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Tips to improve one's mental health

Joseph Gilroy • Dec 31, 2019 at 6:00 PM

With it being the time of year to make resolutions, most people tend to focus on their physical well-being.

While it’s important to keep yourself in good physical shape, it’s also important that people think about taking better care of themselves emotionally in 2020.

Stress affects people of all ages and is a normal psychological and physical reaction to the demands of life. A small amount of stress can be good, motivating you to perform well — multiple challenges daily like sitting in traffic, meeting deadlines and paying bills, may push us past our ability to cope.

Finances, our relationships and our health are just a few of the most common sources of stress we deal with in life. Seventy-seven percent of Americans regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress, while 73 percent experience psychological symptoms from stress.

The Mayo Clinic warns that stress can cause fatigue, changes in sex drive, stomach upset, and difficulty sleeping — stress also affects our mood, potentially resulting in a lack of motivation and focus, anxiety, sadness, and angry outbursts.

According to published reports, chronic stress leads to unhealthy behaviors such as overeating, not eating enough, alcohol and drug abuse, social withdrawal and increased thoughts of suicide.

Reducing stress is a priority for many people. Although it is not an easy undertaking, slowly removing stressors from one's life and taking steps toward changing one's responses to stressful situations can help. There are many stress-management strategies, and not every one is right for all individuals. Here are two things to consider when attempting to overcome stress and depression.

 

Yoga and Meditation:

Mindful meditation, deep breathing, yoga and tai chi are ways to focus the brain away from stressful situations.

“Yoga is a perfect exercise for any age, body type or skill level,” Soul Stretch Yoga owner Rose Sabin said. “Whether you are a beginner or are advanced it is a good exercise because it is not just a work out it — it is a work in. I say that because while it is good for your outward appearance, it is really for you and how you feel on the inside.”

Sabin is a breast cancer survivor and says that yoga really helped her as she was learning to cope.

“When I was diagnosed, yoga is what got me through that dark stage in my life,” she said. “What yoga does that no other exercise program does is yolks together the body, spirit and mind. The body is affected through the poses, the mind is in the breathwork and the spirit is affected by the atmosphere created through yoga.”

Employers are also recognizing the benefits of yoga — on-site yoga has become a popular choice for many businesses in high-stress work environments.

“People come for the body, but stay for the way it transforms the spirit,” Sabin said. “I consider it to be more of a practice than a routine because it really is a way of life and is just so transformative.

“As a business owner I can tell you that it helped me deal with my stress levels,” she added. “But it also has led me to be a better employer, employee, co-worker, wife and friend. After starting my journey with yoga, it kind of stuck and I transitioned to teaching it from the corporate world with lots of stress. I needed that release, not only physically but mentally and emotionally and now we do a lot of corporations and offer an on-site Soul Search Mobile Yoga.”

 

Make time for family:

Talking and spending time with friends and family can help relieve stress.

Americans are busier today than they have ever been. In our professional lives, we have found ourselves needing to accessible 24 hours a day which makes finding quality time to spend with loved ones a delicate balancing act. Rather than waiting until their children are grown and retirement has crept up on them, parents can adjust their schedules now to enjoy their families and relieve stress at the same time by incorporating the following ideas.

1. Make the entire family sit together unplugged for dinner every night of the week.

2. Schedule a “family media night” every week where all members of the family watch a movie, television series or play video games in the same room instead of going off in their own direction.

3. Learn to work as a team. Get the family engaged in a team project like beautifying the home, or committing to a charitable cause like Habitat for Humanity and help build homes for the less fortunate.

The Mayo Clinic says that friends can increase one's sense of belonging and purpose; help one cope with trauma; encourage change, including avoiding unhealthy lifestyle habits; and help one improve his or her self-confidence and self-worth. The medical group also says that people with strong social support systems have a reduced risk of depression, high blood pressure and unhealthy weights.

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