By: Dr. Herrera-Yee
As military spouses, we know stress. We know how it feels to have to change plans and direction on a dime. We also know heartache, loss, fear, worry, sadness, contentment, pride, fulfillment and joy. These are all emotions that are commonly experienced day to day by people of all walks of life.
As military spouses, however, these emotions can sometimes be heightened simply by virtue of our lifestyle. By nature our lifestyle is mobile, it does not easily lend itself to connections, and we are all too familiar with the potential dangers our loved ones could face. The disconnect between civilian and military life only add to the challenges. All of these feelings and experiences contribute to both strengthening and diminishing our mental resources.
At MSAN, it is our goal to help you to improve your overall sense of health and well-being. A very big part of that is helping you to improve your mental health. The challenges we face living this military life and putting the needs of others first can leave us feeling drained and at worst depressed and hopeless. Our goal is to help you to become stronger and more resilient, more able to face the challenges that this life can sometimes present. But just as it requires effort to maintain your physical health, the same applies for your mental and emotional health as well. Why is this important? Because improving your mental health can benefit all areas of your life, including boosting your mood, building your resilience and adding to your overall enjoyment. So, are you ready? Here are 5 tips to help you improve your mental health:
1. Get enough rest, exercise, eat right and get outside.
You might be thinking this is a no-brainer. However, studies show that most of us don’t take the time to take care of ourselves. Taking care of your body is a powerful first step towards mental health. The mind and body are intimately linked, when one improves so does the other and vice versa. In order to function at your best, make sure to get at least 8 hours of sleep, exercise for at least 20 minutes a day, and limit your intake of fats, sugars and foods high in cholesterol. Sleep hygiene, exercise and healthy eating habits help your body feel great, which in turn helps to improve your mood. These habits help to lower your blood pressure, and to release endorphins, which naturally enhance your mood and sense of well-being.
2. Do things that positively impact others.
Giving to others, volunteering, making a difference in people’s lives can help build self-esteem and to brighten your mood. Volunteering and helping also offers perspective. Seeing how others struggle in their day to day life could help to motivate you to make improvements of your own. This is truly a win-win for both you and the person(s) you are helping. Take the time to make an impact and then see how it makes a powerful impact in your life as well.
3. Limit unhealthy mental habits like worrying and negative self-talk.
Worrying about what might or might not happen will only serve to bring anxiety and even depression. Take a moment and release the worry. Making a plan to resolve the source of your worry will help ease some anxiety that you may have. Breathing exercises will bring down your heart-rate and decrease anxiety. Try to avoid negative thoughts about yourself, about the future, and about your life. Negative thoughts will only serve to drain your energy and trigger feelings of anxiety, depression and fear. Think of positive thoughts to replace that negative self-talk instead.
4. Engage in meaningful and creative activities.
If you occupy some time with activities that you enjoy — such as writing, painting, gardening, signing, or even yodeling or woodworking — whatever it may be — you can end up finding an activity that makes you feel accomplished, inspired and productive. This could lead to a better overall sense of satisfaction with your life, which in turn improves your mood and your outlook. Do it for you. Then who knows, you might even become the next great artist, photographer or writer.
5. Spend time face-to-face with people who you like being around.
Make spending time with friends, family and loved ones a priority in your life. Having positive social relationships helps to buffer the negative effects of stress. These relationships have been found to mitigate the negative effects of various stressors in studies in everything from trauma to significant mental illness. Our connections to others are vitally important and intimately connected to our mental health.
Life is full of challenges, but having the tools to face those challenges head on can help us all to become more successful and healthier. This is great for us, our families and our communities. Remember; take time to take care of YOU. Often with the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives we forget to do that. After all, we can’t take good care of others unless we ourselves are healthy – and it all starts with your mental health.
What are some things you have done that have helped you to improve your overall mental and emotional health?