Improve your mental health


May is mental health month. Mental health is as important as our physical health and affects our physical health either positively or negatively. Mental illnesses are common and treatable.

We all live with some stress. Stress really affects our mental health. Do you feel stressed most of the day? How do you handle that stress without it having devastating effects on your health and relationships?

When stress affects our relationships and daily activities it’s a problem. Do you experience:

· feeling tense and angry, frustrated

· experiencing mood swings

· being depressed and discouraged

· lashing out at others.

These feelings may be normal if they only happen occasionally. Talking about your feelings can help. It is important to express the feelings you are having. Then you can work to make changes that may relieve some of the stress. If you have some concerns about yourself try taking a screening at

Taking a screening is one of the quickest and easiest ways to determine whether you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition. Mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety, are real, common and treatable. And recovery is possible. But not all of us think about our mental health enough.

It will not be a diagnosis but could be a helpful tool in talking with your doctor or someone you love.

We are better able to cope with stress if we take care of our body. This means eating healthy, exercising and getting enough sleep. Limiting alcohol and quitting smoking if you smoke can improve heath and mood.

Regular exercise not only is a way to keep fit but can reduce tension and help your self-esteem. Consider taking a walk (or walking the dog), bicycling, jogging, dancing, playing a sport with your children or friends for fun, or working in the yard and/or garden.

Take a stress break and participate in an activity you enjoy such as listening to music, watching a movie, taking a bubble bath, reading a book, or working at your favorite hobby. Consider trying relaxation exercises which can help reduce the tension. Meditation and prayer can be helpful too. Another idea is to have a box with special family items that are important to you – just looking and touching them may help relieve some stress.

Monitor your stress by recognizing symptoms of stress and how you are reacting to it.

To help with coping you may find that writing down what your “stressors” are and listing possible ways to handle each one provides direction and assistance in dealing with them. (You may be too close to the situation to see any solutions, so consult others if needed.) Examine your list, determine priorities and decide on what solutions or changes will work best for you. Develop a schedule that you can follow to make changes and take some action.

Avoid isolation as it is important to communicate with family and friends. Consider joining a support group. They will also be able to provide direction if they notice “crisis signs.” If you think or your family/friends think you are depressed get some help. Don’t talk yourself out of seeking help. You are not helping yourself.

If you are experiencing excessive stress it is important to seek some outside help. “Crisis signs” indicating that outside help is needed include:

– Feeling depressed

– Wanting to sleep a lot and be alone

– Abusing family members

– Thoughts about suicide

– Disciplining your child/children too harshly

– Considering a separation from your spouse

– Drinking alcohol in the morning, hiding liquor, or having two or three drinks or beer every night.

– Feel you can’t cope or can’t think of anything good to say

– Don’t have anyone you can talk to

– Your child is acting out a lot or getting into trouble

– Experiencing panic attacks or hallucinations

Community resources are available to help in these situations. Check with your family doctor, Scioto Paint Valley Mental Health Clinic, clergy, or lay groups. Get help before it adversely affects your physical health.

By Pat Brinkman

Extension Educator Family and Consumer Sciences

Pat Brinkman is the Ohio State University Extension Educator for Family & Consumer Sciences.

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