By Courtney Hott, Director of Legislation & Program Implementation at the Indiana Commission for Higher Education. Courtney is a licensed Indiana school counselor and school administrator. She practiced at all levels but spent most of her career in the field serving middle school students.
Mental health is a topic many are discussing right now. Although, not a lot of us really know how to take care of our own mental health. It is a complicated issue that is unique to each of us. In this post we will discuss what mental health is, other factors that play into your daily mental health, strategies to improve and maintain your mental health, what to do if you’re struggling with mental health, and finally what Indiana is doing to help Hoosiers’ mental health.
What is mental health?
According to mentalhealth.gov, mental health “includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being.” Some people think that not everyone has mental health, or that it only affects those who have anxiety, depression or some other kind of DSM diagnosis.
Mental health is actually something that we all have, just like physical health! And like physical health, mental health is something we should be actively thinking about and working on all the time! Maintaining good mental health can help you be happier over all and deal with life experiences in a positive way. If you are struggling with mental health and it is inhibiting your ability to live a full life, you’ll want to talk with a provider to figure out what’s going on.
How does self-care play into your mental health?
Self-care is a great way to contribute to your overall mental health. Think about it like you think about exercising for your physical health. Self-care does not have to be indulgences like spa trips, cupcakes, etc. It can simply be doing one thing each day that truly makes you happy.
We often hear the phrase “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” Self-care is a great way to fill that cup! So, how do you start incorporating self-care into your daily routine? Here are some ideas:
- Get up a few minutes before everyone else in your home and enjoy quiet time.
- Incorporate a movement routine you enjoy! Enjoy is the key word here; don’t run because you think it’s good for you. Find a way to move that honors your body and brings you joy! Dance party, anyone?
- Eat a well-balanced diet, but don’t fixate on it! Eating well and fueling our bodies is good for our minds. What we don’t want is crash dieting and strict food rules!
- Get enough sleep! Studies have shown people are happier and more productive when they get at least 7 hours of sleep a night.
- Notice the positive things in your life, whether it is by physically writing a list or just making a mental note. If you focus on the positive things happening in your life you’re more likely to feel happier!
How do boundaries play into your mental health?
Setting boundaries is another great way to practice maintaining your mental health. Having boundaries in your personal and work or school life is essential to maintaining a good mental state. For many of us, setting boundaries may feel selfish, but in reality we’re only hurting ourselves by not setting them!
Setting boundaries is not something that happens overnight; take some time to think about what your limits are and what has been stressing you out or upsetting you. Being thoughtful, but also direct, is so important when setting boundaries. Remember, boundaries are healthy in every piece of our life and look different for everyone. Some need to focus on setting work boundaries like not answering your phone or emails after a certain hour, others need to set boundaries with overbearing family members. Students might need to set boundaries to make sure they have time to relax and unwind, too. The biggest takeaway is that you shouldn’t feel guilty protecting yourself with boundaries! If you’d like to read more on boundaries check out this article from PsychCentral or the book Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend.
What can you do to improve your mental health?
A lot of improving your mental health overlaps with self-care and setting boundaries. What works for you may not work for others, and you may need to switch up your routine every once in a while. Just remember improving your mental health is an ongoing process, not something you do once and move on!
Baby steps are key, and you can start today! Psychology Today released “9 Ways You Can Improve Your Mental Health Today,” and it is a great place to start!
- Tell yourself something positive
- Write down something you’re grateful for
- Focus on one thing (be in the moment)
- Exercise (remember: move your body in an enjoyable way!)
- Eat a good meal
- Open up to someone (especially now! Human connection is so important!)
- Do something for someone else
- Take a break
- Go to bed on time
Where do you go for help if you believe you’re suffering from a mental illness?
Mental illness can strike anyone at any time. It does not discriminate, though it usually comes with warning signs. The National Alliance on Mental Illness has information on Warning Signs and Symptoms, so check it out. If you think you may be suffering from a mental health illness, you’ll want to seek help immediately. Signs and symptoms can vary person to person so talk to your health care provider. If you do not have a health care provider or are not able to access one check out the list of free resources below.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- Crisis Text Line
Other resources for students:
- Campus Health Center
- Campus Mental Health Clinic
- School Nurse
- School Counselor
- School Social Worker
- College Advisor
- Professors/Teachers/Teacher Assistants
- Resident Assistant
What is Indiana doing to support Hoosiers’ mental health in this time of need?
Indiana has taken huge leaps in supporting Hoosiers’ mental health. One major addition recently is bewellindiana.com. Be Well Indiana offers free resources on maintaining mental health and wellness as well as how to seek help if you believe you’re suffering from a mental illness. Remember, if you were physically ill you would go to the doctor and get help. Getting mental help is no different! There are many biological factors surrounding mental illness; it’s not your fault! Reach out today!
We know that many Hoosier students, families and educators are coping with school day closures and elearning for the next few weeks in response to COVID-19. Over the next month, our blog will be dedicated to college and career readiness activities that can be done from home. And, don’t forget to explore our classroom materials page for grade-specific college, career and cost activities.