Discussing mental health struggles doesn’t have to be a taboo topic. In fact, mental illness is more common than you might think — there has been a demonstrated rise in depression and anxiety in recent months, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. At least 20% of U.S. adults experience mental illness at some point; that’s one in five people. This can include anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and postpartum depression.

Recognizing the warning signs is crucial, and seeking care from a provider is important now more than ever. There are a wide variety of resources available, from in-person therapy to teletherapy, support groups, online courses, and beyond. And the treatment options are practically endless, be it counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), or a prescription medication. The bottom line is that you aren’t alone, and you don’t have to suffer through mental illness.

In the meantime, there are a few simple things you can do to take care of yourself and better prioritize your mental health, many of which have been proven to boost your mood!

Call a friend or family member.

Ask someone else how they’re doing. Oftentimes, we are caught up in our own issues and hectic lives, so it can be nice to set aside space to listen to someone else. Fostering relationships and connecting with others is good for the soul — and it can get you out of your own head!

Quiet your mind.

Find ways to calm the chaos in your head. Many people swear by practices such as mindfulness, meditation, or prayer. Certain relaxation exercises can instill a sense of peace and improve your overall outlook. You can aim to make it a daily practice and create routine, which can also help ease any mental strain. Smartphone apps with guided exercises such as Calm, Headspace, Ten Percent Happier, and The Mindfulness App can help get you started.

Take care of your body.

While a nice bowl of ice cream can offer a quick fix (hey, no shame in indulging sometimes!), too much sugar and processed foods can actually make you feel sluggish and even worsen your mood. Nourishing your body with nutrient-dense healthy foods and getting adequate exercise can work wonders. Trust, endorphins are a real thing! Get out of the house, and go for a walk. Make a fresh fruit salad. Have an impromptu dance party in your living room. The possibilities are endless!

Get some vitamin D.

Your body absorbs vitamin D primarily through the sun — okay, there are also supplements available — which can help regulate mood and ward off depression. We are so lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the country! Hit up the beach (hello, soothing ocean sounds), and stick your toes in the sand. Check out some local trails and go for a hike. Just get outside!

Focus on gratitude.

It can be easier said than done, but thinking of the good things in your life can totally help turn around a nasty funk. Whether you simply consider three things you’re grateful for, or you write them down daily in a gratitude journal, negative feelings may soon lessen.

Shake up your routine.

While routine can make us feel stable and secure, it can also get a little boring at times. Try something new — be it an art class, unique hobby, or a different restaurant — to help break up the monotony. Take a day trip to a new spot or plan a vacation, and give yourself something to look forward to!

Please be kind to yourself.

We are our own worst critics, and negative self-talk can swiftly get out of hand. So by all means, cut yourself some slack and give a little grace. You’re doing the best you can, and you are okay, just as you are.

If you feel you are struggling with a mental illness, Baptist Behavioral Health can help. Your provider can also suggest a referral or a recommendation — feel free to send us a secure message online. Visit namijax.org for additional resources.