VOICES: Make sure to “Check In On Yourself” this month

January is often viewed as a fresh start and a good time to set intentions for the year ahead.

It is also Mental Wellness Month, a national movement to raise awareness about mental health and call attention to the intersection of physical and mental wellness. This January, we at the Ohio Department of Mental Health (OhioMHAS) encourage you to resolve to focus on your mental and emotional health as a way to improve your overall well-being.

Under the leadership of Governor Mike DeWine, OhioMHAS seeks to make behavioral health care more visible, accessible, and effective so all Ohioans can live up to their full God-given potential.

Just like self-monitoring blood pressure or blood sugar to maintain good physical health, monitoring your stress level can promote good mental health. Stress is a normal human response, but chronic stress and unhealthy coping responses can, like high blood pressure, lead to health problems over time.

Our “Check In On Yourself” campaign is centered around identifying stress levels using a color-coded chart. The campaign encourages people to identify how they respond to certain stressors and take steps to manage their stress in a healthy way. Tips for healthy stress management include the following:

Check in on yourself: Pause to consider how you are feeling and note your stress level.

Find a safe space: Go to a place where you can be alone or with someone you trust.

Pause for a moment of calm: Take some deep breaths. Take a short walk. Listen to music.

Connect with others: Reach out to a friend. Show someone a small act of kindness.

Take things one at a time: Focus on one small thing you can accomplish right now.

Know that we are here for you: To speak with a trained counselor, call, text, or chat 988, 24 hours a day.

Healthy lifestyle habits, such as regular exercise, healthy diet, and adequate sleep also promote mental wellness.

The World Health Organization recommends at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a week or at least 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise a week, along with muscle strengthening exercise at least twice a week.

Research shows exercise at the recommended levels can reduce anxiety, depression, negative symptoms of schizophrenia, and suicide attempts.

Likewise, eating a healthy, nutritious diet is good for both the body and the brain. Studies have shown that eating too little or too much of certain vitamins, sugars, fats, and amino acids can influence brain function and behavior. Early research shows that even something as simple as eating breakfast could potentially decrease your risk of depression.

And we all feel better when we get a good night’s sleep, which for most adults is seven to nine hours a night. Adequate sleep can improve mood and mental function and can help manage stress.

If you have an established health or mental health condition, it is important to see health care professionals regularly to develop and follow a plan of care, including taking any medications or attending treatment appointments, as scheduled.

Mental Wellness Month is all about focusing on your well-being. It’s important to take time for yourself, set healthy boundaries, and ask for help if you need it.

While focusing on self-improvement in the New Year is commendable, it is recommended to approach goal-setting in a positive manner that promotes mental health. Your resolution should be attainable and tailored to you. If your resolution overwhelms you, break it down into smaller, more manageable goals.

Remember to go easy on yourself and focus on progress over perfection. Setbacks will happen, and that is OK. You are in control of your resolution and can set a new date to achieve your goal or change it altogether.

While January is observed as Mental Wellness Month, mental health doesn’t follow a calendar. A daily commitment to mental wellness can lead to a more fulfilling life all year long.

For more information about OhioMHAS and how we help Ohioans be well, get well, and stay well, visit mha.ohio.gov.

If you need more help or are in crisis, resources are available. Visit findtreatment.gov to find a treatment provider near you, or call or text 988 to be connected immediately to a trained specialist.

LeeAnne Cornyn, director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, has spent her career working tirelessly on behalf of Ohio’s most vulnerable populations — children and those who suffer with mental illness and substance use disorder.

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