By Bonnie Cook ~
When you have a mental illness, you may not realize how important your overall health is to your recovery. While poor overall health can make recovery harder, positive health can aid your recovery and help you feel better. Here are some things you can do.
Advocate for yourself. You deserve good health care. All too often, people with mental illnesses develop other health conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes, because their health is overlooked. If your doctor is not asking about your overall health, let them know it’s important to you and essential to your recovery.
Get the care you need. Get routine check-ups and visit your doctor when you’re not feeling well. It may be due to your medicine or a symptom of your mental illness. But it could also be a different health problem.
Manage stress. Everyone has stress. It is a normal part of life. You can feel stress in your body when you have too much to do or when you haven’t slept well. You can also feel stress when you worry about your job, money, relationships, or family and friends. Stress can make you feel run down and also cause your mind to race, making it hard to focus on the things you need to do.
If you feel stressed, try these strategies:
Watch what you eat. Some medicines can cause weight gain. But foods high in calories and saturated fats can raise your blood pressure and cholesterol, increasing your chances of gaining weight and health problems like heart disease and diabetes.
Try these tips for healthy eating:
Exercise. Along with a healthy diet, exercise can improve health and well-being; increase self-esteem and confidence; reduce stress, anxiety and depression; improve sleep; and help maintain a healthy weight. You don’t have to go to a gym or spend money to exercise. It can be as simple as walking, jogging, or even dancing.
Follow these suggestions to get active:
Every week, take the time — even as little as 30 minutes — to do something you enjoy. Read a book or magazine, go for a walk, or spend time with friends. Taking time for yourself to have fun and laugh can help relax, ease stress, and improve the way you feel.
Connecting with others is especially important, whether it’s with family members, close friends, members of a support group, or a counselor at the local drop-in center. Many communities even have warm lines you can call to talk to someone.
Taking care of “you” is also taking care of your mental health.