Taking Care of Your Mental Health

When you take care of your body, you likely strive to eat right, stay active, and take care to look your best. Your mental health needs similar care. In fact, to be healthy overall, you need to take care of both your body and mind - the two are closely connected. If you neglect caring for one, the other will suffer. These ideas will help you to care for both mind and body:

  • Build self-esteem. Good self-esteem is linked to mental well-being, happiness, and success in many areas of life.It protects mental health during tough times. One way to build self- esteem is to value who you are and what you do. This is hard to do if you judge yourself by other people's standards or rely on others to make you feel good about yourself. Instead, accept the qualities - both strengths and weaknesses - that make you unique.
  • Set realistic standards and goals. Take pride in your achievements, both small and big. Positive thinking also boosts self-esteem. This comes naturally to some people. But it's a skill you can learn, too. Many people are lifted up by their spirituality. It can shape beliefs and values and be a source of comfort in hard times. It can be good to tune out the outside world and connect with the spirit within you.
  • Find value and purpose in life. People who pursue goals based on their own values and dreams enjoy stronger mental well-being. Think about your values and dreams. What makes you happy? What do you care deeply about? What are you good at? If you could change one thing in the world,what would it be? What do you dream about? How do you want your friends and family to remember you? Use your answers to set short-term and long-terms goals for yourself. Keep your goals realistic. Review them every once in a while, and make changes as your values and priorities change.

DO I HAVE A PROBLEM WITH ALCOHOL?

Many women drink alcohol to cope with stress. But some women drink too much. Alcohol abuse and addiction cause stress in a job and family. Answer these questions to help find out if you might have a problem:

  • Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?
  • Have people criticized your drinking?
  • Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking?
  • Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover? Talk with your doctor about your drinking if you answered "yes" to one or more questions. Even if you answered "no" to all the questions, talk to your doctor if drinking is causing you problems with your job, relationships, health, work, or the law. 
  • Learn healthy ways to cope with hard times. How do you react to stress,change, or hardship? Do you see setbacks as failures or merely bumps in the road? Do you avoid problems or look for solutions? Do you obsess about issues without taking action to resolve them? If your style needs improving, take heart: Positive coping styles and traits can be learned with some effort. If you have trouble improving thinking patterns on your own, a mental health professional can help. You might also benefit from life-skills classes. For example, parenting classes can prepare new mothers for what to expect. Being informed helps people to understand, control, and deal with situations that are new and stressful.
  • Build healthy relationships. We need healthy relationships to grow, thrive,and sustain us in hard times. They also protect from loneliness and isolation, which can lead to depression.Surround yourself with people who encourage and support you. You might draw strength from your ethnic or cultural community. Relationships thatcause you to feel neglected, shameful, disrespected, or afraid are not healthy. Keep in mind that just as you need people, you are needed by others.Reach out and connect.

Source: Adapted from The Healthy Woman: A Complete Guide for All Ages
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health
2008

Reviewed by athealth on February 8, 2014.