Are you sabotaging your own happiness? What you’re doing – and not doing – could be keeping you from a happy, healthy life. Mental wellness is one of our passions at the Healthy365 Connection Center, and we want you to enjoy the happiness every person needs. Let’s look at some of the risk factors that endanger your contentment and talk about how you can turn things around with simple changes.
1. Lack of a good sleep routine
What’s so great about sleep? Those hours of peaceful slumber allow your brain to get ready for the demands of the day. While you’re snoozing, your brain is working to develop new pathways and enable better thinking and memory. Sleep deficiency does more than make you tired. Over time, you could notice that you’re having trouble making decisions and solving problems. You may also experience an increased risk of suicide, depression and risky behavior.
Most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep daily. Are you struggling to fall asleep and stay asleep? A good sleep routine gives you a head start to being happy:
- Stick to a sleep schedule, going to bed and getting up at around the same time each day, even on weekends.
- Turn off the screens 30 minutes before you go to bed. Go old-school and read a book instead. (Remember that novel you were assigned in high school that put you to sleep every time you started reading it? Use that for nights that nothing else seems to work!)
- Resist the urge to take a daytime nap.
- Use nicotine, caffeine and alcohol sparingly at bedtime.
If you are regularly experiencing sleepless nights, see your physician. Many sleep issues can be addressed medically.
2. Unmanaged stress
We all encounter stress during our day. Our bodies are actually quite adept at reacting to stressful situations – our muscles can tense, our hearts will race and our short-term memory becomes more effective during this “fight or flight” reaction that helps us escape dangerous situations. That’s not a bad thing, especially if you’re trying to meet a deadline or running from a tiger. But too much stress can strain our mental health and interfere with our happiness. If stressful situations are causing you to withdraw or feel perpetually anxious, you may experience long-term consequences. Unmanaged stress may also be linked to substance misuse.
Nobody can completely avoid stress in their lives, but anyone can take steps to address stress appropriately. Consider working these habits into your daily routine:
- Exercise regularly. Exercise gives those “fight or flight” hormones something to do and helps them work through our bodies.
- Find a hobby. You don’t have to be Picasso to enjoy painting. Carve out time to do something you enjoy.
- Make a list. Your responsibilities can seem overwhelming, but sometimes it helps to write them down. Pick the easiest task first so you can enjoy the rush of scratching it off the list when you’re done. If you can’t finish the list, give yourself permission to work on it again tomorrow.
3. An unhealthy diet
A handful of peanut butter cups may give you an instant sugar rush during the day, but they’re not the answer to long-term happiness. Instead, consider that Mom may have been right when she told you to eat your vegetables. Healthy food choices can have positive implications on our mental health and well-being and may even make us happy. But it’s not always easy to make healthy eating decisions, especially if food has emotional implications. Remember, you don’t have to struggle for mental wellness alone. Talk to your physician about nutritional resources or check out the nutrition and weight loss programs through Hancock Health.
4. Physical inactivity
A century ago, people’s daily activities included more active minutes. Your great-grandmother spent the day working in her garden, canning the produce and sweeping the floor with a broom. Your great-grandfather stood at a factory machine all day. Even people who were lucky enough to own an automobile weren’t as dependent as we are today. Combine this with an abundance of sedentary pastimes and screen-related activities, and we’re missing out on the relationship between physical activity and overall happiness. Physical activity can help your brain release endorphins, those feel-good neurotransmitters that can boost your mental health.
According to the World Health Organization, adults need a minimum of 150 to 300 minutes of moderate activity each week or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous activity. If that sounds intimidating, consider that it averages to about 21 minutes daily on the low end. Are you looking for ways to add more activity into your life? Consider these options:
- Find something you like to do. Give yourself a chance to explore different exercise options, from outdoor walking to working on the machines at one of the state-of-the-art Hancock Wellness Centers.
- Build in exercise throughout the day. Park far away from your office entrance. Take the stairs. Do some stretching exercises while dinner is in the oven.
- Involve the family. Busy parents may feel like they don’t have time to exercise. Invest in an exercise stroller or take the kids on a family bike ride.
5. Tobacco use
Almost everyone knows that smoking isn’t good for you. But did you know it can make you unhappy as well? Despite the stereotype of enjoying a relaxing cigarette, tobacco actually increases your stress levels and anxiety. Smoking has also been linked to depression and other mental health problems, which can put a hurt on your happiness levels. If you’re ready to kick the habit, talk to a medical professional about different strategies.
Many factors also play a role in your daily happiness, including issues related to substance misuse, recreational drug use and the harmful use of alcohol. You don’t have to tackle life alone. The Healthy365 Connection Center was designed to assist Hancock County residents who are struggling with life’s challenges. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance misuse, depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions, reach out to the Healthy365 Connection Center now at 317-468-4231. Our support navigators can help connect you to important resources throughout the community. Let us help you find the happiness everyone deserves.
If you are struggling with depression, substance misuse, anxiety or other mental health concerns, you may want to seek out therapy or support groups. You won’t be alone. In 2021, about 41.7 million adults in the United States received mental health treatment or counseling. That’s one of the many reasons the Healthy365 Connection Center exists – to connect residents with local mental health resources.
However, finding the right therapist, support groups or a combination of treatments can be tricky. It is important to find someone you click with, and you may need to work with more than one option to address your mental health needs. Are you wondering where to start? We have some suggestions to help you begin your journey to recovery.
1. Check your insurance coverage
Health insurance policies may have limits on mental healthcare and providers. For instance, a policy may encourage its members to choose a provider from an established network of therapists and mental health professionals. If you opt to use someone who is not within this network, you may have to pay more money out-of-pocket. Other policies can limit the number of visits they will pay for each month. Do your homework first so there are no surprises when the bill arrives.
2. Look into your company’s employee assistance program
Many employers offer an employee assistance program to assist their employees with mental health challenges. The program may cover short-term counseling, referrals and follow-up services. You’ll still want to doublecheck that a therapist is covered by your insurance policy, especially if you expect to need continued treatment.
3. Talk to your doctor
Your doctor may be able to refer you to a therapist who can help you address specific mental health concerns. Therapists may have specialties like substance misuse issues or family concerns. Just as you want to see a cardiologist for a heart ailment, you want to work with a therapist who specializes in treating your particular mental health challenges.
4. Ask your friends or colleagues
Mental healthcare is as valid and important as physical healthcare, but we often are reluctant to admit that we need professional help. You may be surprised to discover that many of your friends and colleagues have experienced mental health challenges, and some of them may be able to refer you to a trusted mental health professional.
5. Do an online search
It’s the 21st century. Many online tools offer databases of local mental health providers. Check out the American Psychological Association’s psychologist locator or the Psychology Today therapist directory.
6. Try out several options
Finding the right therapy match can involve some trial and error. If you attend a few sessions and still don’t feel comfortable, look for new options. You deserve a therapist you trust and feel comfortable working with. Therapy isn’t always easy, but the right therapist can make it more effective.
7. Consider support groups
Mental health struggles can leave people feeling very alone. A support group puts you in touch with other people who are experiencing similar challenges. For many people, support groups offer a way to find emotional strength in difficult times. Did you know that Hancock Health hosts a number of these groups? You can find out more here.
8. Let the Healthy365 Support Navigators connect you with local mental health resources
The Healthy365 Connection Center has a team of support navigators who work with Hancock County residents in need of mental health support and substance misuse treatment options. When you reach out to a support navigator, you get more than just a list of therapists and programs. You’ll also find a caring community partner who will offer a confidential listening ear and non-judgmental feedback about local resources.
If you are a Hancock County adult struggling with life’s many challenges, including substance misuse, depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions, reach out now to the Healthy365 Connection Center by calling 317-468-4231 or stopping by the center at 120 W. McKenzie Road, Greenfield, during regular business hours. Your mental health is important. Let us help you take care.
April is National Stress Awareness Month, so let’s check out some new strategies for combatting the stress in your life. Did you know that stress affects more than just your brain? Unchecked stress can lead to muscle tension, chronic pain, shortness of breath and a reduced immune response. It can also exacerbate respiratory disorders, heart disease and other ailments.
Ideally, you can relieve stress by taking care of the issue that is causing it. If you’re overscheduled, consider shedding a few commitments. If your job is a poor fit, take a deep breath and think about looking for a new position. But not every stress trigger can be eliminated, which is why you often must look at other activities that reduce the effects of stress and help you find some peace of mind. Let’s dig in.
How do activities affect your stress level?
Certain activities can play an important role in helping you slow down and manage your current stressors. Every person is different, and different stress levels call for different solutions. The next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, consider trying one of these outside-the-box stress management tools:
Exercise in general is a great stress reliever. When you’re experiencing stressful situations, your body produces a hormone known as cortisol. This hormone causes your heart rate and blood pressure to increase, which can come in handy during stressful situations like being chased by a bear. However, most of us are lucky enough to avoid bears, and cortisol can build up in our bloodstreams and lead to problems like increased blood sugar, weight gain and digestive problems. Enter exercise. Exercise tells your brain to release chemicals called endorphins, which relieve pain and can help lower cortisol levels in your blood. It’s one of the best tools for combatting the physical effects of stress.
Sure, you could train for a marathon or jump on a bike, but why not consider ballroom dancing? Let the flowing motions of a waltz free your mind from today’s worries. Channel your extra energy into a passionate tango. As an added benefit, you’ll impress all your relatives at the next family wedding!
Studies show that music can reduce the perception of psychological stress and increase coping abilities. Thank back to your happiest moments. You may find that music from that era triggers happy memories. Summer is the perfect time to carve out some time for outdoor summer concerts. Check out what’s happening locally, pack a picnic dinner or some fancy cheese and crackers, and treat yourself to an evening of stress relief!
You may believe that a professional massage is a frivolous form of indulgence. But a massage can have a profound effect on the stress levels in your body. Sure, it feels good, but did you know that a massage also helps loosen those tight muscles that have contracted over time? Massage triggers a relaxation response through the release of serotonin, a hormone that can stabilize your mood. It may even help your brain regulate its stress levels. Consider carving out part of your budget for an occasional massage, to give your body an edge against the ravages of stress.
Remember when the pandemic first struck, and almost everyone was inside working on jigsaw puzzles? It turns out that this boredom buster was also helping our bodies combat the effects of stress. Stress can make you feel like your brain is racing. Sitting down at a table of 500 pieces forces you to slow down and make deliberate choices. You also get an extra boost of positive reinforcement every time you find that elusive puzzle piece. If jigsaw puzzles aren’t your thing, consider crossword puzzles or number puzzles. While it’s fine to solve the problems on your phone or computer, why not go old-school and buy a puzzle book? You’ll also get to enjoy the delicious tactile sensation of pressing your pencil against the paper.
Swimming is a low-impact sport that is a great option for anyone at any age. It’s also a useful tool for reducing stress. A study commissioner by the Speedo company reported that 74% of respondents said swimming helps release stress and tension. Swimming is an aerobic exercise, which means it forces your body to burn more oxygen and can have a beneficial effect on your heart. Hancock Health’s three convenient Hancock Wellness Center locations feature indoor aquatics for lap swimming in any type of weather.
Reconnect with an old friend
Life gets in the way. The people who used to be your best buddies have moved away and lost touch. You think of each other fondly, but you haven’t spoken in years. Maybe it’s time to reconnect. Reaching out is often a welcomed connection for all parties. Go online, search for your high school BFFs, and send them notes. Treat yourself to a conversation full of reminiscing over happy memories.
Are you struggling with mental health concerns related to stress? The Healthy365 Connection Center is a free and confidential service designed to connect Hancock County residents with local resources. Stop by the Healthy365 Connection Center at 120 W. McKenzie Road, Suite G, in Greenfield, or call us at 317-468-4231.