Health & Well-Being

Caring for Your Mental Health

When you have a mental illness, you may not realize how important your overall health is to your recovery. While poor overall health can make recovery harder, positive health can aid your recovery and help you feel better. Here are some things you can do.

Advocate for yourself. You deserve good health care. All too often, people with mental illnesses develop other health conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes, because their health is overlooked. If your doctor is not asking about your overall health, let them know it’s important to you and essential to your recovery.

Get the care you need. Get routine check-ups and visit your doctor when you’re not feeling well. It may be due to your medicine or a symptom of your mental illness. But it could also be a different health problem.

Manage stress. Everyone has stress. It is a normal part of life. You can feel stress in your body when you have too much to do or when you haven’t slept well. You can also feel stress when you worry about your job, money, relationships, or family and friends. Stress can make you feel run down and also cause your mind to race, making it hard to focus on the things you need to do.

If you feel stressed, try these strategies:

  • Slow down and take one thing at a time. If you feel you have too much to do, make a list and work on one task at a time.
  • Know your limits. Let others know, too, if you’re overwhelmed at home or work, or with friends.
  • Learn how to say “no.” It may be hard at first, so practice saying “no” with the people you trust most.
  • Practice stress reduction techniques. There are many activities you can do to make your life calmer and more peaceful. Exercise, meditate, or do something you enjoy.
  • Know your triggers. What causes stress in your life? If you know where stress comes from, you will manage it better.
  • Talk to someone. A trusted friend, family member, support group or counselor can make you feel better. They also may help you figure out how to better manage stress in your life.

Watch what you eat. Some medicines can cause weight gain. But foods high in calories and saturated fats can raise your blood pressure and cholesterol, increasing your chances of gaining weight and health problems like heart disease and diabetes.

Try these tips for healthy eating:

  • If fresh vegetables are too costly, buy frozen vegetables. They’re cheaper and last longer.
  • If you eat at fast food restaurants, choose healthy options like salads or grilled chicken.
  • Talk to your doctor to learn more about healthy diets.

Exercise. Along with a healthy diet, exercise can improve health and well-being; increase self-esteem and confidence; reduce stress, anxiety and depression; improve sleep; and help maintain a healthy weight. You don’t have to go to a gym or spend money to exercise. It can be as simple as walking, jogging, or even dancing.

Follow these suggestions to get active:

  • Check your local community center for free, fun activities.
  • Take a short walk around the block with family, friends, or coworkers.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Make sure the stairs are well-lit.
  • Turn on some music and dance.

Every week, take the time — even as little as 30 minutes — to do something you enjoy. Read a book or magazine, go for a walk, or spend time with friends. Taking time for yourself to have fun and laugh can help relax, ease stress, and improve the way you feel.

Connecting with others is especially important, whether it’s with family members, close friends, members of a support group, or a counselor at the local drop-in center. Many communities even have warm lines you can call to talk to someone.

Taking care of “you” is also taking care of your mental health.


Bonnie Cook

Bonnie Cook has more than 20 years of experience working in the field of mental health and has an extensive background in nonprofit management, strategic partnership development, and community development. Cook is a mental health advocate and is on the board of Mental Health America. Her life's mission is to erase the stigma surrounding mental illness. She is making her mental health a priority in 2024.

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