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Make Your Mental Health a Priority

May 23, 2022

Mental Health Wellness
Cheerful lady with dog on grass

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and to honor this special health observance, Riverside Health wants to remind you that it’s important to take care of your mental health — just as you care for your physical health. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health experts are seeing a record number of children and adults who are reporting mental health concerns. In fact, according to an April 2022 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), more than one in three high school students experienced poor mental health during the pandemic.    

To promote mental health awareness, Riverside Health’s behavioral health experts have compiled 7 simple ways to help you care for your mental health and well-being.

1. Get Social

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many people report feeling isolated or cut-off from friends, family, and society in general. Find an activity you enjoy doing and do that activity with a friend or family member. If you’ve recently moved, many communities offer newcomer activities, clubs, and opportunities for you to meet other people. Studies suggest that people who have relationships with family, friends, and their community are happier, experience fewer health problems, and live longer, too.

“Participating in activities with other people helps you feel connected to others within your community, and can improve your well-being and overall outlook,” says Ryan McQueen, M.D., Chief of Behavioral Health and Medical Director of Adolescent Service at Riverside Behavioral Health Center. 

2. Move Your Body

Exercise benefits more than just your physical health. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), benefits of physical activity on mental health are often felt immediately after doing moderate-to-vigorous physical activities.

Some of the mental health benefits of exercise include improved thinking for children, and lower levels of anxiety for adults. Regular physical activity can also help keep your thinking, learning, and judgment skills sharp as you age. It can also reduce your risk of depression and anxiety to help you sleep better. Do you need help getting started with an exercise program? Exercise with a friend to help keep each other accountable. 

3. Prioritize Sleep

According to National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), getting plenty of high-quality sleep can help ease feelings of depression and anxiety. If you sleep poorly, it’s important to improve your sleep hygiene. You can do this by sticking to a sleep routine and making sure you’re getting enough sleep. Avoid using computers, e-readers, or other electronics, including your smartphone before bedtime. That’s because blue light from devices and screens often makes it difficult or impossible to fall asleep. If you drink a lot of caffeine, reduce your consumption of coffee, tea, chocolates, and sweets that might contain hidden caffeine or sugars.

4. Enjoy Relaxing Routines

Whether you choose an activity such as deep breathing, yoga, or daily meditation, schedule these relaxing practices into your day on a consistent basis. Some people enjoy taking a walk at sunset, or simply unwinding by reading a good book. Whichever activity you choose, stick to a relaxing ritual that helps to signal your brain that it’s time to unwind and relax. You’ll feel less stressed and better able to cope, too.

5. Eat Healthy Foods

A healthy diet can help you feel better—physically and mentally. Eating high-sugar foods or ‘junk’ foods often make people feel more anxious or restless. CDC recommends eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and fat–free or low–fat milk and milk products. Eating healthfully also means limiting saturated fats, cholesterol, salt, and added sugars. Do you need help with your nutrition? Talk to your Riverside physician or health care professional to get healthy eating suggestions.

6. Limit Time on Social Media 

Mental health experts agree that too much time watching television, news, or engaging in social media conversation can worsen mental health. CDC suggests that people take frequent breaks from news stories, including those on social media. While being informed can be helpful, constant exposure to information about the pandemic or other news can be upsetting. Limit your consumption of social media and news on television to just once or twice a day. Try disconnecting from your phone, TV, and computer screens for a while, which can also help.

7. Seek Professional Help

In some cases, the suggestions listed above are not enough to help you feel better in terms of your mental health. That’s why it’s so important to reach out to a mental health professional and ask for help. Treatments such as psychotherapy, counseling, and medication can help you feel better and improve your mental health symptoms.

Are you struggling with mental health challenges or problems that don’t seem to improve on their own? Help is here. You can call Riverside’s Behavioral Health Center to talk with a team member about how they can help you through your mental health challenges. 

“Our professional counselors, therapists, and physicians are here to help you get back to feeling like yourself again, so don’t hesitate to reach out and connect with us,” says a Dr. McQueen. 

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