By Mindy Wills MA, LPC

Maintaining good mental and emotional health is intricately intertwined with our overall health and well-being. We witness this elaborate connection every day here at Practical Healing. This is why we offer services that encompass the complete health and wellness of our patients- including their mental and emotional health. We recognize that when someone is struggling with things like anxiety, depression, grief, or the impact of a past trauma it can have a significant impact on their body and physical health.

If you are struggling with a mental health issue, you are not alone. Every year, one in five people experience some form of struggle with their mental health. In addition to the struggles that are simply inherent to being human, our modern culture can impact our mental health in some very negative ways. Technology, social isolation, stress, poor diet, and current national and world events can all significantly impact our mental health and well-being.

It’s important to remember that while we can’t escape mental health struggles all together, we can take steps to build in practices that support and improve our mental health. These practices not only help improve our day-to-day well-being, but they also build our mental muscle, creating protective factors which equip us to more effectively deal with life’s inevitable times of crisis, grief, transition and stress. 

If you are looking for a place to start, here are a few strategies to begin incorporating to support your mental well-being.

  1. BREATH– Develop a deep breathing practice. This helps decrease anxiety by engaging the parasympathetic nervous system and promoting relaxation. Try the 14 second breath. Breath in deeply through your nose for 4 seconds, hold for 1 second, exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds, then hold for 1 second. Repeat this pattern building up to 3 or 4 minutes each night. Next, spend 3-4 minutes in the morning also. Finally, incorporate this exercise any time you begin to feel anxious. (Note: if deep breathing itself increases your feeling of anxiety, try some gentle stretching first to help relax your body.)
  2. WRITE– Start journaling. Write down all the things you have been bottling up inside. First, just get it all out on paper. As you write, try to label what you are feeling with words. Words help our brain process emotions. Once you have it all on paper, read back over what you have written and start to ask a few questions. Is there a different perspective I can consider? Is what I’m thinking true or is it based primarily on my feelings? Is there anything I can learn from this? Is there anything I can be grateful for in this…which leads me to the next strategy!
  3. IDENTIFY– Make a habit of identifying the things you are grateful for each day. Whether it is something small, like a kind word, or huge, like the birth of a baby, making an intentional habit of looking at life through a lens of gratitude has a positive impact on your thought patterns and supports your mental well-being. This can take the form of making a list, verbally telling someone else, or just saying out loud what you are grateful for. If you are a person of faith, this might take the form of prayer thanking God for these blessings.
  4. CONNECT– Be intentional about making space in your life to spend time connecting with people you care about. Seek to build relationships with people who are life giving and leave you feeling supported and cared for. Of course, it isn’t always easy to build connections. If you are feeling isolated, challenge yourself to take a new step. Join a group. Approach someone who seems like a good friend candidate and ask them to coffee. If it feels more comfortable…animals count too! Spending time with animals can significantly increase our feelings of well-being!
  5. GROUND-Too much time on screens can increase anxiety and depression. Get outside and spend some time in nature. Feel the sunshine on your face. Take off your shoes and walk barefoot in the grass. Go outside after dark and look at the stars.  Physically connecting with the world around you and allowing yourself to spend time appreciating its complexity and beauty is a great way to improve your feelings of well-being.
  6. NOURISH-Poor nutrition can contribute to anxiety and depression. Feed your body a variety of healthy foods concentrating on foods low in sugar and carbs and high in protein, fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Avoid processed foods and too much caffeine, which can increase anxiety levels.

Now that you have some ideas, identify one of the steps above as a starting point and jump in! Set a goal of slowly, over time incorporating them all into your daily life.

Keep in mind, there are times when we need more than self-help measures. If you are having difficulty functioning in your day-to-day life, this may be an indicator that you should seek additional support. Counseling can be a helpful next step in moving toward improving your mental health and well-being. At Practical Healing, we offer both in person and virtual counseling options, as well as assistance in finding additional resources for counseling in our community. Please reach out to the Practical Healing office for additional information.

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