The pandemic has negatively affected the mental health of millions. During the pandemic, the CDC reports that 40% of adults in the United States have struggled with their mental health or substance abuse reports that these effects have been felt disproportionately amongst the young and in Black and Hispanic communities.
If you are suffering from a mental health illness like anxiety or depression, you should speak to a medical professional who can ensure you get the help you need.
If you feel as though you can manage your mental health on your own, it’s worth knowing some of the best steps you can take. Here are a few tips to help you make positive changes to your mental health.
Recent research suggests that screen time can harm our mental health. In a study on adolescents and children, researchers found that those who spent one to seven hours looking at screens reported lowered self-control, had an increased prevalence of anxiety and depression, and reported worse relationships with parents.
These findings are disturbing, and speak volumes about the negative effects screen time can have on our day-to-day functions.
One of the best ways to combat these effects and kick your screen addiction is to undertake a digital detox.
A digital detox requires you to cut out all access to screens for a specific period of time. For a digital detox to be effective, you must plan ahead and should choose a weekend or day-off so you know you won’t miss anything important.
Planning the detox itself can even be fun — you can use maps to plan walks and can tune into the radio to listen to music and conversation. When the time comes, put your devices out of reach and engage in activities that reward you like helping others or light physical exercise.
Work stress is a major contributing factor to disorders like depression and anxiety. Unfortunately, many people experience severe stress due to work-related factors like mismanagement, unrealistic goals, and burnout.
For those struggling with mental health issues, time away from work to seek therapy or relaxation can make a huge difference. If you are struggling and need time away, you should speak to your boss and explain to them clearly why you need time off. This can be challenging, but you should remember that you’re doing the right thing — your mental health should take precedence over your work life.
During the time you take off, be sure to meet with a therapist or medical professional. The time away from work stressors will be beneficial by itself, but the pros can help you use the time to address underlying causes of stress and form healthier habits.
Alcohol abuse is the leading cause of public health issues in America. Every year, 95,000 people die from alcohol-related accidents and illnesses, and 14.5 million Americans have an alcohol use disorder.
Alcohol use disorder affects your mental health and undermines your efforts to improve your physical health. Alcohol abuse will ruin your sleep quality, dehydrate your body, and will leave you feeling exhausted and anxious.
Limiting your alcohol intake is tricky, and you should always seek professional help if you suspect you — or a loved one — has an alcohol abuse disorder. The best action to take is to attempt to cut back on your intake over time, and aim to drink no more than “moderate” amounts (one drink a day for women, or 2 drinks a day for men).
Engaging in exercise is great for your mental health. A recent meta-analysis of studies across 30 years confirmed that exercising prevents negative mental health conditions and can help you manage pre-existing conditions — particularly anxiety and depression.
Activities that require movement-based exercises can help you take a proactive approach to your mental health — here are a few easy ways to start moving:
- Yoga: there are thousands of pre-recorded yoga classes available on YouTube. You can easily find an instructor who tailors their practice to beginners, or you can visit a local studio to gain the support and encouragement of a yogi in your community.
- Walking: walking improves self-efficacy, mood, and sleep quality. Those who engage in light exercise like walking are also 30% less likely to suffer from depression.
- Sports: your local community is likely brimming with groups of weekend athletes and sports teams. Many teams are set up to support beginners, and local leisure centers will be able to help you find people to play with.
Self Talk and Mindfulness
Positive self-talk is a powerful tool in your journey towards good mental health. Positive self-talk prevents negative thoughts from taking hold and improves your self-efficacy, bolsters your sleep quality, sharpens your decision-making skills, and allows you to live in the moment.
Catching negative ideas before they take hold can be tricky, but is made easier if you engage in routine mindfulness. Mindfulness is a form of meditation designed to reduce stress, depression, and anxiety in participants. Mindful practices can be completed in short breaks like train commutes or between meetings, and simply require you to connect with your body through guided meditations.
There are plenty of mental health resources available for you online, and basic practices like moderate exercise and positive self-talk are fairly simple. Sometimes, though, the hardest part is actually taking action. If you feel as though your mental health is deteriorating, you should seek the help of a medical professional and should begin undertaking proactive mental health behaviors like digital detoxes and mindfulness.