Practical Steps to Better Mental Health

This past year and a half has been challenging, right? Ponder this fact:

The number of people looking for help with anxiety and depression has skyrocketed. From January to September 2020, 315,220 people took the anxiety screen, a 93 percent increase over the 2019 total number of anxiety screens. 534,784 people took the depression screen, a 62 percent increase over the 2019 total number of depression screens.” (https://mhanational.org/issues/state-mental-health-america)

And then there’s this from the same source: More people are reporting frequent thoughts of suicide and self-harm than have ever been recorded in the MHA Screening program since its launch in 2014. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread rapidly in March 2020, over 178,000 people have reported frequent suicidal ideation. 37 percent of people reported having thoughts of suicide more than half or nearly every day in September 2020.”

Now I am no counselor nor will I pretend to be. If you need to seek an educated counselor, please do so. That can be a great investment in you if you are suffering from anxiety and depression. In my past, I have met with a counselor who did so much good for me. It is worth it.

In my experience, here are a few things that have helped me battle anxiety and depression. Again, I’m no counselor. I’m simply sharing my story in case it will help you.

Stay Connected with Positive People

I have found in my own life and from observations of others that when a person becomes stressed and depression starts to set in, withdrawal happens. Pulling away from people that support and love you – this is dangerous. I can lose perspective so quickly when I withdraw from others. I only end up playing “bad tapes” that can drive me deeper and deeper into depression.

Years ago, I had breakfast with a friend who was going through an ugly divorce. “I just don’t know what to do right now!” he told me that morning. “Doing what?” I asked. “I just want this all to go away and I feel like I’m supposed to be doing something right now.” I replied, “You are. You’re meeting with me. Don’t forget the friends you have. We are here to support you, to listen to you, to help in anyway we can. Stay connected.”

He did. And he was able to navigate those stormy relationship waters.

Pay Close Attention to What You are Saying to Yourself

Dr. Shad Helmstetter wrote one of my favorite books – What to Say When You Talk to Yourself. Self-talk – and we all do it – is very important when you and I are fighting anxiety and depression. I would highly recommend this book and practice what Dr. Shad teaches. Our tendency is to talk negativity into our lives. We replay so many “programs” we’ve grown up with. But there is hope! You can re-program your brain. You can.

Jon Acuff in his book Soundtracks approaches the same topic. He also talks about former programs, soundtracks, that we habitually play. To overcome negative thinking, Jon tells to create positive soundtracks that we say to ourselves often.

If you know you overthink and talk negatively to yourself, get these books. Fight for a healthier you.

Walk it Off

I’m not suggesting that exercise, even a 20 minute walk, will eradicate anxiety in your life instantly, but doing something as simple as taking a walk has huge benefits for our physical and mental health. Here’s what one article listed as benefits:

  1. Protect Your Heart – in just a 20 minute walk everyday, you may reduce the risk of heart issues by 30%.
  2. Slim Down – for many of us, weight gain is a point of anxiety. Consistent exercise can improve your health in so many ways. You already know this. Try walking for 20 minutes a day. Then slowly increase it. Clear your head. Breathe. Walk.
  3. Keep Your Memory Sharp – in one study, people who walked regularly tested better on memory tests and the levels of the protein in the brain responsible for learning increased.
  4. Improve Your Mood – a study by Cal State University found that the more steps you take during the day, the better your mood. Endorphins are released and you will feel happier.
  5. Sleep Better – who doesn’t want this?! Harvard conducted a study that revealed that those who moderately walk every other day feel asleep 50% faster.

To read this article, follow this link.

Remember Your Good Times

Your life and my life have good memories we can recall. Do it. Remember something funny from you past and laugh about it again. Remember something that really touched you and feel those feelings.

Years ago, one of my teams did something for me that still moves me today. They (unknown to me) surveyed everyone on the teams that I led asking them what they think about when they think of me. They then presented me with the following. This is how they saw me:

I look at this often. I remember. I become grateful that I had the privilege of leading this team. They made me laugh, think, and they helped make me better.

Don’t let our current world-wide issues drag you down. You can do very practical things to improve your mental health. As I wrote earlier, practicing these ideas is an investment in YOU. You are worth it. You truly are.

How to Get out of a Funk

Last week, I had a doctor’s appointment.  I was not happy with my check-up.  Over a year and a half ago, I was diagnosed as having type 2 diabetes.  I began to make life changes.  I lost over 30 pounds.  I changed the way I ate (yes, I cheated from time to time).  I made other changes as well.

From a recent wellness exam we do at work, I saw that my blood sugar numbers actually went back up a bit.  Also, I’m in the middle of some heart tests now.  And I’m back on medication.

This put me in a funk. I was doing things that were supposed to help, but I’ve gone backwards.  I know genetics are at work, but this “set back” has not been good.

So, how do I get out of this funk?  I know the eating regimen I’ve been on is good for me.  I just need to ramp it up.  I need to change my exercise to something more rigorous.  I need to follow my doctor’s orders.

I found the following this morning.  It’s good advice.  I need to follow it.  If you’re in a funk or have been in one, perhaps this may help you or someone you know.  Share this!

  1. Connect with people. As I wrote in a previous post, How To Pull Good Things Out Of Others, who we are and how we experience ourselves often has more to do with who surrounds us than anything else. When feeling low, one of the fastest ways to pick yourself up is to connect with specific people you know bring energy out of you.
  2. Commit to a new goal. Sometimes my listlessness is purposelessness in disguise. Human beings are not only intrinsically driven by a sense of purpose but also seem to require a sense of purpose to lead a satisfying life. It needn’t be a grand purpose, but it must be a purpose that feels important to you.
  3. Read an engrossing book or see an emotionally powerful movie. Both have the power to transport us, to provide a perspective far removed from our own, and in doing so, unlock emotions we want to feel: joy, hope, warmth—even sadness. When in a funk, what we feel doesn’t seem to be as important as finding a way to feel something.
  4. Travel. Though travel has never been one of my favorite things to do, it does accomplish something important when I’m in a funk: it takes away familiar environmental cues and replaces them with unfamiliar ones. And as most of our behavior and emotions are cued by our environment (from turning off lights when we leave a room to the sinking feeling we may get as we approach our place of work), if we want to act and feel differently, changing our environmental cues is a good place start. Not that you can escape yourself by relocating geographically. But you can be helped to access different parts of yourself.  Jim’s note:  traveling doesn’t have to take you far.  It can be traveling to a state/national park and hike.  Just get out of your surroundings for a bit. 
  5. Wait patiently. No mood lasts forever. And life won’t leave you alone but will eventually present you with new challenges that activate you. And even if such challenges are difficult, they will often bring out your best self.

Resource for these steps:  How to Get Out of a Funk

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9 Easy Ways to Stay Mentally Sharp by Oz & Roizen

Most people will experience some form of “brain aging” in their life, ranging from fuzzy thinking to Alzheimer’s disease. Although some causes of memory loss are genetic, you can still improve your brain’s sharpness. The earlier you start, the better—just like losing weight, it is easier to prevent brain aging than reverse it. Here are nine ways you can stay mentally sharp.

Read the rest here:  http://www.success.com/article/9-easy-ways-to-stay-mentally-sharp