and every night, create a steady pre-slumber routine that tells your mind and body that it’s time to wind down and get ready to sleep. First of all, reduce the amount of light in your environment. Excess light can prevent your brain’s natural release of melatonin, the hormone that makes us feel sleepy at night. Turn off overhead lights and use low-wattage lamps that aren’t too harsh. Also, shut down your electronics, including the television. Staring at a screen before bed gives your brain a direct hit of blue light, which is proven to disrupt your body’s circadian rhythm.
Come up with a couple activities in your bedtime routine that help you feel less stressed. Release tension with a gentle yoga sequence for sleep. Make a cup of soothing herbal tea and sip it while you read a book. Meditate and help train your brain to be in the moment instead of fixating on passing thoughts. Take a warm shower that manipulates your body’s temperature and helps you feel drowsy. Do whatever it is that helps you feel relaxed, comfortable, and ready to enjoy a restful night’s sleep.
Life is full of stress; you can’t change that. However, you can reduce stress in certain parts of your life so you have more energy to deal with the things out of your control. First of all, it’s important to allow yourself time to relax. If you don’t give yourself a break, the tension will build up and eventually lead to burnout. We live in a society that praises people for grinding themselves down 24/7, but life is too short not to take time out every now and again to enjoy it. Furthermore, studies even show that taking vacation time and mental health days actually improves productivity and performance in workers.
A lot of us find it difficult to ask for help when we need it; perhaps that’s why we say we’ll help others with things when we really don’t have the time or energy to do them. If someone gathered up the courage to ask you, it possibly seems rude to deny their request. However, it’s okay to say no to people. It’s healthy, even! Saying no to people is a sign of self-awareness and confidence. It shows you respect your own schedule and limitations, so you don’t end up stretching yourself too thin and adding undue stress into your life.
Everything we do in life can affect our mental health in some way. If you eat garbage, you are not getting enough nutrients to support cognitive function. Avoiding exercise means your body’s hormones and neurotransmitters will become imbalanced and contribute to negative feelings. Sleep deprivation prevents your brain from completing necessary functions for your well-being, and too much stress can lead to debilitating anxiety and eventual burnout. Instead of letting yourself get to these points, prevent mental illness by practicing self-care daily and making healthy choices when it comes to what you eat, your activity levels, how well you sleep, and the amount of stress in your life.