The internet is full of people telling you self-care isn't just taking a bubble bath (us included), but you already know that by now. You know it's more complicated than watching your favorite movie while eating your favorite ice cream, and you know there are typically much deeper issues at play than Ben and Jerry could ever solve.

But when your mental health is really taking a hit, making a tangible change can make a world of difference, both in the short- and long-term. Here are a few active ways to take more control of your mental health.

1. Try therapy.

It should go without saying, but if you're looking for lasting, impactful change — even not in tough times — therapy should be top priority. No amount of self-help books, inspirational quotes or vacations can replace the specialized work of a trained professional. If you're able, give it a shot.

2. Do something physical to impact the mental.

 

The more we learn about mental health, the more we discover how intertwined our physical and mental states truly are, and how even a small improvement to one can positively impact the other. But you don't have to run 10 miles every day to reap the benefits. Instead, think of it as scalable. Some days it might be an intense workout, some days it might be a walk around the block and some days it might just be remembering to put on your sunscreen in the morning. Every bit counts.

And if you really want to explore the connection between mental and physical, try one of the emotional wellness classes at Sixth House Studio that explore how we hold our experiences in our bodies and how to navigate full well-being.

3. Seek out groups actively bettering themselves.

Is this purposefully vague? Yes, and that's because we don't always know what will unlock certain things within us. Maybe this means visiting a support group or church, or maybe it's something more experiential like a mini wellness getaway in Copper Well Retreat's sage house yurt. Whatever you choose, knowing other people are on a similar journey is a game-changer.

4. Evaluate your environment.

We know a portion of our mental health state is predetermined through genetics, but much of it has to do with our current events. It's nearly impossible to assess your own situation fully, but do your best to categorize what is changeable — would a frank conversation with your boss keep you from getting snowed under? — and what is simply the product of your biological makeup or of life itself. In other words, what can you fix and what do you need to work through accepting (preferably in therapy)?

The Stress Factor

Stress, we know, has a direct effect on our physical well-being and can even cause a full health breakdown. The Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory ranks the most world-altering, stressful life events, and is designed to help you predict your chances of a breakdown in the next two years.

The list includes big life events like getting married, moving, pregnancy, retirement, a death in the family and divorce, as well as more everyday events like a change in your exercise routine or sleeping habits, even vacation. Pile those on top of two-plus years of a global pandemic and it's no wonder any given person's numbers are off the charts in 2022.

In the interest of solidarity, here are some recently reported numbers from the American Institute of Stress to help validate what (statistically) most of us are feeling on a regular basis these days:

  • 55% of Americans are stressed during the day (20 points higher than the global average)
  • 94% of workers report feeling stress at work
  • 63% are ready to quit their job to avoid work-related stress
  • 57% of respondents feel paralyzed by stress
  • 54% want to stay informed about the news, but following the news causes them stress
  • 76% say their workplace stress has had a negative impact on their personal relationships

Take the inventory and learn more about stress mitigation at stress.org. If you want more personal, localized help, check out our Mental Health Resource Guide.