5 Self-Care Strategies for Better Mental Health

Posted May 21, 2024 under:

Strengthen Mental Wellbeing Through Intentional Self-Care

Mental health conditions affect millions of Americans every day, but everyone can benefit from practicing self-care. As we kick off Mental Health Awareness Month this May, let’s explore 5 ways you can manage stress and boost your mental wellbeing.

Harness the benefits of mindfulness, gratitude, social connections, and more.

This Mental Health Awareness Month, prioritize your mental well-being by incorporating self-care into your daily life.

Mental health conditions are more common than many people realize. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience some form of mental illness each year. Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent, affecting 19.1% of adults, followed by major depressive episodes, which impact 8.3% of the population. Other mental health conditions – such as post-traumatic stress disorder (3.6%), bipolar disorder (2.8%), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (1.2%) – affect millions of Americans every day.

While these statistics are formidable, it’s important to remember that mental health exists on a spectrum. Everyone can benefit from practicing self-care, regardless of whether they have a diagnosed mental health condition. As we kick off Mental Health Awareness Month this May, let’s explore 5 effective self-care strategies that can boost your mental well-being and help you manage stress.

1. Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques

Practicing mindfulness meditation is a powerful way to reduce stress and improve overall well-being. At its core, mindfulness involves focusing your attention on the present moment and accepting your thoughts and feelings without judgment. In more than 200 studies, researchers have found that mindfulness meditation can help lower stress, decrease anxiety and depression, and even provide physical health benefits such as boosting the immune system.

Engaging in just 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation per day, through exercises like deep breathing or guided lessons, can be an excellent form of self-care to help you manage stress. and recharge from the demands of life.

2. Practicing Gratitude

One simple but powerful way to practice self-care is to incorporate gratitude into your daily life. When you take time to acknowledge the good parts of life, you help shift your mental state toward the positive. Research has found that people who regularly express gratitude tend to be about 10% happier overall and have a 35% reduction in depressive symptoms. There are several ways to build a habit of gratitude. One idea is to keep a gratitude journal. Each day, write down a few things you’re thankful for, large or small. Over time, this practice can train your brain to spot the positives more easily.

Another way to practice gratitude is to share your appreciation with others. Expressing your appreciation out loud not only makes the other person feel good but can also boost your happiness. The more you practice gratitude, the more natural it becomes to notice and appreciate the positives in your life – and that can go a long way in supporting your overall well-being.

3. Nurturing Social Connections

Cultivating strong social connections is essential for maintaining mental well-being and promoting overall health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), social connectedness can lead to a 50% increased likelihood of longevity, better health outcomes, and improved quality of life.

Research indicates that regular interactions with friends, family, and the community can provide a sense of belonging, support, and individual value, which are crucial for coping with stress, anxiety, and depression. To fully reap the health benefits of social connectedness, prioritize meaningful relationships, actively engage in social interactions, and—if needed—seek support from the people who care about you.

4. Prioritizing Physical Health

Self-care extends beyond mental well-being – it includes taking care of your physical health. Engaging in regular exercise, aiming for at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day, can significantly impact your mood and overall health. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH), exercise has the potential to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression by up to 40%. Note that even small amounts of exercise can add up, so don’t be discouraged if you can’t commit to a full 30 minutes at once.

Furthermore, maintaining a balanced diet is crucial for supporting mental health. Eating regular, healthy meals that include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins – often a part of “traditional” diets like the Mediterranean diet – can help reduce the risk of depression by up to 35%. Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day is also essential for improving energy levels and focus.

Finally, establishing a consistent sleep schedule is crucial for mental well-being. Prioritizing getting enough sleep each night and creating a relaxing bedtime routine can promote better sleep quality. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), adults who consistently get at least 8 hours of sleep per night report significantly lower levels of stress and improved mental well-being.

5. Seeking Professional Support

If you find yourself struggling with persistent mental health concerns, it’s crucial to seek help from a qualified mental health professional. Talking to a primary care provider is a good first step, as they can refer you to a psychologist, psychiatrist, or clinical social worker who can provide the appropriate support and guidance. It’s important to remember that seeking help is a sign of strength and self-awareness, not weakness.

When to Reach Out for Help

If you experience severe or distressing symptoms that persist for more than two weeks, it’s essential to reach out to your healthcare provider. These symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Changes in appetite or unplanned weight changes
  • Difficulty getting out of bed due to mood
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Loss of interest in activities you usually enjoy
  • Inability to complete usual tasks and responsibilities
  • Feelings of irritability, frustration, or restlessness

Recognizing these signs and seeking immediate support can be crucial in managing your mental health and preventing further distress.

For immediate assistance, the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is available 24/7 by calling or texting 988 or chatting with a representative at 988lifeline.org. This is a free, confidential national service that can provide life-saving support during a crisis.

As we navigate our own mental health challenges and successes during Mental Health Awareness Month (and beyond) we continue to celebrate our collective strength and support one another on the path to wellness, whether at home or in the workplace.


National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): https://www.nami.org/about-mental-illness/mental-health-by-the-numbers/

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: https://www.samhsa.gov/serious-mental-illness

American Psychological Association: https://www.apa.org/topics/mindfulness/meditation; https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2013/sleep

The Harvard Gazette: https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2018/04/less-stress-clearer-thoughts-with-mindfulness-meditation/

UChicago Medicine: https://www.uchicagomedicine.org/forefront/health-and-wellness-articles/2022/may/mental-health-awareness-q-and-a

Mental Health First Aid: https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/2022/11/practicing-gratitude/

Calm: https://www.calm.com/blog/gratitude-journal; https://www.calm.com/blog/a-grateful-heart

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): https://www.cdc.gov/emotional-wellbeing/social-connectedness/affect-health.htm

National Institute of Mental Health: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/caring-for-your-mental-health

Harvard Health: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-psychiatry-your-brain-on-food-201511168626; https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/mediterranean-style-the-healthy-fats-and-healthy-carbs-diet

SCA Health: https://insights.sca.health/insight/article/trg-spotlight-stigma-free

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