What are good coping strategies for mental health that can help us manage, even when we feel low, stressed out or hopeless?
It's no secret that life can take a toll on our mental health. In fact, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experiences a mental health disorder in a given year, and many more struggle with problems that don't qualify for any diagnosis but still impact life. Many of us don't seek help because of the stigma or shame to admit that we are struggling. Wherever we are, there are things we can do to take care of ourselves. What are good coping strategies for mental health?
There are healthy coping strategies that can help us manage our mental health, even when we feel low, stressed out or hopeless. Here are a few to consider:
Exercise is a great way to relieve pressure and improve your mood. Research has shown that just 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise three times a week can help to reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression. And the benefits of exercise don't stop there. Exercise has also been shown to boost general well-being, self-esteem, improve sleep, and increase energy levels.
Let values guide your actions
It can be helpful to remind yourself of your values when you're feeling low or under pressure. Values are the things that are important to us and guide our actions. When we act in alignment with our values, we usually feel good about ourselves. But when we don't, we can feel stressed out of sorts.
Some examples of values include honesty, kindness, and courage. And it is all about applying those values in concrete behaviors on any given day. Following values can sometimes be hard because the short term consequences can be tough, but in the long term we tend to feel prouder, happier and more fulfilled when doing so.
Practice being here and now
This coping strategy is all about practicing being in the present, over and over again. Thoughts and feelings tend to drag us away to the future or things that already happened, instead of noticing what's actually present, in this very moment.Mindfulness is one way of practicing being present. When we're mindful, we notice when our minds start dwelling on the past or worrying about the future and gently bring our focus back to the here and now.
There are many ways to be more mindful, but one way to get started is to focus on our breath. Simply take a few deep breaths and pay attention to how the air moves through our body with each inhale and exhale.
Spending time with loved ones
One of the most important things you can do for your mental health is to spend time with people you care about. Whether going for a walk with a friend or family member or simply spending time talking and hanging out together, social interaction can help reduce stress levels and promote positive emotions.
Additionally, being part of a supportive social network has improved mental health and increased resilience. However, not all of us have the luxury of having close friends and family. If you are feeling alone, you can try to find like-minded by joining a club for something you enjoy, like sports, any special interest group, a book café or something else that suits you.
While these are just a few coping strategies, finding what works for you is important. Experiment with different techniques and be patient as you find what provides the most benefits in the long run. And remember, if you're struggling, there's no shame in seeking professional help. Mental health is just as important as physical health, so don't hesitate to reach out for support if you need it.