May is Mental Health Awareness Month
May is Mental Health Awareness Month! We are so excited to share some ideas for improving your mental health this May! Is it a coincidence that May is also the start of spring (in most of the US)? As we turn the corner out of winter and into summer, let's also turn a corner on our mental health.
Maybe this will be the day you finally call that therapist you were referred to! Or maybe you'll talk to someone about medication options. Even if you aren't ready for those steps, or have already taken them, here are some other ways you can work on your mental health this month, and all those after!
Our main pillars of good mental health are sleep, nutrition, movement, and mindfulness. Focusing on our physical and mental well being is key to any treatment plan we give out. But you don't need to be a patient to benefit from these recommendations. There are ways you can add in behavioral modifications and lifestyle arrangements to your day that will add value to your life.
Let's start with sleep: There is no sanity without sleep. Our bodies need a certain amount of rest, and the recommended hours change throughout our lifespan. Even if you can't add more hours of sleep into your schedule, you can improve the quality of your sleep and rest. Making sure you have a sleep schedule that allows for winding down prior to bed, limited lights/electronics, and minimal distractions is key to your sleep success. Pulling all-nighters is hard on your brain and body. We know it's an extremely privileged point of view to make these sleep suggestions, but if you have the access to a warm, safe place to sleep each night, take advantage of it with a sleep schedule. If you've been struggling with sleep, check out these recommendations: https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/index.html
Nutrition is an often overlooked part of mental health. While we won't get into specific food types to improve your mental health, we can give some broad tips and tricks. It's important that your brain and body get the right nutrients and enough of them. Try to get a good variety of fruits, vegetables, carbohydrates, fats, and protein. Stop dieting and start living! Don't focus on your weight, focus on making changes to support your body. Disordered eating can have a huge effect on our wellbeing. If you're struggling with this, please reach out! Here we strive to help people find health, not lose weight or get sucked into fad diets. Healing your relationship with food can be a huge part of healing your relationship with yourself. There are many resources available for you depending on what you are hoping to achieve with your nutrition, including nutritionists, therapist who specialize in eating disorders, and therapists who specialize in intuitive eating. Contact Dr. Shaban for more details, or check out one of our favorite people: https://yourlatinanutritionist.com/
One of our favorite recommendations is increasing movement. A previous blog discussed ways to increase your N.E.A.T., or non-exercise activity thermogenesis. N.E.A.T. involves non-exercise purposeful movement, like taking the stairs, parking farther away from the door, or using a standing desk. Sometimes all we have time for in the day is small movements, other days we have time for full on dedicated exercise. Whether you enjoy a good gym workout or just want to get moving a bit more, there are plenty of options to get started. Our bodies are made to move, and sitting at a desk all day is not great for our health. Take advantage of the health effects of nature and movement by going outside for a walk, taking a hike, a bike ride, fishing, climbing, or running. Dancing, swimming, and yoga are other great movements, and you don't need a special class or space to turn on some music and move your body! Weight lifting and strength training also confer huge benefits to our brains and bodies. There's really no wrong way to get moving, other than over doing it. Pick an activity to try out.
Mindfulness is a broad category that involves intentionally paying attention to your surroundings, inner world, and being non-judgmental about these experiences. Many people think meditation and mindfulness are the same thing, but you can practice mindfulness without doing a formal meditation. Mindfulness activities help improve our focus, calm our bodies and bring us back in touch with what is happening around us. Taking a moment to literally stop and smell the roses is a form of mindfulness. Allowing your body to slow down and sit with your own thoughts or emotions helps you become more self aware, and decreases your hyper-aware states. Practicing mindfulness daily can take many forms, but all of those forms help bring your baseline level of inner turmoil down to a more manageable level. For tips and tricks on mindfulness, check out this link: https://www.mindful.org/meditation/mindfulness-getting-started/
These are the foundations on which we can build on our resiliency and health. Here are some quick ideas for the month of May to start building healthy practices:
-go for a 10 min walk each day
-sit outside with your favorite beverage and enjoy the sounds around you
-turn off your phone for an hour each evening
-set a bedtime that you'll stick with each night
-pick up a new (or old) hobby
-schedule time with friends
-acts of kindness towards others
-set a boundary at work
-sign up with Dr. Shaban for an evaluation and treatment plan!