The World Health Organization recognizes October 10 as World Mental Health Day. The objective of this annual observance is to raise awareness of mental health issues and mobilize efforts in support of mental health, which affects many people worldwide. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health from 2014, an estimated 18.1 percent of adults in the United States experienced a diagnosable mental illness, ranging from mild to significantly disabling impairments.
The theme of World Mental Health Day for 2016 is “Psychological First Aid” which focuses on supporting people who find themselves in a helping role. This may include those in professions such as law enforcement, health staff, teachers, community workers and firefighters who provide help to others every day in their careers. This theme may also be very applicable to those who serve as caregivers to loved ones.
It’s wonderful to be able to support others when they need it most, but the old adage is true – to best help others, it’s important to take care of yourself. A few ways to take care of your own health and well-being so that you can best be there for others in need include:
- Eat a balanced diet full of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and healthy protein and fat sources while limiting sugar intake. Especially important to mental health are omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids that are found in fish, nuts and seeds.
- Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity five times per week. Exercise releases endorphins which are stress-relieving, mood boosting, and can make dealing with stress easier.
- Get outside. Exposure to sunlight helps our bodies produce vitamin D which can increase serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter. Plus, any time in nature has been proven to relieve stress.
- Prioritize sleep to ensure you receive seven to eight hours of quality shut eye each night. Sleep has a significant impact on our mood and energy levels, which greatly impacts those around us and the care we are able to provide.
There are many aspects of taking care of ourselves so that we are best able to care for others. A great first step is recognizing the need and importance of self-care, and incorporating healthy habits into your life gradually. Those around you will benefit as much as you will!
For caregiver tips and resources, click here.