Looking after your mental health is as important as making sure you are physically fit and the two can be connected. Sometimes, all it needs is a few simple changes to your lifestyle to help you feel better and to cope with the stress of everyday life.

Get Enough Sleep

Having enough sleep is crucial for your well being. A lack of it will make you feel constantly tired, lose all motivation and your brain will become sluggish. Sleep deprivation can almost be like torture for your body and brain, and it is vital that you do not let this happen. A healthy adult should aim to get between 7 and 8 hours of sleep every night to help maintain good mental health.

Eat A Healthy Diet

Your brain needs nutrients to work effectively, and a diet that is good for your physical health will give it what it needs.  You should eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, wholegrain bread or cereals, nuts, seeds, salads, oily fish, dairy products and lots of water.

You should have at least three meals a day, although some doctors think that smaller meals more often are better. It really depends on what suits your lifestyle.

You should avoid sugary drinks, as they tend to contain many chemicals as well. They may well give you a very quick energy boost, but it does not last long and you will feel worse when it has gone.

Caffeine is good in small quantities and is better in the morning or early afternoon. This is because it is a stimulant and a later cup of coffee, for instance, can contribute to a bad nights sleep.

Following this sort of diet is great for your physical and mental well being as long as you do not have a medical condition that requires special foods. If you have, you should be guided by what your physician or dietician tells you.

Have Regular Exercise

Scientists have shown that exercise releases chemicals to your brain that makes you feel better.  Regular exercise can boost your self-esteem, improve your mood, help you concentrate and promotes a good nights sleep.

Fitting exercise into your routine does not mean that you have to join and gym for workouts. A walk in the park, some gardening, dancing, and even housework is all activity that your brain needs.

It is recommended that you try to be active for about 30 minutes a day five times a week. This can be quite simple if you include things such as walking up the stairs instead of taking an elevator, walking the kids to school instead of driving them there or maybe having a game ball in your back yard.

Discuss How You Feel

If you are feeling anxious or low, you should discuss your problems with a friend or relative. Often, when you are feeling this way it makes you think you are alone and chatting with other people will help you to realize that is not the case and that they are there to support you. Talking about your feelings is not a sign of weakness, it is more a case that you are taking charge of your well being and doing whatever you need to so that you remain healthy.

Sometimes, putting a problem into words clarifies it for you and suddenly it does not seem quite so bad. If you chat with a trusted friend or family member you could be helping them too. They will feel good that you confided in them, and know that if they start to feel the same way, they can come and discuss their problems with you.

You do not have to visit someone just to talk about your problems, as this can become an awkward situation. However, if you are doing something together, such as some shopping or having a day out, bring the subject up as naturally as you can.

Ask For Help

There is nothing to be ashamed of in asking for help if you need it. In fact, the opposite is true and you should be admired for taking that first step to better mental health.  No one will go through life without getting tired or overwhelmed by events at times, and if things go wrong it can feel as though you cannot cope any longer.

Then you need to ask for help. You can ask your physician to refer you to a counselor perhaps, especially if the way you are feeling is starting to affect your life. Not all of them will have the extensive experience of Cynthia Telles, but they are all well trained and qualified in what they do. As long as you do your due diligence, you should be able to find the help you need.

Dr. Telles is a professor in the UCLA School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry as well as being the director of the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute Spanish-Speaking Psychosocial Clinic for more than 30 years. These are just two of her many posts. She has been on the board of several large companies and been an advisor to the White House. In fact, the list of her achievements is very impressive, and they all involve helping other people.

There is also the option of joining a support group for the help you need. Just as an example, if your weight is causing you to be depressed, join a slimming club. If you are having trouble stopping drinking, join Alcoholics Anonymous. If it is financial problems creating the stress, speak with debt counselors who may be able to help you get your finances into order.

Help is out there for most situations; you just have to ask when you need it.

Have A Hobby You Enjoy

Hobbies can be great stress relievers. They tend to be something you enjoy which often means you are good at it too. This can be a real boost for your self-confidence.

It does not matter if your hobby is something like gardening, a sport, art or anything else. That is your choice, but it gives you some time for you. For a while, you are not a mom, a dad, a brother or sister, or someone’s partner. This is your time and it is vital for your mental health.

Do not fall into the trap of taking up a hobby because your best friend is doing it. Take up a hobby you want to do and often you will make new friends at the same time. It is not always easy to walk into a situation on your own if you join a club of some sort, for instance, but once you have made that first step, you will be glad you did.

Volunteer To Help Others

Helping people that are less fortunate than you can be very rewarding. It can help to make you realize that your life is not as bad as you thought, and can give your confidence a boost. Helping others can make you feel more valued especially when you see how much they appreciate the help you are giving.

You could offer your services to a local charity, or share a skill you have with a local club or school. Helping others can be a great way to improve your mental health.

You could even look among your own family and friends to help people. Have you a friend with small children perhaps, who could do with a couple of hours to themselves? This sort of help can make you and the tired mom both feel better about life.  

If you have an elderly relative that is lonely, it costs nothing to visit and listen to the stories most of the older generation love to tell. It does not matter if they have told you the same story a hundred times already, you will know that you are relieving their loneliness and that should make you feel better about yourself.

Accept Yourself As You Are

Sometimes people get depressed because they are unhappy with themselves. It could be simple things that nothing can be done about, such as being shorter than they would like or taller. They may want to be slimmer or feel they could be cleverer than they are.

One of the secrets to good mental health is accepting yourself as you are. Most people would change something about themselves, but it is the inner you that matters the most, not how you look. People do not fall in love with or make friends with other people because their height is perfect and they weigh the right amount. It does not matter what color your eyes are or if you have short or long hair.

People will want to know you because you are a nice person and the other things will not matter one iota if you are pleasant to be around. Having the ability to laugh at your own imperfections is great, but just accepting them is a good start.

Most people lead very busy lives these days, and that does not help when you need to do things for yourself. Finding the right work/life balance is important, but you also need to find the right balance for everything else in your life too.

By Erica Buteau

Change Agent. Daydream Believer. Maker. Creative. Likes love, peace and Jeeping. Dislikes winter, paper cuts and war. She/Her/Hers.

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