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HomeFeaturesHealth & WellnessHealth Matters with Fresh Start: May is mental health awareness month

Health Matters with Fresh Start: May is mental health awareness month

By: Vanessa Flannery, DNP, APRN, FNP-C
Fresh Start Health, Grayson

Mental health issues have long held stigmas, even though one-in-five US adults will suffer from a mental health condition during his or her lifetime, and countless family members and friends will be affected in the process.  Whether you suffer from mild depression or anxiety, or you’re helping a loved one cope with a more serious condition such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, you probably realize that it is not only the condition that’s difficult to live with, but also the social isolation.

Therefore, it’s so important to raise awareness about mental health and do all you can to assist patients and loved ones who are trying to deal with mental health conditions. The month of May is dedicated to mental health awareness, but you can become informed and help spread awareness year-round.

Try these tips to keep your balance, or re-balance yourself.

1. Value yourself:
Treat yourself with kindness and respect and avoid self-criticism. Make time for your hobbies and favorite projects or broaden your horizons. Do a daily crossword puzzle, plant a garden, take dance lessons, learn to play an instrument or become fluent in another language.

2. Take care of your body:
Taking care of yourself physically can improve your mental health. Be sure to:

  • Eat nutritious meals
  • Avoid smoking and vaping
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Exercise, which helps decrease depression and anxiety and improve moods
  • Get enough sleep. Researchers believe that lack of sleep contributes to a high rate of depression in college students. 

3. Surround yourself with good people:
People with strong family or social connections are generally healthier than those who lack a support network. Make plans with supportive family members and friends, or seek out activities where you can meet new people, such as a club, class or support group.

4. Give yourself:
Volunteer your time and energy to help someone else. You’ll feel good about doing something tangible to help someone in need — and it’s a great way to meet new people.  

5. Learn how to deal with stress:
Like it or not, stress is a part of life. Practice good coping skills: Try One-Minute Stress Strategies, do Tai Chi, exercise, take a nature walk, play with your pet or try journal writing as a stress reducer. Also, remember to smile and see the humor in life. Research shows that laughter can boost your immune system, ease pain, relax your body and reduce stress.

6. Quiet your mind:
Try meditating, Mindfulness and/or prayer. Relaxation exercises and prayer can improve your state of mind and outlook on life. In fact, research shows that meditation may help you feel calm and enhance the effects of therapy.  

7. Set realistic goals:
Decide what you want to achieve academically, professionally and personally, and write down the steps you need to realize your goals. Aim high, but be realistic and don’t over-schedule. You’ll enjoy a tremendous sense of accomplishment and self-worth as you progress toward your goal. 

8. Break up the monotony:
Although our routines make us more efficient and enhance our feelings of security and safety, a little change of pace can perk up a tedious schedule. Alter your jogging route, plan a road-trip, take a walk in a different park, hang some new pictures or try a new restaurant.

9. Avoid alcohol and other drugs:
Keep alcohol use to a minimum and avoid other drugs. Sometimes people use alcohol and other drugs to “self-medicate” but in reality, alcohol and other drugs only aggravate problems.  

10. Get help when you need it:
Seeking help is a sign of strength — not a weakness. And it is important to remember that treatment is effective. People who get appropriate care can recover from mental illness and addiction and lead full, rewarding lives.

Sadly, many Americans suffering from mental illness still lack access to care. However, access to insurance that covers mental health issues is on the rise. Access to actual treatment has also grown. This change can be attributed to access expansion under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that covers mental health and substance abuse services, along with rehabilitative and other services for those with behavioral health issues. Preventive services like behavioral assessments and screening for depression are often covered, as well.  Please schedule an appointment at Fresh Start Health Centers, 212 East Third Street, Grayson KY, 606-225-8200 for a screening.

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