Taking Care of Your Body

Maintaining good physical health often helps your mental health as well. This section is full of tips and advice for sustaining a healthy lifestyle.

Get Active

Studies have shown that exercise can reduce anxiety and depression as well as improve mood, self-esteem and cognitive function. Working out can also be a healthy way to combat any troublesome side effects that may come with medications you take (e.g. increased risk for obesity). 

A study by the National Institute of Health (NIH) found that all it takes is 30 minutes a few times a week to produce benefits. All you need to do is hop on the treadmill at your local gym and turn on your favorite show. You’ll be done by the time the credits are rolling.

Don’t worry if you aren’t a gym enthusiast—other options for getting active include:

  • Biking
  • Swimming
  • Jogging
  • Competitive sports

Find what motivates you and exercise will never feel like “working” out.

Eat Healthy

Studies have shown that people who consume nutrient-dense diets tend to be happier. A nutrient-dense, healthy diet typically contains fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free milk products, lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, beans and nuts. Fats and sugars should be limited. Drinking plenty of water is also important.

For more information about how diet can affect mental health, visit Choose My Plate.

Avoid Smoking

In addition to being extremely bad for you, smoking is especially damaging for living with a mental health condition. Certain antipsychotic medications cause an increased risk of heart disease—smoking elevates this risk even further. Smokers also tend to break down medications faster than nonsmokers, which leads to increased doses and increased unpleasant side effects.

Quitting smoking will not worsen mental illness symptoms, contrary to popular belief. Though it can seem daunting, quitting is important for your mental and physical health. For more information on quitting, visit smokefree.gov.

Don’t Turn to Alcohol or Drugs

Alcohol and drugs may seem like an effective way to cope, but they can actually make a condition worse. Like smoking, substance abuse is higher among people who experience mental health conditions. Many commonly prescribed medications for mental health conditions have a combined effect with drugs and alcohol that can create dangerous, toxic situations.

We have so much more information on Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking right here.

Get a Good Night's Sleep

Sleep problems and mental health conditions can become a vicious cycle: A person experiencing an anxiety disorder could feel too anxious to fall asleep at night, leaving them frazzled the next day thereby increasing their anxiety, making it even harder for them to fall asleep the next night.

It’s important when living with a mental health condition to get at least 7 hours of sleep per night for adults and around 9 hours of sleep per night for adolescents. However, everyone is different, so it’s best for you to figure out the proper length of sleep your body needs.