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Strategies for Better Mental Health and Well-Being

Wednesday, May 01, 2024

Mental Health and Well-Being are essential to a good life. Photo shows a variety of people under the words Mental Health Awareness Month. It’s a download from SAMHSA.Making small changes in your daily routine can have big impacts on your mental well-being. During National Mental Health Awareness Month, explore behaviors and mindsets that can ease stress and anxiety and create more peace and energy. Your mind and body will thank you! 

The busyness of life can make us feel there’s no time for self-care. But people who prioritize their mental health and well-being often report feeling more energy and satisfaction.

“A healthy lifestyle, sometimes in combination with counseling and medication, can help people achieve mental health and well-being, and boost self-esteem,” NewBridge CEO Michelle Borden said. “By adopting simple yet impactful practices and seeking support when needed, we empower ourselves to lead healthier, more fulfilling lives.”

Mental Well-Being: Self-Care Actions

You may be wondering, how can I improve my mental well-being? Use National Mental Health Month as the impetus to build your mental health toolbox. Here’s a list of self-care actions you can take. Start with one and add more. Experiment: if one doesn’t suit you, move on to another to discover what fits your needs.

Take relaxation breaks. A few minutes of paying attention as you take slow, deep breaths can be soothing. Meditation and yoga are excellent for relaxation but require practice.

Walk, stretch, move. Exercise releases endorphins and boosts mood.

Establish good sleep habits. Have a set time to go to sleep and to wake up. Relax the half hour before bedtimes. Aim for 7 to 9 hours at a stretch.

Nourish your body. Choose healthy meals and snacks most of the time. Drink plenty of water. Limit alcohol and caffeine.

Set manageable goals. Accept that you cannot control everything and set priorities. Breaks larger tasks into smaller, achievable goals.

Reframe negative thoughts. Consider the silver lining in even unpleasant circumstances. Shifting your perspective and focusing on constructive thoughts cultivates a positive mindset.

Connect with others. Call a friend or family member. Volunteer or join a community group. A sense of belonging gives our lives purpose.

Practice gratitude. Keeping a gratitude journal or spending a few minutes a day thinking about the good in your life cultivates optimism, and can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Spend time in nature. Being outdoors and taking in the sights, sounds and smells is relaxing. It can improve your mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Limit screen time. Spending less time on electronic devices and social media can improve your mind’s focus, sleep quality, social connections and overall life balance.

Adopting behaviors like these into your routine can go a long way to improving your mental health and well-being. However, you may find these aren’t enough. That’s when it’s time to seek support from a mental health professional who uses evidence-based techniques proven to be effective.

Why Mental Health is Important

Mental health is an essential component of overall wellness; the body-mind connection is a two-way relationship. Our attitudes, thoughts and feelings can influence our physical well-being, and vice versa.

Mental illnesses such as depression can increase the risk for physical health problems such as diabetes and heart disease. People who live with chronic physical health problems are at a higher risk for mental illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

A person’s mental well-being is fluid, meaning circumstances can change it, for the better or worse. So committing to healthful practices and getting treatment when needed can improve mental health. However, when demands on an individual exceed their coping capacity — say someone who is thrust into caring for a sick relative on top of their other responsibilities, their mental health can deteriorate. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), “people with depression have a 40% higher risk of developing cardiovascular and metabolic diseases than the general population.” 

Statistics

Mental illness is common: In the U.S., 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness each year, and 1 in 20 experience serious mental illness, NAMI reported. For children ages 6 to 17, the rate is 1 in 6 for a mental health disorder. Half of all lifetime mental illnesses begin by age 14 and 75% by age 24.

Youth Mental Health Awareness

Worrisome trends have emerged related to adolescents’ mental health and well-being. The percentage of high school students who reported experiencing persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness for at least two weeks was 42%, up from 28% a decade earlier, according to the CDC’s most recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The percentage who seriously considered suicide increased from 16% to 22% over that period.

Importance of Mental Health Awareness

A lack of awareness about mental health effects can impede an individual’s willingness to make adjustments in their life or seek a diagnosis and treatment. Less than half of adults with a mental illness received treatment in 2021; the treatment rate was 65.4% for adults with a serious mental illness, NAMI reported. The delay from the onset of symptoms to receiving treatment is 11 years on average! 

Raising awareness about mental health and available resources helps reduce the stigma, increasing the likelihood people get the support they need.

NewBridge provides Mental Health First Aid training to help recognize symptoms of mental illness in adults and youth and how to respond. To learn more about evidence-based MHFA training opportunities, contact Director of Community Response and Education Beth Jacobson at ejacobson@newbridge.org or (973) 686-2242. NewBridge also offers mental health awareness in schools to help children and adolescents build resilience. 

While the thought of having a mental illness is scary, mental illness can be well managed through counseling and, in some cases, medication. “Recovery from mental illness is possible, and everyone’s journey is unique,” said Carolyn Dean, executive director of NewBridge’s Community Outreach and Support.

NewBridge Services’ licensed clinicians are available in-person and through telehealth sessions. Call (973) 316-9333 to schedule an appointment. NewBridge accepts most insurances. If you find yourself in an emotional crisis, call or text 988 24/7 to get immediate support. 

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