5 Tips to Improve Your Mental Health

Published on
January 22, 2024 at 6:21:32 PM PST January 22, 2024 at 6:21:32 PM PSTnd, January 22, 2024 at 6:21:32 PM PST

How are you doing—really doing? 

With increasingly busy lives, rising cost of living, unpredictable weather, and intensifying global conflicts, life can feel precarious, to say the least. 

A recent study conducted by Mental Health Research Canada (MHRC) found that one in seven Canadians are likely to have moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety, and one in five are likely to have symptoms of severe to moderate depression. People in our partner communities also struggle against stress, anxiety, and depression. FH staff across the communities you support work with families to improve their mental health using tips and tools like these. 

Why not try them to improve your mental health? 

“Mental health is important because it can help you cope with the stresses of life, be physically healthy, have healthy relationships, contribute to your community, work productively, and reach your full potential.” - Eduardo, FH Guatemala

1 - Just Breathe

Stress can cause your mind to cloud over and your breathing to shorten and quicken, worsening the stress. In moments when you feel overwhelmed, your friends in Guatemala recommend simply breathing. Deep breathing and stretching helps ground you in the moment, relax your body, clear your mind, and calm you down. 

Try it!

1.Relax your body—shake out your arms and legs, roll your shoulders, gently move your head from side-to-side.

2.Place your hands on your stomach and imagine it is a balloon. Breathe in through your nose to expand your stomach and “blow up the balloon”. Breathe out through your mouth to slowly “deflate the balloon”.

3.Slow down your breathing—three seconds in, three seconds out. Repeat for two minutes.

2 - Identify Your Stressors

Families in our partner communities have had success reducing chronic stress by focusing on solutions. Once you name what’s eating you up, you’ll be able to find at least one step forward for even the most impossible situations. 

Try it!

1.Alone, or with a trusted person, write down your stressors and brainstorm simple steps you can take toward resolving them.

2.Choose one action to take today and make a plan–start small! 

3.Put your list in a place where you won’t forget so you can begin checking things off and regaining control over your circumstances.

“The key to becoming healthier mentally and emotionally is to “know yourself, recognize, manage, and analyze your emotions to face the various situations life presents.” - Eduardo, FH Guatemala

3 - Move Your Body

Mental wellness isn’t just in your head, it’s in your body, too! Moving your body releases endorphins—happy hormones that make you feel like you can conquer anything. Our community members find this practice calms the body’s stress responses and helps get anxiety under control.

Try it!

1.Assess your level of stress and decide what you’re up for.

2.If you have the energy, get outside for a bicycle ride, jog, or brisk walk. Hit the gym, if that’s your thing!

3.If you’re feeling really overwhelmed, put on some music and start dancing or do a few jumping jacks to get your heart pumping. If you have kids (or pets!) get moving with them simply by kicking a ball in the back yard or chasing each other around your apartment.

4 - Connect

Connection is the heart of being human. Our partner communities are experts at being present to each other! When you feel that tightening in your chest or like you don’t have the energy to get off the couch, they recommend you reach out and connect. 

Try it!

1.Take a stroll through a park, mall, or grocery store and connect by making eye contact, smiling at someone, or having a brief conversation with the cashier. 

2.Call a friend or visit a friend. Put away distractions so you can focus on the other person. Ask how they’re doing and listen to their stories. 

3.Join a group that meets regularly. Church, homegroup, book club, exercise pod, or a volunteer opportunity.

5 - Pray or Practice Mindfulness

Practicing mindfulness or meditation are powerful ways to manage anxiety or stress. There are quality, free apps out there that can help you incorporate these rhythms into your daily routine. 

Some Christians in our partner communities reach deep into our shared spiritual heritage to ground themselves in an ancient practice called The Jesus Prayer. Combined with breathing exercises, this prayer slows down your stress responses and centres you in the love, mercy, and real presence of Jesus. 

Said by believers since the 400s AD, it goes like this: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” 

Try it!

1.Breathe out slowly while saying, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God.”

2.Breathe in slowly while saying, “have mercy on me, a sinner.”

3.Practice outloud for two to five minutes in the mornings and evenings. Say the prayer aloud or in your heart in moments of stress or to stop yourself from saying or doing something you might regret because of stress.

The key to creating any new healthy habit is to start small. These tools can help you manage your stress in the moment, and provide lifestyle changes to keep you healthy in the long run.