You’ve learned some new coping skills or resources, but maybe you’re wondering how often you should practice them. The answer? Everyday, even when you’re not experiencing symptoms. Mental wellness is crucial in your overall wellbeing and health. Practicing the coping skills and resources learned in therapy won’t make you completely insusceptible to mental health issues but it will help you be better equipped to handle them when they arise.
What is proactive mental health?
Mental health issues are extremely common, in fact, it’s a big problem that has gotten even bigger over the last few years following the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. The World Health Organization (WHO) states there has been a 13% increase in mental health problems in the last 10 years, and that “Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among 15–29-year-olds.”
So, what does it mean to be proactive so that our mental health stays well? I always encourage clients to use their skills proactive rather than just reactively. This helps clients gain confidence in their ability to manage their symptoms and decreases the chances that their symptoms will arise as often. This means practicing your coping skills daily, even when you aren’t necessarily experiencing active symptoms.
10 Proactive Mental Health Tips
Here are a few suggestions on how you can be proactive in your mental health:
1. Practice Deep Breathing—God designed our bodies with an internal brake system. Breathing is part of that system that signals to our brain that its time to slow everything down. Diaphragmatic breathing turns off the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) and turns on the parasympathetic nervous system (relaxation response). Deep breathing decreases over all stress, lowers cortisol levels (stress hormone), provides an increase in energy, boosts the immune system, lowers blood pressure and heart rate, and decreases pain.
2. Get outside—Being in nature not only helps you be more active, but it also reduces stress, anger and anxiety. It provides a sense of calm, relaxation, and peace. Nature also connects us to other people and boosts self-confidence.
3. Get enough sleep—In short, good sleep = good mood. Getting enough rest results in improved mood, decreased stress, increased energy, improved memory and concentration, better immune function, and increased productivity.
4. Decrease screen time—Putting a limit on your daily screen time not only decreases stress, but it also improves sleep and concentration. Both depression and anxiety have been shown to decrease dramatically when screen time is limited.
5. Move your body—Our bodies store and remember everything even if we don’t consciously remember. Movement relieves stress in our bodies by releasing endorphins (feel good hormones) in our bodies and helps us move emotions. It provides a creative outlet, and improves sleep, energy, and overall mental health.
6. Decrease sugar, caffeine & alcohol intake—Sugar, caffeine and alcohol all affect the cortisol levels in our bodies, and not in a good way! By taking control of these three things, you will not only have better nutrition, but you will also experience better sleep, a more stable mood, and reduce inflammation (which can create depression and anxiety).
7. Hydrate & nourish your body—The brain is made up of 73% water. Drinking enough water everyday is key to managing mental health symptoms. Dehydration can result in depression, anxiety, poor concentration, brain fog, fatigue and sleep problems. It is recommended that you should drink approximately half your body weight in ounces of water. Reducing or eliminating processed foods is also a great step to take. Processed foods lead to inflammation which leads to mood problems such as anxiety and depression.
8. Practice prayer & gratitude—Both prayer and the practice of gratitude have been shown to calm the nervous system. This practice decreases stress levels, fosters a sense of connection, decreases anxiety and depression while increasing happiness and optimism.
9. Meditate on scripture—Staying present in the moment, being mindful, and connecting with God all reduce stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms. This practice increases self-awareness, provides a sense of peace, decreases blood pressure, improves memory and focus, and regulates mood.
10. Have fun!—Sometimes as adults living in a chaotic world, we forget to have fun. Life can keep you feeling stressed and overwhelmed, but when you invite fun into your life it reduces stress, improves both physical and mental health, releases serotonin, improves energy levels, improves sleep and decreases anxiety and depression.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health right now, you are not alone and it’s not uncommon. If you need support and would like to learn effective mental health practices to implement, reach out to a mental health provider in your area.