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Taking the Stress Out of Mental Health

By Genevieve Cunningham

Taking the Stress Out of Mental Health

What a time to be alive. As a society, we’re more advanced than ever before. There’s so much convenience all around us that we simply take for granted -- cars, internet, and even the up-and-coming world of artificial intelligence. It’s incredible. Although these modern conveniences are certainly appreciated, they pale in comparison to another part of the modern world that many simply take for granted.

What is it? The acceptance and legitimization of mental health.

There was a time when all things mental health were swept under the rug -- and it still is in some ways. But fortunately, our modern world is more accepting and understanding of mental health than at almost any other time in recent memory.

We know that mental health is important, and finally, we’re starting to give it the respect and attention it deserves. Of course, the key word is that we’re starting, meaning mental health is still a stressful topic for the majority of people. Stressful to think about. Stressful to talk about. Stressful to get care. And the more stressed we feel, the worse it is for our mental health. What a conundrum. Are we doomed? Maybe not.

Connection Between Chronic Stress and Mental Health

It may seem like common sense that chronic stress and mental health are connected. Most have experienced feeling overwhelmed. We know what it’s like to have too much on our plates, and we know that feeling stressed beyond our limits often comes with the busy life territory. But the connection between chronic stress and mental health is probably even greater than you realize.

  • Long-term stress increases the risk of serious mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety.
  • Chronic stress may cause symptoms such as difficulty concentrating or making decisions, leading to a decline in productivity.
  • Stress can cause physical symptoms that enhance our mental health worries. These might include a faster heart rate, palpitations, high blood pressure, and more.
  • Feeling stressed may affect behavioral health, causing nervous habits such as nail biting or teeth grinding, and bring an increased risk of addictions.

The importance of mental health should not be overlooked. Similarly, the connection between chronic stress and mental health should not be ignored either. Understanding that the amount of stress we feel literally affects our mental well-being is important. If we understand that importance, we can take action to reduce stress and potentially improve mental health with it.

Tips for Reducing Stress

The first way to address the stress in our lives is to try to reduce it overall. This is, of course, easier said than done. Stress often hits us all at once, coming from multiple different angles at the same time. A few helpful tipsmay help us rein in stressful situations and help us manage stress long-term.

  • Learn deep breathing - Deep breathing calms the heart, lowers blood pressure, and slows the thoughts flowing through our minds.
  • Regular exercise - Physical health and mental health are intricately connected. Doctors advise that regular exercise -- whatever kind you choose to do -- can help lower both physical and mental stress.
  • Participating in hobbies - Most kids have hobbies of some kind. As we get older, hobbies become less important. For stress relief, picking up hobbies and practicing them regularly can help reduce overall stress and improve quality of life.
  • Limit phone use - Study after study tells us that excessive phone use increases stress. This is especially true if you use social media. Just put it down.
  • Get outside - We need the fresh air and natural light of the great outdoors. If you can manage it, go outside for at least a few minutes every day.

These tips can help lower overall stress, or at the very least, they can help you manage the stress in your life, which can then improve mental health. But in an unfortunate cycle, worrying about mental health can cause even more stress to develop. Putting an end to the stress associated with mental health and its care can go a long way toward healthy living.

Taking the Stress Out of Mental Health

If worrying about your mental health is causing new stress in your life, you have to take action. The last thing you need is to get caught in a negative cycle. Luckily, you can set yourself up for success.

  • Address mental health care needs - If you suspect that you need mental health care care, address that need first. If you have health insurance, ask for referrals. If you don’t, seek out free or low-cost care in your area. Luckily, more and more services are becoming available to all.
  • Find work-life balance - The famous work-life balance probably seems like a fairy tale. But our modern world is catching up. Set your schedule and say no to things that will increase the stress you feel. Though it’s not always possible to say no, practice taking control of your time whenever possible.
  • Develop relationships - Solid relationships are crucial to our health and well-being. Prioritize real relationships. Not the relationships through the screen, but real-life, in-person relationships. Doing this will surround us with people who care and can help us in our journey to our best mental health.
  • Seek support - Outside of relationships, support groups can really make a difference. There are support groups for almost every stressful situation. Reach out, find your people, and gain support through others coping with mental health and stress. There is power in numbers, and even more power in support.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. It’s a great time to stop, reassess your own mental health, and make changes that will improve your future. It’s a great time to learn stress management and coping techniques. It’s a great time to put yourself first. But let’s be clear: Mental health needs attention year-round. If May helps you get the ball rolling, that’s great! But do your best to make stress reduction and mental health a top priority in your life from here on out.

Stress is hard. Mental health matters. Take the stress out of mental health and start living your best life right now.

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