At Rochelle Community Hospital, we know that your health is very important. But what does being healthy mean? In order to feel your best, you need your mind and body to feel good.
Most people think of healthy as being a good diet and regular exercise. While this is very important, mental health and wellness is just as important if not more. So how can you assure you are mentally healthy?
Mental un-wellness can show up in various ways, but typically those that suffer from it experience feelings of stress, fatigue, chronic low energy, chronic pain, decreased enjoyment in activities you once loved, sleep difficulties, inability to perform typical daily tasks and emotional changes such as forgetfulness, being on edge, mood swings or feeling angry and worried often.
There are four dimensions in recovering your mental wellness. They are health, home, purpose and community.
Health: Refers to making healthy life choices. This can include choosing healthy food options and healthy activities, but also includes activities such as providing self-care through enjoyed experiences like journaling, reading, meditation, deep breathing exercises, taking a walk, etc.
Home: Your living situation should be in a state where you feel stable and safe. If you do not, please talk to trusted friend, coworker, clergy or call a hotline that specializes in your situation. We need a safe and stable home in order to recover from what life outside those walls throws our way. Like COVID-19!
Purpose: Having a sense of purpose provides us with internal reassurance that we matter. Find a meaningful daily activity that makes you feel needed. You could volunteer, tutor, create something and share with others, make baked goods for a friend or cook for a family in need. Contacting a church is also a great way to identify activities in your local area where you can help and get involved.
Community: As humans, we are social beings and thrive when we have a sense of belonging. Even introverts find community reading at a coffee shop, playing online games or keeping in touch on social media. For the more extroverted people, you can join a club or host one if there is not one in your area for the subject of interest to you. If you still are unsure of your safety related to COVID-19, Zoom and Skype meetings can help create that sense of community while still keeping you safe.
Self-care is very important in recovering your mental health. One thing to understand is that you cannot pour from an empty cup, meaning, if you give until there is nothing left inside you, how are you to even start taking care of yourself. You should always aim for a full night’s sleep since sleep helps us repair and regulate our bodies.
During sleep, we go in and out of different sleep stages and all of them are important. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is important in regulating our nervous system which controls our “fight/flight/freeze” response. With chronic stress, your body can get stuck in a cycle of “flight” and cause anxiety. Light sleep is important in mental restoration and deep sleep helps us physically recover.
In addition to sleep, self-care includes things that bring you joy. For some that can be going for a walk, while others may enjoy a hot bath or a nice cup of tea. Whatever brings you joy, make sure you schedule that time for yourself.
I would like to end this article with a quick breathing exercise that can help decrease anxiety and relax the nervous system. You can try this by breathing in for a count of two, hold for one, and then breathe out for a count of three. You can repeat this a few times and increase the counts as your body is able.
Choose Better, Choose Your Health.
Dana McKinney is a nurse educator at Rochelle Community Hospital.