Friday, February 19, 2010

Maintaining Your Mental Health

As the final post of The View from Venus series, we will be talking about mental health. Mental health has a significant impact on our physical well-being.

I confess. I am a lover of chick flicks. Among my favorites are Sex and the City, Clueless and then there’s my ultimate favorite − Legally Blonde. The main character, Elle Woods, is a stereotypical blonde sorority girl who decides at the last moment to apply to Harvard Law School to try to win back her boyfriend. One thing I do appreciate about Legally Blonde is that in its silliness, it still manages to show real life issues. During her internship, Elle faces a problem with a professor that makes her consider quitting law school and going home. However, right before Elle drives off into the distance, her friends come to her side to support her through her tough time. Elle stays and ends up graduating at the top of her class.

I’m not a Harvard law student but I have been so overwhelmed that I almost threw in the towel. And I’m not alone. All of us have had one of those days. Between school, careers and family, life can get very difficult. The best thing that you can do to fight the blues is to recognize that you are going through a hard time and react positively. Here are some positive ways to uplift your mood:

Rock out! According to the Cochrane Collaboration, making and listening to music helps eliminate feelings of sadness. Find some positive music that makes you feel like you are on top of the world and turn it up!

Dance! Nothing makes me feel better than to put on a nice outfit, grab my friends and hit the dance floor. Research shows that dancing helps lift your mood and combat depression. If you aren’t able to go out, there’s no better place to dance than your own living room.

Exercise! According to the Mayo Clinic, short bursts of physical activity—as little as 10 to 15 minutes at a time — have been shown to improve mood in the short term. As Elle Woods puts it, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.”

Go outside! Studies have shown that sunlight helps the body produce Vitamin D. Vitamin D has been strongly linked to lifting your spirits. So get out! Even if you take a brief walk during your lunch break, the sunlight and air will help improve your mood.

Note: Having a bad day or going through a tough time is much different than depression. Symptoms of depression include
  • difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • fatigue and decreased energy
  • feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
  • insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • irritability, restlessness
  • overeating or appetite loss
  • persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" feelings
  • thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
According to the Uplift Program, 30% of women are depressed and 41% those women are too embarrassed to seek help. If you or someone you know is showing signs of depression, the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance can put you in contact with someone locally that can help.

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