October 2, 2020 By Julie Hoggard Winn Staying healthy is a central goal in many people’s lives. This goal is most evident when looking at the New Year’s resolutions many Americans set. The most popular New Year’s resolution of 2020 was to exercise to get in shape (20%), diet to lose weight (19%), and eat healthier (12%). Individuals looking to stay healthy can find health advice everywhere, but much of it focuses only on the body and lacks advice on mental health. Studies have demonstrated that mental and physical health are deeply intertwined. Chronic mental health issues can cause deterioration in an individual’s physical health as well. People with mental illness are also more susceptible to other conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, and obesity. Physical health ailments can increase mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, creating a vicious cycle. If mental or physical health swings out of balance, an individual will suffer. To stay healthy is to focus on physical and mental health. Increase physical health: 1. Eat Healthily: Healthy eating is fundamental to good health. Healthy eating helps an individual maintain a healthy weight, reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease, prevent stroke and diabetes, and improve memory. Healthy eating can also improve mood. In 2016, researchers found that a diet with high glycemic load may cause increased symptoms of depression 2. Exercise: Research shows that exercise 30 minutes a day, can lead to benefits in terms of mood, health, weight, and the ability to live an independent and fulfilling life. Simply walking 30 minutes a day at a brisk pace can lead to significant health improvements. Exercise can reduce stress, improve mild-to-moderate depression and anxiety, improve sleep, and boost mood. 3. Sleep: Getting a good night’s sleep is important for your health. The American Psychological Association recommends that adults need on average 8 hours to sleep and that 60 percent of adults report having sleep problems a few nights a week. Getting proper sleep can increase the brain’s ability to recall details. Lack of sleep can raise the chance of having a mood disorder. A large study showed that having insomnia, you are five times more likely to develop depression, and your odds of anxiety or panic disorders are even greater. Adequate sleep increases heart health, athletic achievement, lower blood pressure, weight control, and increase your ability to fight off harmful bacteria and viruses. Increase Mental Health: 1. Self-Care: Self-care has been defined as, “a multidimensional, multifaceted process of purposeful engagement in strategies that promote healthy functioning and enhance well-being.” Self-care helps build resilience toward life stressors that can’t be eliminated. Unfortunately, many people view self-care as a luxury, rather than a priority which results in individual feeling overwhelmed, tired, and ill-equipped to handle life challenges. Self-care involves taking care of yourself physically, socially, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. It is important to create a personalized self-care plan and schedule time to focus on your needs. Get adequate sleep, go outside, schedule time for activities that you love, reduce screen time, and increase time with individuals that you care about. Making self-care a priority allows you to care for all aspects of yourself, and you will find an ability to operate more effectively and manage life’s challenges more efficiently. 2. Seek Appropriate Treatment: Self-care is important, however in many cases, mental illness requires help from a qualified professional. Therapy offers a broad array of benefits. The effects of therapy are long-lasting. You can work through past issues and develop tools to deal with future issues that may arise. Therapy can help an individual overcome past traumas, improve relationships, achieve goals, and overcome bad habits. A therapist can help you cope with a wider range of experience and anyone can benefit from therapy it’s not only for the chronically ill. October 4 – October 10 is Mental Illness Awareness Week. Take time this week to evaluate your overall health, mental and physical, and identify ways that you can be proactive and improve your overall life and practice self-care. We are here to support you with whatever you are going through. Contact us today.