Understand How Stress Affects You
Stress affects your entire body, physically as well as mentally. Some common physical signs of stress include:
- Low energy
- Upset stomach, including diarrhea, constipation and nausea
- Aches, pains, and tense muscles
Begin by identifying how stress feels to you. Then identify what events or situations cause you to feel that way. You may feel stressed by grocery shopping with your spouse when they’re symptomatic, or going to school events with other parents who don’t know your child’s medical history. Once you know which situations cause you stress, you’ll be prepared to avoid it and to cope with it when it happens.
Protect Your Physical Health
Improving your physical wellbeing is one of the most comprehensive ways you can support your mental health. You’ll have an easier time maintaining good mental habits when your body is a strong, resilient foundation.
- Exercise daily. Exercise can take many forms, such as taking the stairs whenever possible, walking up escalators, and running and biking rather than driving. Joining a class may help you commit to a schedule, if that works best for you. Daily exercise naturally produces stress-relieving hormones in your body and improves your overall health.
- Eat well. Eating mainly unprocessed foods like whole grains, vegetables and fresh fruit is key to a healthy body. Eating this way can help lower your risk for chronic diseases, and help stabilize your energy levels and mood.
- Get enough sleep. Adults generally need between seven and nine hours of sleep. A brief nap—up to 30 minutes—can help you feel alert again during the day. Even 15 minutes of daytime sleep is helpful. To make your nighttime sleep count more, practice good “sleep hygiene,” like avoiding using computers, TV and smartphones before bed.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs. They don’t actually reduce stress and often worsen it.
- Practice relaxation exercises. Deep breathing, meditation and progressive muscle relaxation are easy, quick ways to reduce stress. When conflicts come up between you and your family member, these tools can help you feel less controlled by turbulent feelings and give you the space you need to think clearly about what to do next.
Practice Mindfulness and Other Coping Strategies
The point is not what you do or how often you do it, but that you do take the time to care for yourself. It’s also wroth considering that it’s impossible to take good care of anyone else if you’re not taking care of yourself first.
Talk to Loved Ones. Stigma and a lack of understanding about mental health can make it difficult for people to share what they’re experiencing. Start by being direct. “I’m having a difficult time and don’t know what to do about it.” “Can I talk to you about something that’s bothering me without judgement?”
Attend Therapy: Psychotherapy, also known as “talk therapy,” is when a person speaks with a trained therapist in a safe and confidential environment to explore and understand feelings and behaviors and gain coping skills. During individual talk therapy sessions, the conversation is often led by the therapist and can touch on topics such as past or current problems, experiences, thoughts, feelings or relationships experienced by the person while the therapist helps make connections and provide insight. Studies have found individual psychotherapy to be effective at improving symptoms in a wide array of mental illnesses, making it both a popular and versatile treatment. It can also be used for families, couples or groups. Best practice for treating many mental health conditions includes a combination of medication and therapy.
Find out how to find a mental health professional.
Attend Support Groups: NAMI support groups exist to reassure you that countless other people have faced similar challenges and understand your concerns. Talking about your experiences can help. The idea that you can, or should be able to, “solve” things by yourself is false. Often the people who seem like they know how to do everything are actually frequently asking for help; being willing to accept help is a great life skill. Attend our peer connection support groups for adult individuals living with mental health conditions or our family support groups for those who have loved ones living with mental health conditions.