Mental wellness begins with you

Published 12:53 pm Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Mental wellness. To many, these words may mean a consistent state of happiness. But there’s much more to it than an emotion. A complex interwoven dance between our body, brain and lifestyle contributes to our mental wellness. The key is a sense of equilibrium where we have a healthy handle on our coping abilities to adapt to the everyday stresses of life.

Our mental wellness affects our feelings, thoughts and behaviors. Mental wellness affects navigating life, relationships, work and other daily activities. Positive mental wellness helps us maneuver through life more confidently, and it all starts with self-care.

Self-care means taking the time to do things that improve our physical and mental well-being. Self-care is disciplined habits that help us manage stress, lower the risk of illness and improve our energy levels. The most minor initiatives of self-care can have a considerable impact. 

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Below are tips to get started with self-care. And for regular readers of my column, many of these tips are hopefully already firmly established in your activities:

 

  • 30 minutes of consistent, daily exercise will do wonders for your mental health.
  • Add more fruits, vegetables and healthy fats to your diet. Drink more water and consume fewer simple sugars and processed foods.
  • Stick to a schedule of seven to nine hours of sleep per night to balance your circadian rhythm.
  • Focus on what you can control. People who see themselves in control tend to be more resilient. 
  • Connect with something larger than yourself. You don’t have to be religious to benefit from the positive effects of meditation.
  • Too much on our plates can stress us to a breaking point. Set boundaries and stick to them.
  • Focus on positivity. Restrict exposure to toxic people and negative things
  • Practice gratitude. Write down three things every night for which you are grateful.
  • Stay connected. Isolation can be both a symptom of and a cause of mental challenges. Join a club, find a new hobby and engage with new people.
  • Set small goals each day to build confidence.
  • Practice self-compassion. Stop blaming yourself and encourage yourself like you would a friend or loved one.
  • Treat yourself to a couple of pieces of dark chocolate every so often. Research indicates flavonoids and theobromine in dark chocolate work together to improve mental skills and brighten your days.
  • Avoid recreational drugs and alcohol. 

 

Self-care is different for everyone and finding what works for you is essential. Recognizing what causes or triggers mild symptoms and learning coping techniques can help manage mental health and improve mental wellness. 

Self-care is not a cure for mental illness, and you need to know when to seek help. 

Don’t wait until your symptoms overwhelm you. If you need immediate assistance or are having suicidal or homicidal thoughts, a severe medication reaction, or any emergency, please call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.

You may also contact Vaya Health’s Behavioral Health crisis line at 1-800-849-6127 for local crisis support in Western NC. The National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is also available by calling or texting 988 to obtain immediate mental health support from licensed clinicians at any time or day.

Finding the path to recovery can seem overwhelming, but there are local resources to surround you. St. Luke’s Hospital here in town has launched a Mental Health & Wellness service where they focus on empathy, compassion, and a commitment to providing nonjudgmental care. Contact them at (828) 894-0853 to learn more about their services.

Improving your mental well-being requires taking the first step. As daunting as that may feel, reaching out demonstrates tremendous courage and is the beginning of the journey to positive mental health.