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May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so let’s start the conversation

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so let’s start the conversation

When’s the last time you checked in with yourself about how you’re feeling? May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so it’s a great time for a self check-in on your mental health.

When it comes to health and wellness, physical health seems to take the main stage. Your mental health, though, is every bit as important as your physical health. In fact, it can even impact your health overall.

The facts about Mental Health Awareness Month

The National Alliance on Mental Illness marks May as Mental Health Awareness Month, while Mental Health America calls it Mental Health Month.

They may have different names, but they have the same purpose—to raise awareness about the importance of mental health. This year, the Mental Health Month theme is “Where to Start,” with an emphasis on mental health in a changing world.

How your mental health affects your physical health

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines mental health as including “emotional, psychological and social well-being.” While your mental health may start with how you feel, it also impacts how you think and act, affecting your overall health and quality of life.

If you’re affected by some type of mental health issue, it can cause trauma to the body, which increases the risk of chronic medical conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. On the flip side, your physical health can also impact your mental health, making you more likely to develop a mental health issue.

5 ways to support your mental health

  1. Find healthy ways to manage stress. A small amount of stress is healthy and can actually be a good thing. Too much stress or chronic stress, however, can be hurtful to physical and mental health. Look for healthy ways to cope with stress, such as meditation, exercise, prayer, social interaction or a hobby.
  2. Practice an attitude of gratitude. Did you know that gratitude offers health benefits? It’s true! Regularly finding opportunities for gratitude, whether you’re writing down a list of things you’re thankful for or sharing thanks with others, can help your physical and mental health.
  3. Prioritize getting enough quality sleep. Most adults need between seven and nine hours of quality sleep each night for optimal physical and mental health. Practice good sleep habits by keeping your bedroom cool and dark, establishing a bedtime ritual, and following a set bedtime and wake-up schedule throughout the week.
  4. Connect with others. Research has found that loneliness and social isolation can be as dangerous to your health as smoking in some cases. Build in time regularly to interact with your friends and family. Not only will they bring you joy, but they can also be meaningful support systems when life takes unexpected turns.
  5. Fuel your body and your mind. What you eat can have an impact on your mental health. Limit the amount of sugar, caffeine and alcohol in your diet. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and fill your plate at meals with plenty of fruits and veggies, whole grains and lean protein sources such as chicken or fish.

It’s also important to know the warning signs that can appear when something is wrong. If you’re feeling out of sorts for two weeks or more or experience trouble sleeping, appetite changes, difficulty concentrating or an inability to complete your daily tasks, check in with your primary care provider or mental health services. You aren’t alone, and help is available.

Looking for resources related to your mental health? Learn more about the behavioral health services at LCMC Health.