When we are struggling, we can feel hopeless. It can seem like everything is going wrong and there is no way out. For folks who are dealing with a mental health disorder—depression, anxiety, any trauma-based disorder, etc.—this sense of hopelessness can be completely overwhelming.
Sometimes we feel overwhelmed because we want everything to be fixed all at once. It doesn’t seem worthwhile to take small steps. But small steps accumulate, and when we can rally ourselves to commit to those small elements of self-care, we will gradually feel more capable of managing our struggles.
We’ve collected some ways to give your mental—and often your physical—health a boost.
Shine More Light On Yourself
The benefits of sunlight are well documented. Getting out in the sun boosts your vitamin D and serotonin levels—both of which support your overall mood. So getting outside for just 10 minutes a day can be helpful, especially if you can make it a habit. And if you are somewhere where the weather won’t cooperate, you could consider purchasing a light box so that you can bring (artificial but still effective) sunlight into your home.
Make the Most of the Food You Eat
When we are feeling down and out, we often make bad food choices, which might feel good in the moment but actually make it more difficult to boost our mood in any sort of lasting way. If you can limit the sugar, the caffeine, the carbs, and add fruits, vegetables, and other foods with high nutrient content, you will slowly but surely improve both your physical and mental health.
Get a Little Exercise
We get it: Lots of people dislike exercise. A lot. Still and all, it’s undeniable that exercise supports good mental and physical health. And you don’t have to join a gym or a competitive sports league. Remember those 10 minutes we suggest you spend outside each day? What if you spent those minutes walking? Even that little addition to your day can provide benefits. And who knows? As you start to feel a little better, maybe you’ll be inspired to extend the range of your exercise.
Improve Your Nighttime Routine
When you are depressed or anxious, you might find yourself both extremely tired and unable to sleep—the worst of both worlds. Setting a regular bedtime, limiting caffeine and screen time in the evening, and developing a wind-down routine are just some of the ways you might be able to get more and better sleep. Sleep—like many of the other topics we have addressed here—is essential to good mental and physical health.
Do You Something You Enjoy
One of the symptoms of depression is the loss of interest in activities that have previously been enjoyable. Even so, when it comes right down to it, the odds are pretty good that you would still enjoy the activity if you could just bring yourself to dive in. So get out that puzzle or binge a few episodes of your favorite show or find a new book to read or practice the saxophone. Spending some time doing an activity that you like to do can help reduce the sense that everything is falling apart.
Make a Connection
Depression and anxiety can be very isolating, so sometimes it can help to just reach out to a friend or family member. You don’t have to talk about how sad you are feeling if you don’t want to. Just a normal conversation about whatever comes up can give you a break from your worries. Even a quick text exchange can do the trick—though spending time in person (when possible) is probably the best option. And remembering that you have people in your life who care about you can be very helpful, indeed.
Go Easy On Yourself
When we are feeling bad, it is easy to let negative self-talk send us into a tailspin. We criticize ourselves for various and sundry and make ourselves feel bad. And then we beat ourselves up for feeling bad. And round and round we go. It’s far better to be kind to yourself. There are going to be good days and bad days, especially when a mental health disorder is in play. If you can be intentional about being kind to yourself, you can weather the rough days better.
Here’s Something You Should Not Do: Turn to Drugs or Alcohol
It can be all too easy to turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to try to self-medicate your negative feelings away. Doing so requires very little effort, and—in the short-term, at least—it can seem like quite an effective strategy. But of course, it isn’t. The development of a substance use disorder won’t make your mental health difficulties better. Just the opposite, in fact. So stay focused on small and healthy changes or activities that can boost your mental health in a positive and lasting way.
We Can Help You Improve Your Mental Health
At Peak View Behavioral Health, we are committed to help you improve your mental health and then sustain and build upon that improvement. We offer a range of therapeutic approaches and will personalize your treatment so that it addresses your specific needs.
We also offer treatment for substance use disorders. Sobriety and good mental health are closely intertwined, and we are eager and able to support your efforts to achieve both.