May is Mental Health Awareness month. We at the Wellness Universe are following the lead of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) to help fight stigma, provide support, educate the public, and advocate for policies that support people with mental illness and their families.
For more information, resources, and ways you can spread Mental Health Awareness, we invite you to visit NAMI. (National Alliance on Mental Illness).
Recognizing Stress as a Leading Factor
Everyone experiences stress. Sometimes it can help you focus and get the task done. But when stress is frequent and intense, it can strain your body and make it feel impossible to function. Finding effective ways to cope is crucial to living and feeling well.
How Stress Affects Our Mental Health
Stress impacts your entire body, mentally, as well as, physically. Some common signs can include:
· Trouble sleeping
· Jaw pain
· Changes in appetite
· Frequent mood swings
· Difficulty concentrating
· Feeling overwhelmed
When experiencing long-term stress, your brain is exposed to increased levels of a hormone called cortisol. This exposure can weaken your immune system, making it easier for you to get sick. Stress can contribute to or worsen symptoms in some types of mental illness. Knowing which situations cause it, is the first step in coping with this very common experience.
There are tools and exercises available to us to help improve our mental health and practice regular self-care.
Self-help Tools to Get You Started
· Meditation – Meditation offers us an oasis of relaxation amid the stress we’ve created. Research suggests that meditation has the potential for more than just temporary stress relief. “Meditation is also a consciousness-changing technique that has been shown to have a wide number of benefits on psychological well-being.” (National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Meditation: In-Depth. Updated January 2, 2019.) Not only does it help with mental health, but it can also help fight chronic illnesses, heart disease, and chronic pain.
· Physical exercise – A recent study following participants over a four-year period found that those individuals who engaged in regular physical exertion experienced substantially lower levels of depression and anxiety as compared to sedentary individuals. (Ströhle et al. 2007) Exercise tops the list as a proven means for mental health management and mood improvement.
· EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) – Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT Tapping) is beneficial for releasing anxiety, negative thoughts, fears, phobias, and behaviors that have become stored in our bodies on a cellular level. Psychological acupressure delivered with EFT is an excellent way to overcome emotional barriers that can make you feel “stuck” or in a rut in certain aspects of your life.
· Breathwork – The power of breathwork can be immensely healing, and can help give you the strength you need to get through painful, stressful, or anxiety-causing situations. If you’re new to restorative breathing, there are several calming, breath-related apps that are out there for phones and tablets. Learning this valuable skill could literally save your life someday.
· Mindfulness – The practice of mindfulness can help you become resilient to stress, help with decision-making, improve focus and productivity, and increase emotional intelligence. It’s the practice of focusing attention on the present moment and accepting it without judgment. Described by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as, “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.” When we are being mindful, we can see our thinking calmly and objectively. Reactive thoughts no longer control us. We can then respond to situations according to our values instead of reacting emotionally.
We encourage you to reach out to one of our professionals at The Wellness Universe for instruction, coaching, and support. Taking small steps will keep you proactive and help you safeguard your mental health and live a better life.
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