10 Tips to Care for Your Mental Health

Try these tips to keep your balance, or re-balance yourself.

1. Value yourself:

Treat yourself with kindness and respect. Try your best to avoid self-criticism or negative self-talk. Pay attention to when you are talking down to yourself, and know that you have control over your thoughts–not your thoughts over you. This is the beauty of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT. It helps change your thoughts, which helps to change how you feel, and change how you live. Essentially, talk to yourself like you would a friend.

It can be helpful to ask yourself, “Is this what I would say to {insert the name of a specific, trusted person}?” or “Is this what {they} would say to me?”

Chances are we are much kinder to others than we are to ourselves at times. It is also important to make time for your hobbies and favorite projects, or even learn something new. Some ideas include:

  • Do a craft
  • exercise
  • Connect with friends and family
  • Read a book
  • Try a new recipe
  • Plant a garden
  • Take a lesson (dance, fitness, cooking, new language or hobby)
  • Play or learn to play an instrument

2. The mind-body connection: Take care of your body:

Taking care of yourself physically can improve your mental health. Some days it’s just enough to eat well, sleep/nap/or rest, and shower/change clothes. Be sure to:

  • Eat nutritious meals. The gut is the second brain! Limit inflammation causing foods like processed foods and sugars. 
  • Avoid excessive alcohol and drugs
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Exercise, which helps decrease depression and anxiety and improve moods
  • Get enough sleep. Everything is worse on little sleep! Researchers believe that lack of sleep contributes to a high rate of depression. See Sleep. It can be difficult to shut off our minds, especially at night, which inhibits proper sleep. Working on a bedtime routine with your therapist can be very helpful.

3. Surround yourself with good people:

We are created for connection. People with strong family or social connections are generally healthier than those who lack a support network. Make plans with supportive family members and friends, or seek out activities where you can meet new people, such as a club, class or support group. Reach out to one safe person this week, text/email/message/call/facetime. 

4. Give yourself:

Volunteer your time and energy to help someone else. You’ll feel good about doing something tangible to help someone in need — and it’s a great way to meet new people. This can also look like reaching out to friends, letting them know you are thinking of them. If you see something you like about someone, say it. 

5. Learn how to deal with stress:

Like it or not, stress is a part of life. Not all stress is bad, however. Sometimes it can motivate you to get things done, focus, or learn healthy strategies, like reaching out for help. Stress or anxiety is trying to tell us that something needs to change in my life. That can be learning better time management strategies or maybe taking a break from overworking to connecting with friends. 

Practice good coping skills: Try One-Minute Stress Strategies, exercise, take a nature walk, play with your pet or try journal writing as a stress reducer. Also, remember to smile and see the humor in life. Research shows that laughter can boost your immune system, ease pain, relax your body and reduce stress. Permission to watch a funny show or youtube video, but maybe not hours worth 😉

6. Quiet your mind:

Try meditating, Mindfulness and/or prayer. Relaxation exercises and prayer can improve your state of mind and outlook on life. In fact, research shows that meditation may help you feel calm and enhance the effects of therapy. Journaling is one of the best things I recommend. Getting everything out of your mind and onto a piece of paper can be so helpful to process everything in a safe, non-judgemental way and to see a more realistic perspective. It’s like word vomit but productive because once it’s out we can see patterns or a new perspective. We can convince ourselves of almost anything in our mind, so it can be helpful to get it out and talk it out with someone.

Resources: Apps for breathing/mindfulness/meditation: Calm, Happify, Headspace, Mindshift, Sanvello.

7. Set realistic goals:

Decide what you want to achieve academically, professionally and personally, and write down the steps you need to realize your goals. Aim high, but be realistic and don’t over-schedule. You’ll enjoy a tremendous sense of accomplishment and self-worth as you progress toward your goal. Working with a therapist can help you develop goals and stay on track. 

8. Routines help but Spice It Up, too:

Routine and consistency can help decrease stress and anxiety. It is something we can control when feeling out of control. Although our routines make us more efficient and enhance our feelings of security and safety, a little change of pace can perk up a tedious schedule. Alter your jogging route, plan a road-trip, take a walk in a different park, hang some new pictures or try a new restaurant. See Rejuvenation 101 for more ideas.

9. Avoid alcohol, drugs, and other Escape Mechanisms:

Keep alcohol use to a minimum and avoid other drugs. Sometimes people use alcohol and other drugs to “self-medicate” but in reality, alcohol and other drugs only aggravate problems. For others it may not be alcohol or drugs, but other escape mechanisms, such as Netflix or avoidance. Anxiety thrives on isolation and avoidance. When we are feeling alone and isolated, anxiety and stress can grow. When we avoid the things that make us anxious, we never learn that we CAN face it and cope. Working with a therapist can be helpful to breakdown the fear and face it in small steps to eventually overcome it rather than escape from it completely with substances or distractions. 

10. Get help when you need it:

We all have “stuff” and can benefit from counselling. Just as we care for our physical health (exercise, nutrition, sleep), we need to care for our mental health. Seeking help is a sign of strength — not a weakness. And it is important to remember that counselling is effective. People who get appropriate care lead full, rewarding lives. Why not become the best version of you!

Considering if counselling is right for you? Read more frequently asked questions and answers here.

Or try it! Book in for your counselling appointment here.

Start with one of these tips, and start where you are.

Even though I am an Ohio State University alumni, this original list was inspired by our competitor, University of Michigan. This list of practical tips to care for your mental health is a great summary resource to incorporate into your life.

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