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Importance of Mental Health

This past year has been exceptionally difficult on our mental health. It’s brought social isolation, which takes a toll on our thoughts, behaviors and emotions. We’ve all experienced different impacts, whether supporting our children at home through remote learning, adjusting to work from home, caring for those sick (or yourself) and possibly financial stresses. Being healthy emotionally can help us in these activities like work, school or caregiving.

What can we do to support our mental health?

Small things, like exercise, eating balanced and healthy meals, and getting a good night’s sleep can all be helpful in boosting your emotional health. During this time of social distancing, it’s also important to stay connected with friends and family. There are many ways to connect using technology resources, such as video chats and phone calls, and socially distant safe gatherings to help you and others feel less lonely or isolated.

There are also things you can do to improve your mental health, Medlineplus.gov has eight tips below:

1. Stay positive. It's important to try to have a positive outlook; some ways to do that include:

  • Find balance between positive and negative emotions. Staying positive doesn't mean that you never feel negative emotions, such as sadness or anger. You need to feel them so that you can move through difficult situations. They can help you to respond to a problem. But you don't want those emotions to take over. For example, it's not helpful to keep thinking about bad things that happened in the past or worry too much about the future.
  • Try to hold on to the positive emotions.
  • Take a break from negative information. Know when to stop watching or reading the news. Use social media to reach out for support and feel connected to others but be careful. Don't fall for rumors, get into arguments or negatively compare your life to others.

2. Practice gratitude, which means to be thankful for the good things in your life. It's helpful to do this every day, either by thinking about what you are grateful for or writing it down in a journal. These can be big things, such as the support you have from loved ones, or little things, such as enjoying a nice meal. It's important to allow yourself a moment to enjoy a positive experience. Practicing gratitude can help you to see your life differently. For example, when you are stressed, you may not notice there are also moments when you have positive emotions. Gratitude can help you to recognize them.

3. Take care of your physical health, since your physical and mental health are connected. Some ways to take care of your physical health include:

  • Being physically active. Exercise can reduce feelings of stress and depression and improve your mood.
  • Get enough sleep. Sleep affects your mood. If you don't get a good sleep, you may become more easily annoyed and angry. Over the long term, a lack of quality sleep can make you more likely to become depressed. It's important to make sure you have a regular sleep schedule and get enough quality sleep every night.
  • Healthy eating. Good nutrition will help you feel better physically but could also improve your mood and decrease anxiety and stress. Also, not having enough of certain nutrients may contribute to some mental illnesses. For example, there may be a link between low levels of vitamin B12 and depression. Eating a well-balanced diet can help you to get enough of the nutrients you need.

4. Connect with others. Humans are social creatures and it's important to have strong, healthy relationships with others. Having good social support may help protect you against the harms of stress. It is also good to have different types of connections. Besides connecting with family and friends, you could find ways to get involved with your community or neighborhood. For example, you could volunteer for a local organization or join a group that is focused on a hobby you enjoy.

5. Develop a sense of meaning and purpose in life. This could be through your job, volunteering, learning new skills or exploring your spirituality.

6. Develop coping skills, which are methods you use to deal with stressful situations. They may help you face a problem, take action, be flexible and not easily give up in solving it.

7. Meditation, which is a mind and body practice where you learn to focus your attention and awareness. There are many types, including mindfulness meditation and transcendental meditation. Meditation usually involves:

  • A quiet location with as few distractions as possible.
  • A specific, comfortable posture. This could be sitting, lying down, walking or another position.
  • A focus of attention, such as a specially chosen word or set of words, an object, or your breathing.
  • An open attitude where you try to let distractions come and go naturally without judging them.

8. Relaxation techniques are practices you do to produce your body's natural relaxation response. This slows down your breathing, lowers your blood pressure, and reduces muscle tension and stress. Types of relaxation techniques include:

  • Progressive relaxation, where you tighten and relax different muscle groups, sometimes while using mental imagery or breathing exercises.
  • Guided imagery, where you learn to focus on positive images in your mind to help you feel more relaxed and focused.
  • Biofeedback, where you use electronic devices to learn to control certain body functions, such as breathing, heart rate and muscle tension.
  • Self-hypnosis, where the goal is to get yourself into a relaxed, trance-like state when you hear a certain suggestion or see a specific cue.
  • Deep breathing exercises, which involve focusing on taking slow, deep, even breaths.

Knowing your resources

Along with the helpful tips above, there are other resources available. Overall health, including your mental and physical wellbeing, are of utmost importance during this time. Farm Credit East is here to help in whatever way we can. Should you need additional support, our Customer Assistance Program has tools and resources to assist you. Contact an EAP coach at 800-252-4555 OR theEAP.com.

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