Community Focus

7 strategies to protect your mental health

14 May 2024

Protecting your mental health is an important aspect to maintaining your overall health — especially when you're busy and feel like you don't have any time for yourself.

The American Psychological Association has researched the relationship between stress, mental health, and physical well-being, finding that many people don't understand the harm of stress, anxiety, depression, or other mental health concerns until they begin to have an impact on the person's physical health.

This month, let's start to prioritize mental health with science-backed strategies. Here are seven steps you can take:
 

1. Set small goals: Sometimes, the size of long-term goals can feel overwhelming, leading to stress and anxiety. Instead, break down your objectives into smaller, manageable tasks. Research suggests that achieving these bite-sized goals can boost dopamine levels, promoting a sense of accomplishment and motivation.
 

2. Prioritize exercise: The link between physical activity and mental health is well-established. Keeping up with regular exercise releases endorphins, reduces cortisol levels, and improves overall mood. Whether it's a brisk walk, yoga session, or gym workout, prioritizing physical activity can significantly improve mental well-being.

 

 

3. Get help, and don't compare: Mental health challenges vary in intensity, but seeking support when needed is important no matter how serious the situation may seem to others. Whether you're experiencing mild stress or grappling with more severe issues, reaching out to a therapist or counselor can provide valuable insights and coping strategies tailored to your needs. Only you know how something impacts you and if you need help, so instead of playing the comparison game, do what protects your mental well-being.
 

4. Get off the grid: While social media offers connectivity, excessive use can create or increase feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, and even loneliness. Taking breaks from social media or unplugging can give you time to reflect, reduce comparison-induced stress, and promote mindfulness in the present moment.
 

 

5. Take mental health days: Just as we prioritize physical health by taking sick days when needed, we should also recognize when our mental well-being needs attention. Taking a mental health day allows time for rest, reflection, and rejuvenation, helping build resilience and prevent burnout.
 

6. Snap back into the moment: When stressors get too big, consider grounding techniques that can help redirect focus and alleviate anxiety. Practice mindfulness by engaging your senses — name five things you can see, hear, touch, smell, and taste. This simple exercise encourages awareness of the present moment, boosting relaxation and reducing the snowball of overwhelming thoughts.
 

 

7. Embrace laughter and humor: Laughter truly is the best medicine. Incorporating humor into your daily life can alleviate stress, improve mood, and enhance overall mental well-being. Whether it's watching a comedy show, sharing jokes with friends, or playing games, laughter offers powerful therapeutic benefits, like stimulating circulation and helping with muscle relaxation.

Incorporating these science-based strategies into your routine can strengthen your mental health and improve your overall well-being. Remember, prioritizing self-care isn't selfish — it's essential for leading a full and balanced life. This month, commit to nurturing your mental health and embracing resilience one step at a time!

If you're a Providence Health Plan member, visit our Behavioral Health Resources website to learn more about your options for behavioral health care.

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