Mental health affects all aspects of our lives. It determines how we think, feel and behave and impacts our ability to manage stress, connect with others and recover from life’s challenges and setbacks. Many factors influence our mental wellness, such as relationships, financial issues or social isolation.

During difficult times, people sometimes turn to alcohol or drugs to help them cope. While they may think it makes them feel better, excessive alcohol and drug use can deteriorate our mental health, leading to or exacerbating symptoms of anxiety, depression and other mental health disorders. Focusing on enhancing our mental wellness through healthy habits increases resilience, boosts our mood and improves our overall sense of well-being.

As we await widespread COVID-19 vaccination, many of us are experiencing increased social isolation and stress, a mix that isn’t positive for our mental health. In recognition of Mental Wellness Month this January, review these tips for taking care of your mental health.

  • Practice gratitude. Focusing on the people and things we are thankful for can help build a positive mindset. Take time to think about the good things you do instead of dwelling on what is bringing you down. It may be helpful to start a gratitude journal, write a note to a loved one or text a friend to express your appreciation for them. Even when life becomes overwhelming, a grateful attitude can go a long way.
  • Stay active. Regular exercise releases endorphins that reduce stress, improve sleep and combat feelings of depression and anxiety. Getting physical activity doesn’t mean spending hours on a treadmill or lifting weights. Take a 30-minute walk outside during your lunch hour and enjoy fresh air and nature.
  • Eat a healthy diet. It’s easy to fall into unhealthy eating habits when you’re stressed. A balanced diet rich in fruit, vegetables and fiber increases your energy and improves your health while making you feel stronger, more focused and confident.
  • Take a social media break. Social media helps us stay connected with friends and family, but it’s important to set boundaries to protect our mental health. Excessive social media use around the COVID-19 pandemic has been linked with depression and secondary trauma. Consider setting a limit for how long you spend on social media. If you’re in the habit of opening your phone every time an alert appears, try disabling the app notifications to help you stay present.
  • Connect with family and friends. Instead of watching TV, call a friend or set up a Zoom call with a family member. Sharing stories or laughing with a loved one can improve our mood and help us gain perspective.
  • Ask for help. CleanSlate is committed to helping our patients on their journey to wellness and achieving the lives they deserve. If you or a loved one’s mental health is causing substance use issues, contact us at 833-505-HOPE or use our live chat on our website to get help.

Anna M. Gaddy

Anna Gaddy is Vice President, Behavioral Health for CleanSlate.