May is Mental Health month. Use these tools to care for your body, mind and soul.
By Julia Kayser Frisbie*
Healthy habits positively influence how a person feels and how his or her body functions. Good health involves not only caring for our bodies, but also our minds. Overall wellness is not possible without mental health. May is Mental Health Month. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is partnering with Mental Health America to raise awareness of the role mental health plays in our lives. Here are 10 tools that can you can use to improve your mental health:
- Stay connected. Nurture relationships with family and friends. A church or volunteer community can be a great way to connect with the people who are most important to you.
- Stay positive. UMCOR shares stories of hope from around the world with a message: You have the power to make a difference. Remember to extend the same compassion to yourself as you do to the people you serve.
- Get physically active. Exercise releases endorphins that can make you feel good and help your brain function at its highest level.
- Help others. There are underserved people in every community. Who could you reach out to? Do any organizations in your area have a need that your church could fill? Even if you can’t volunteer in person, financial gifts can offer significant help to people in need.
- Get enough sleep. Dr. William Dement has been an eminent sleep researcher for 50 years. “As far as I know,” he said in an interview with National Geographic, “the only reason we need to sleep that is really, really solid is because we get sleepy.” We may not know why, but his research shows that sleep deprivation can cause a mental fog, slower reflexes and emotional instability.
- Create joy and satisfaction. Laughter can be good medicine. It decreases pain and anxiety by relaxing muscles and, like exercise, it helps to release endorphins. So, if you can’t make it to the gym tonight, settle for a good laugh. Fellowship with your church community is another great way to bring joy into your life, and into the lives of people you care about. Or, like Monterey United Methodist Church in California, consider celebrating a Holy Humor Sunday together!
- Eat well. Food doesn’t just fuel your body; it fuels your brain, too. That’s one reason why UMCOR is working to boost nutrition around the world through its sustainable agriculture programs. Making healthy food choices doesn't have to be a drag. Local and seasonal foods are often the most delicious … and when we eat them in moderation, we enjoy them even more.
- Take care of your spirit. Cultivate a prayer life that calms and centers you. Lean on your faith community. Examine your beliefs and explore spiritual disciplines. Our ever-loving God is a powerful source of mental strength.
- Seek help during hard times. Crisis changes us, but it doesn’t have to break us. UMCOR’s Early Response Teams are trained to provide emotional support to communities that have been devastated by disasters. And congregations of The United Methodist Church across the world stand ready to respond in times of personal stress and grief. When you’re hurting, reach out to your faith community. Try to get even better exercise, sleep and nutrition than normal.
- Get professional help if you need it. Nobody needs to go it alone. Dr. Rea Scovill, a United Methodist in Oregon, is a retired psychologist. She writes in her blog: “Mental fitness, like physical fitness, requires that you claim it … to become mentally fit, you must find ways to train your mind to cope better than average.” Reaching out to a mental health professional is like hiring a personal trainer at the gym. It can be a good investment in your health.
United Methodist congregations minister with people affected by mental illness through prayer, support groups and honest dialogue. Support this work with a donation to Disability Ministries, Advance #3021054.
*Julia Kayser Frisbie is a writer and a regular contributor to www.umcor.org.