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May 3, 2022

There’s nothing like more daylight and warmer temperatures to inspire a fresh outlook and a renewed focus on feeling good. Here are some great ways to take care of your physical, mental, and emotional health as the seasons change here in Ashland.

Aim for at least 5-10 minutes of fresh air daily.
Spending time outdoors is a great way to boost your mood and reduce stress, particularly once it warms up. All it takes is just a few minutes of fresh air to feel rejuvenated. Warm weather is proven to boost your mood and reduce stress. Sun exposure also raises your Vitamin D levels which increases your energy levels.

Insert the outdoors into your daily routine to build a good habit: schedule time after work, on your lunch break, once the kids come home from school, after dinner, or before you head to the office in the morning—wherever you can fit it in!

Find outdoor places that bring you peace. They can be found all around our community or in your own backyard. Take a stroll down Main Street and sit for a while at Foundation Park. Pack a lunch and sit on a picnic table at Brookside Park.

Or go for a greater adventure—the Ashland County Park District has 18 different parks you can incorporate into your wellness plan. Set a goal to visit each one with a friend or family members to experience the joy and benefits of being outdoors.

Increase your exercise regimen.
The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise. It can be hard to start up an exercise routine, so look for things that you know you’ll enjoy, like outdoor walks, gardening, bike riding, hiking, or swimming, and ask a friend to join you. The best accountability is a set date and time with a friend or family member who is counting on you to workout with them.

Exercise does more than just help your physical health, it also has been shown to improve mental health. Exercise releases endorphins, the feel-good hormones, which give you that natural high after physical exertion. Plus, outdoor exercise can be as effective as antidepressants in treating mild to moderate depression and anxiety. One study shows that individuals who exercise outside tend to spend at least 30 minutes doing more moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week than those who workout exclusively indoors.

Declutter your life—physically and mentally.
Spring cleaning is a chance to throw open the windows, wipe down surfaces, and get rid of all the stuff that has accumulated over the last six months. A cluttered physical environment is known to reflect our internal operations, so if you’ve been feeling anxious and depressed, it might help to do some decluttering. Simplify your surroundings for a less stressful home and office working environment.

Even if your external environment is neat and tidy, your mind might still feel cluttered. Many of us think we can multitask, but it turns out that our brains can’t actually do more than one thing at a time. Instead, we’re just flying from one activity to the next, or back and forth again, which can be absolutely exhausting. Multitasking can lead to a whole bunch of unfinished projects, and that heap of work means more stress and anxiety. Try to complete one project at a time. This will give you the boost of accomplishment you need to keep going through the rest of your projects.

Decluttering can feel overwhelming. Start small. Take decluttering projects one room or one space at a time, limiting the amount of time you commit to the task each day. While you are decluttering your physical space, don’t neglect your mental space. Carve out at least 15 minutes to sort through your thoughts and feelings. Meditate or pray, journal or read, or go on that short hike outdoors we talked about above to clear out the jumbled thoughts.

Get a good night’s sleep.
With all of the fresh air you’ve taken in throughout the day and your more rigorous exercise routine, you should sleep like a baby! Not enough sleep can contribute to poor mental health, especially if you consistently get less than 5 hours of sleep a night.

To get a better night’s sleep, create a bedtime routine that helps you power down, so to speak. Turn off screens, take a bath, or read a book to reduce the stimulants that can keep you awake, and create a soothing sleep environment in a cool, dark and quiet room. These measures can help you go to sleep and wake up refreshed the next morning.

Make a diet change.
The fuel you put into your body is just as important as the activities you do to use that energy and recharge at the end of the day. Your brain benefits from a healthy diet just as much as the rest of your body. We all know we’re supposed to eat a balanced diet, but the temptations of fast food and packaged meals can often spoil our best laid plans.

Dramatic dietary changes can seem overwhelming and aren’t always sustainable. Instead of trying the next fad diet, identify one way you can make a diet change this spring. You might try to eliminate soda, reduce your caffeine intake, drink a smoothie at breakfast, eat one salad a day, cut red meat, or add one vegetarian meal to your diet each week. Once you’ve incorporated one of these changes into your diet, try to add another. This gradual approach allows you to feel accomplished and intentional instead of overwhelmed and stressed (remember that thing about multitasking?).

Set screen time limits.
The amount of time we spend in front of screens can have a draining impact on our mental health. Find the settings for your phone and impose some limits for screen time. You might be surprised by how much extra time you can find in your day for more life-giving activities simply by imposing screen time limits.

Take time to care for yourself.
Make space to meet your personal needs. Loving yourself is a part of being able to love others well. If you feel exhausted, anxious, depressed, or overwhelmed, it’s tough to be able to give more out of that empty tank. Schedule time to do some of your favorite activities this spring. Read a book, sit outside, take a walk, watch a good movie, or find some other good way to waste time…spending time doing activities you love is time well spent.

Sometimes, all the self-care in the world is no match for the circumstances that are impacting your mental health. If you feel like your ability to cope isn’t holding up, there’s help and hope. Connect with one of the MHRB of Ashland County resources to take steps toward a healthier and happier life.

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