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5 Ways to Improve Your Mental Health

Feeling stressed? You're not the only one. Eighteen months of a global pandemic is taking its toll. Call specialists for 211, the 24-7 resource that United Way supports across the US. and Canada, fielded 900,000 calls about mental health last year, and connected callers to local resources. If you need help, connect with 211 now.

The pandemic has disproportionately impacted the physical and mental health of people color, many who already suffer mental health trauma due to racism. Anyone who is a parent and cares for or teaches kids has seen the impact of COVID on kids. But 64 percent of parents believe the pandemic will have a lasting effect on their child’s development. Elderly people, even more isolated during the pandemic, have suffered from the lack of interaction, as one of the biggest predictors of mental health and well-being is social connectedness. Even before COVID, young people’s mental health suffered from too much connectedness, as excessive use of social media can fuel anxiety and depression.

There’s hope. There are self-care and coping strategies that are helpful no matter our age or race. As we join caring citizens across the globe to observe World Mental Health Day on Sunday, October 10, here are 5 ways you can help protect and improve your mental health:

1. Put yourself first. Treat yourself as kindly as you would treat others. Make time for the things you love to do.

2. Take care of your body. Good nutrition and physical activity can go a long way to protecting and improving mental health.

3. Keep good company. A strong familial or social network predicts good mental health. Make plans with others – even if you need to wear a mask and keep a physical distance – and make new friends through activities you enjoy.

4. Set some goals. Make them modest and manageable and enjoy the mental boost as you accomplish them.

5. Mix it up. Routines are good for efficiency and feeling secure, but trying a new bike path, hobby or project is good for our brains.

But you can do all these things at once! How? Volunteer your time and energy to help someone else. Research suggests that volunteers aren’t just helping the communities they serve. People who volunteer experience a boost in their mental health. You'll feel good – mentally and physically – and odds are you will enjoy your fellow volunteers, who have chosen to serve for the same reasons. Your local United Way can help you find the right volunteer opportunity for you.

Will you join us to help raise awareness around the challenges and opportunities to protect mental health? Use #WorldMentalHealthDay in your social media, share these resources and then, set a goal to volunteer to serve others, and yourself.