By KAREN McGIBBON

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S. (9.8 million, or 4 percent) experience a serious mental illness in a given year. Approximately 1 in 5 youths aged 13 to 18 (21.4 percent) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their lives, while for children aged 8 to 15, the estimate is 13 percent. These often invisible illnesses can be completely debilitating to the victim and can make performing everyday tasks extremely difficult, if not impossible. Mental health can have a direct impact on other life areas too, including educational attainment, sustainable employment, independent living, friendships, physical health and many others.

Maintaining good mental health is also one of the best ways to prepare for life’s difficult moments, both on a personal and professional level. A person can live with a mental disorder and still experience mental well-being, resulting in a balanced and satisfying life.

Try these tips to improve and maintain your mental well-being:

1. Treat yourself with kindness and respect. Avoid negative self-talk. Make time for your hobbies and favorite projects or explore new interests.

2. Taking care of yourself physically can also improve your mental health. Make a habit of eating meals that are both tasty and nutritious, avoiding cigarettes, limiting alcohol consumption, drinking lots of water, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep.

3. Surround yourself with people who encourage, support and bring joy into your life. People with strong family or social connections tend to be healthier than those who lack a support network.

4. Volunteer your time and energy to help someone else.

5. Learn how to deal with your stress.

6. Pray, meditate and practice mindfulness.

7. Set realistic goals. Think about what you want to achieve academically, professionally and personally, and write down the steps you need to realize your goals. Aim high, but be realistic.

8. Get help when you need it. Seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. It is important to remember that counseling works. People who get appropriate professional help can recover from mental illness and addiction to lead full, rewarding lives.

McGibbon has a doctorate and is an assistant professor of clinical counseling at Winebrenner Theological Seminary. If you have a mental health question, please write to: Mental Health Moment, The Courier, P.O. Box 609, Findlay 45839.

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