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Self-Care for Better Mental Health: Back to the Basics

Self-care has finally become mainstream, and for good reason: people see that basic lifestyle habits have a major effect on both physical and mental health. You don't have to undertake strict meditation practices, become a marathon runner, or do anything outlandish to help your general health; just check things like your daily habits and stress levels.

Get Enough Sleep

Healthline explains that sleep deprivation can not only make you feel moody, but it can also contribute to memory problems, and make you have trouble concentrating. And in fact, sleep deprivation could even contribute to the development of some mental health conditions.

If you find yourself frequently counting sheep, it should be among your top priorities to try to remedy the situation. Start by evaluating how long you sleep and how well-rested you feel when you wake up and contemplate ways to improve the situation. If you're waking up with a headache, dry throat and mouth, and similar symptoms, get checked for sleep apnea. If you're dealing with bright lights or a noisy environment, find headphones or white noise generators that will mask noise, and get a sleep mask for your eyes.

Get Up and Move

One of the most underrated ways to reduce stress is to exercise. Exercise can help reduce anxiety and tension and put you in a better mood. You don't have to do anything intense; just find a physical activity that you enjoy doing. If you like rollerblading, for example, do that. Just make sure to wear padding and that your skates are comfortable and durable and roll easily. Exercise lets you relax by getting you to move out of a stressful situation temporarily — you get away from annoying housemates, for example — and it also helps you sleep better. And if you can sleep better, of course, that helps your mental health as well. 

A great way to get started with regular exercise, if you don't do it already, is to look for tools that help you track your progress and your time. For example, some fitness trackers and smartwatches give you access to a built-in monitor for your heart rate and workout metrics that track your estimated calories burned, the time you exercised, your pace, and more.

Just remember to wear skin protection if you exercise outdoors — and guys, this means you! Men are more apt to get skin cancer than women, partly because they tend to leave their skin unprotected. A light layer of sunblock can make all the difference, and there are even sprays and unscented varieties to ensure your convenience and comfort.

Evaluate Your Stress Levels

One of the conditions that can make it harder for you to sleep is stress. Job stress and personal stress can make you toss and turn. That contributes to the poor sleep that contributes to poor memory, and so on. But Pharmacy Times explains that stress also takes a toll on your mental health in other ways, like making you more irritable, causing headaches, digestive issues, depression, and anxiety.

Find some healthy coping options. Working out and sleeping well are a great start, but incorporate little things into your day to help you manage better. Try some breathing exercises for when you’re in the heat of the moment, and do some journaling or doodle in adult coloring books in your off-time. Allowing yourself some simple, quiet downtime can be a terrific break.

If the stress is from anything that you can do something about — maybe you can look for a new job or refinance your home — work on moving those changes forward as much as you can. If the stress is from something you can't change yourself, you may want to seek out counseling to help develop coping skills. Many insurances provide coverage for mental health services, such as Medicare, so don’t go without mental and emotional healthcare.

Make self-care strategies part of your everyday life. By paying attention to basic issues such as sleep and exercise, you can improve your general well-being, including your mood and ability to handle what life throws your way. Life can be better with just a few simple tweaks.

Guest article written by Brad Krause/

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