Get Back in Touch: Improving Your Mental Health

Get Back In Touch: Bettering Your Mental Health
Get Back In Touch: Bettering Your Mental Health

Private School News

It’s summer and everything wonderful that the season promises is here—vacations, more sunlight, BBQs, backyard play, swimming, hiking, leisure, gardening, road trips, seasonal foods, and so much more. Summer has a certain romance—everything is a little sweeter, moments last a little longer, laughter is richer, and stressors don’t seem to have the same impact.

However, mental health can affect how we enjoy the season. If you’re experiencing a tough time or dealing with secondary traumatic stressors, it can be difficult to appreciate these moments.

Bettering your mental health can make happiness easier to accept and improve your overall well-being. After all, the key to a healthy body is a healthy mind. There are simple ways to get back in touch with yourself and improve your mental state.

Meditate

To some, this concept is easily understood. To others, meditation is for yoga gurus or just a trendy term without real substance. If you’re part of this second group, wait just a second before skipping down to the next tip—we can help define this powerful tool in mental health.

Meditation’s ultimate goal is to free the mind from all thoughts—to be still in complete nothingness. But most of us can’t dedicate enough time to practicing this skill. Meditation doesn’t have to be about reaching that grand moment where your mind is completely absent of all thought. It can be as simple as getting in tune with yourself.

Find a quiet space where you give yourself 10 minutes to check in. Listen to what thoughts come to mind, thank them for surfacing (even the negative ones), and then dismiss them. Acknowledge your emotional state. Are you stressed? Are you nervous? Are you calm and happy? Take note without judging.

We are human and our minds wander. Don’t be upset if you keep catching yourself drifting into thought about what to make for dinner or if you finished that rush project as requested. The more you practice, the easier mindfulness becomes.

There are also apps and podcasts to help walk you through full and mini meditations designed for practices of all levels.

Sleep

Not getting enough sleep has been proven to impact happiness. Even if you “feel fine” after only four or five hours of sleep, consistently not getting enough shut-eye can change your outlook on our daily routines, influence how you engage with others, and leave you with a sense of emptiness.

Disrupted sleep, including sleep apnea, can lead to depression and anxiety disorders. The National Sleep Foundation studied 19,000 people, finding that those with sleep apnea were five times more likely to suffer from depression. Simply put, interrupted and inadequate sleep can change your brain chemistry.

If you’ve been running on empty and feeling negative changes in your mood and temperament, make adjustments this summer to your routine. Carve out the recommended eight hours a night for sleep. And, if you suffer from sleep apnea, talk to your doctor about treatments to improve your situation.

Fuel Your Body

The old saying, “You are what you eat,” has merit. Eating nutritious foods—whole grains, fruits, vegetables, healthy proteins (such as fish rich in Omega 3 fatty acids)—and drinking enough water daily (at least half of your body weight in ounces) really impacts your mental state.

Sure, have that slice of birthday cake or ice cream cone on vacation. Treating yourself is important (and it sets off positive chemical reactions in your brain). However, treating yourself daily overrides the positive effects and can negatively impact your physical and mental health.

Diets high in saturated fats and sugars (typically high in calories and low in nutrients) add stress to your body as it tries to chemically break down, use, store, and rid itself of these elements. The formula is fairly simple: the fewer nutrients your body has to power itself through your day but the more calories it has to process, the more sluggish you will feel. And, when you physically feel weighted and sluggish, your mental state will also feel the strain.

A study reported in The New York Times found that only one in ten Americans regularly ate enough fruits and vegetables, about one and a half cups of fruits and three cups of vegetables. The same study recommends the Mediterrean-style diet for overall physical and mental health. We're sharing a snippet of the article below.

“Our imaging studies show that the brains of people who follow a Mediterranean-style diet typically look younger ...  and are more metabolically active than people who eat a more typical Western diet,” said Dr. Lisa Mosconi, the director of the Women’s Brain Initiative at the Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York. “Such brain benefits may be protective against the onset of dementia,” she said.

Dr. Mosconi noted that “There is no one diet that fits all” but advises patients to cut out processed foods, minimize meat and dairy, and eat more whole foods like fatty fish, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes to cut the risk of developing degenerative brain diseases associated with aging.

She and Dr. Ramsey both recommend “eating the rainbow,” that is, consuming a wide array of colorful fruits and vegetables like peppers, blueberries, sweet potatoes, kale, and tomatoes. Such foods are high in phytonutrients that may help to reduce harmful inflammation throughout the body, including the brain, and promote the growth of new brain cells throughout our adult years, they say. 

Create a Supportive Circle

Identify the positive and negative people in your life. Make the choice to dedicate more of your energy and time to the positive influencers and limit, if not eliminate completely, those who bring negativity.

Not everyone can be upbeat all the time, but positive people are those who can see the good, even in the hardest times. Seek out those who always strive to make impactful changes in their lives. Positivity is just as contagious as negativity—if you’re surrounded by positive influences, even the hardest moments in life will seem easier to navigate.

Negative people can weigh you down emotionally and halt your self growth. These people should get the least amount of your time and energy. Do not allow them to influence your thoughts, actions, or emotions—because when you’re spending time with them, they can consume you, weigh you down, and chip away at your inner peace.

You’re not unloving if you make the choice to take care of yourself—even if that means eliminating someone immediate from your life. There are situations where the only power you have is the power to care for yourself.

Find Support

There are times where we might need support from a professional. In those moments, it’s important to not feel ashamed for needing additional guidance and comfort—we all experience lows where, without a support team, we’d be completely lost.

Don’t give up on yourself! Reach out for help. If you don’t know where to turn, talk with your healthcare provider for suggestions or try these services.

  • Lines for life. A 24/7/365 support service to help with issues related to teens, senior loneliness, substance abuse, and suicide prevention. Texting and phone call services are available.
  • Resources from the National Alliance on Mental Health. The site lists resources for depression, suicide and crisis, and financial assistance.
  • Better help. An online resource pairing people with local counselors 24/7. Patients can write or blog their feelings and events, set up 30-minute phone calls, or schedule video calls with the counselor they’ve been paired with. There is a monthly fee—however, if it’s not affordable, patients can apply for financial aid. Also, most consumer-driven health care plans will reimburse costs.

Additional ISM resources:
The Source for Academic Leadership Vol. 14 No. 5 Student Mental Health and Your Advisory Program
The Source for Private School News
Vol. 18 No. 2 Top Apps of 2018 That Support a Healthy Lifestyle

Additional ISM resources for members:
I&P Vol. 41 No. 6 From Toxic to Healthy: How to Move Your School’s Culture

Volume Number
Volume 18
Issue Number
10
Image of a teacher and students in class
Image of a teacher and students in class

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