10 tools to live your life well
Mental Health Month Column

May is Mental Health Month

       May is Mental Health Month - Maybe you're holding down two jobs or can't find work. Maybe you're the parents of young children or the children of aging
parents. Maybe you face a rush of daily demands or one potentially life-changing challenge. Whatever your situation, here are 10 tools from Mental Health America that can help.   These tools can help you relax, grow and flourish. They can help you
Live Your Life Well.

1.        Connect With Others – Fight stress with friendship.  Learn how to strengthen old bonds and build
new ones. 
Your friend gets your joke, your co-worker offers congrats, your spouse hugs you hello. They are all helping you bust stress and boost well-being. In fact, 71 percent of people surveyed turned to friends or family in times of stress.  Human beings crave feeling supported, valued, and connected.

2.       Stay Positive – Changing your thinking can change your life.  Take steps to increase your optimism.
It's likely our species survived because of our knack for detecting danger. But our worry-filled thoughts can present dangers of their own: Thinking negatively can drag down our moods, our actions and even our health.  People who were pessimistic had a nearly 20 percent higher risk of dying over a 30-year period than those who were optimistic. Experts say it’s worthwhile and possible to learn how to think more positively.

3.       Get Physically Active – Exercise can make you happier.  The dusty tennis shoes. The gym membership that mostly exercises your wallet. The jump rope coiled at the back of the closet. Lots of us have proof that it can be tough to stick with exercising. Pump up your resolve by considering that exercise can prevent heart disease, improve sleep, improve mood, increase energy, boost your immune system, and help with weight management.

4.     Help others – You may feel better serving soup at a shelter than sipping martinis at Happy Hour.
If you lug your elderly neighbor's groceries up her steps, clearly it's good for her. But did you know that it's likely good for you too?   Research indicates that those who consistently help other people experience less depression, greater calm, fewer pains and better health. You may even live longer. 

5.       Get Enough Sleep – Being tired can hurt your health and your relationships.  Sleep may seem like a waste of time. You could instead be answering e-mail, doing the dishes, repairing the deck or decking the halls. But research shows that you're more likely to succeed at your tasks—and enjoy greater well-being—if you get some serious shuteye.  Of course, it's not easy to sleep when you're feeling overwhelmed. In fact, nearly two-thirds of Americans say they lose sleep because of stress. That's especially unfortunate because sleep combats some of the fallout of stress, and poor sleep has been linked to significant problems. 

6.     Create Joy and Satisfaction Do you have tons of items on your to-do list? Well, add one more. It's time to pencil in a little pleasure. Chances are, you simply deserve some joy and satisfaction. But if you prefer, you can think about the serious side of fun. Experts say good feelings can boost your ability to bounce back from stress, solve problems, think flexibly and even fight disease.  

7.     Eat Well – The right foods can fuel your mind, boost your mood and fight disease.  In an unhappy twist, good nutrition can help at time of stress, but that is exactly when we eat less well. Mom was right: You've got to eat well to function well. Just in case you didn't gobble up Mom's wisdom, here are some useful tidbits.

Among other benefits, good food can:

         boost your energy
         lower the risk of developing certain diseases
         provide fuel to your brain
         counteract the impact of stress on your body
         affect mood-related body chemicals 

8.       Take Care of Your Spirit – Praying, meditating or just connecting with your deepest self can enrich your life.  Eat your veggies. Get enough rest. Exercise. Those are clear suggestions. But you may be thinking, what in Heaven's name does it mean to "take care of your spirit"?  For lots of people, being spiritual means observing rituals, studying texts and attending religious services, well, religiously.  For others, it's not at all about traditional structures or notions of God.  You can think of spirituality as connecting to whatever you consider meaningful and holy.  You can find it in God, in yourself, in other people, in nature, art or kindness.  Whatever you focus on, spirituality offers many possible benefits, including better mood, less anxiety and depression-and even fewer aches and illnesses. 

9.       Deal better with Hard Times – Coping tools can help you through a rough patch.  Consider these tips.  At some point in our lives, most of us will face times that are extra stressful or that even shake us to our core. At those times, having strong coping strategies can make a huge difference.  Of course, exercising, focusing on your spiritual life and getting enough rest—and all the other Live Your Life Well tools—can be great supports in difficult situations. Other techniques can be particularly useful in dealing with tough times including  writing about a difficult event, problem-solving, and focusing on the positives in our lives.  

10.  Get professional help if you need it – Don’t hesitate to seek professional help.  Learn about therapy, medication and more.   If the problems in your life are stopping you from functioning well or feeling good, professional help can make a big difference.  And if you're having trouble, know that you are not alone: One in four adults in this country has a mental health problem in any given year.

If you or someone you know is feeling especially bad or suicidal, get help right away. You can call Contact Care-Line here in Marion 383-CARE  (383-2273) to reach a person 24-hours a day or the Marion Area Counseling Center at 740-387-5210.   Of course, you don't have to be in crisis to seek help. Why wait until you're really suffering?   Even if you're not sure that you'd benefit from help, it can't hurt to explore the possibility.  A mental health professional at the Marion Area Counseling Center, Inc. can help you.  Call 740-387-5210   The Marion Area Counseling Center; Enriching Lives / Enhancing the Community