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5 ways to take care of your mental health

We tend to get so caught up in the million little things we have going on in our lives, that we forget to prioritize something sacred—our mental health. By the time we realize something is off, we’re overwhelmed and struggling to find out what went wrong.

To top things off, the societal stigma of mental illness still exists, increasing the reluctance many people feel to seek help. Meanwhile, the National Institute of Mental Health reports that one in five adults in the U.S. have a mental illness.

Taking care of our mental well-being—especially when living with a mental illness—is essential to our overall happiness, health and quality of life.

And as we observe Mental Illness Awareness Week this month, here are ways to daily reflect on and take care of our mental health.

Find an outlet to de-stress.

Look for something you are passionate about, and use it as an outlet to de-stress after a long day. Do something you love to do that will help you relax and decompress and let go of whatever negativity and worries you’ve been holding on to.

If painting soothes you, get out a canvas and use your feelings as inspiration to create a masterpiece. If exercising helps take your mind off the heavy emotions that have been overwhelming you, then go for a run or do things you enjoy at the gym.

For me, it’s singing to the top of my lungs in the car on my commute home from work. And hearing the sweet voice of my daughter singing along with me from her carseat makes it even better. Even if I have a busy, stressful day, after that music-filled car ride I feel so much more relaxed by the time I get home. Whatever makes you happy and keeps your mind in a positive space, do that.

Make time for self-care.

Set time aside to practice self-care. Do something that helps you feel better, that’s good for your health and that is solely dedicated to you.

For me, this is yoga. It’s an hour where I can clear my mind, and challenge myself in a positive platform. And by the end of it, I feel good and am so glad I did it.

Find something you like that that’ll make you feel relaxed, stress-free and good about yourself. Do something that brings you joy, and makes you forget about all the hectic things going on in your life—even if just for a while.

flowers and coffee sitting on table

Take breaks when needed.

If you ever feel like the busyness of everyday life is too much to handle, stop what you’re doing, breathe and take a break. Go for a walk to take your mind off of things, or do something else to give yourself time off from thinking and worrying.

And if you need a longer break, plan a vacation and get away from your stressful routine for a bit. Take that dream trip you’ve been putting on hold for a while. Enjoy yourself and soak in the time you have to experience time out of your norm.

Talk to a mental health professional when needed.

Do not be afraid to seek help from mental health professionals when you have a lot on your mind that your need to get off of your chest. They are there to listen to you, and offer you the advice you need to move forward.

They offer your a safe space to express your emotions in a nonjudgmental setting, and offer you the support you need to cope with the things getting in the way of your happiness.

Therapy can give you the relief you’ve been seeking for your mental health, and you’ll be so thankful you decided to start going.

Have a solid support system to lean on in hard times.

It’s no secret that we all go through tough times at different points in our lives. But they don’t have to consume or defeat us. And we don’t have to go through the emotional pain we are feeling alone. Be sure you have a strong support system to turn to during the challenging times.

These will be the people to comfort you when you’re upset, encourage you to keep going, and reassure you that everything is going to be OK. They will be your listening ear when you need one, and your voice of wisdom when you don’t know what to do.

This support system is made up of people who love you, and want to make sure you are alright. Let them be there for you.

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Vivian Gatica Lopez

Vivian Gatica Lopez is a writer based in Colorado Springs, CO. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from California State University, Long Beach, and a passion for storytelling.