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Add Mental Health to the Top of Your To-Do List

By Pam Dewey • mental health, mental health habits, mental health care, caring for your mental health, making mental health a priority, prioritizing mental health, taking care of mental health, mental health routines, mental health to do list, coping with depression, coping with anxiety, coping with mental illness, mental health routine • May 11, 2023

Creating a to-do list helps you stay organized and on track. Then, as you cross items off, you feel immense satisfaction. But are you adding mental health to your to-do list?

For many, the answer is likely no. And if you’re not, you may notice you’re feeling more irritable, tired and are quicker to get sick. Our physical health is closely tied to our mental health. To be the happiest and healthiest version of yourself, you must prioritize your mental health. Here are a few ideas to help you add mental health to your to-do list.  

Set aside time for yourself every day

If you’re a parent and/or a working professional, you probably find it nearly impossible to make time for yourself during the day. You’re typically running in a hundred directions: getting kids to school and soccer, picking up groceries, trying to hit the gym and then running from work to home to make dinner. But even just taking 20 minutes a day for yourself can be incredibly beneficial. Try waking up 20 minutes before your family rises (or before you have to rush to work) to meditate or do yoga. Or perhaps, find some space for quiet time in the evening to read or journal. The important thing is to create a routine and make it a non-negotiable part of your day.

Create a sleep routine

Getting enough sleep is important for both your physical and mental health. A set bedtime signals to your body that it’s time to go to sleep, making it easier to fall asleep. Experts suggest keeping it within a half-hour range, so if you pick 10 p.m., that means you’re in bed between 10 and 10:30. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine states, “Adults should sleep 7 or more hours per night on a regular basis to promote optimal health.” For adults, that means if you wake up at 7 a.m. every day, going to bed at 2 a.m. isn’t a healthy amount of sleep. You can also create a bedtime routine that tells your body it’s time to go to bed. The routine can be simple, like brushing your teeth, putting on pajamas, reading a book and then getting into bed.

Give your mind time to explore and play

Having deadlines and a schedule can make days more efficient and organized. While structure can be helpful, free time is also good for you. Make time to enjoy things you find inspiring or entertaining. You may dabble with painting or enjoy trying new recipes. Perhaps, you’ve been itching to teach your son how to play guitar or give your daughter drawing lessons. Or, maybe you’ve always wanted to join an adult kickball team. Exploring new hobbies and interests gives your mind space to play and explore. And remember, you can make necklaces just because you like making necklaces. Not every hobby needs to be a side hustle.

Spend time outside

Spending time outside is also good for your mental health. According to the American Psychological Association, “Contact with nature is associated with increases in happiness, subjective well-being, positive affect, positive social interactions and a sense of meaning and purpose in life, as well as decreases in mental distress.” Fraser Pediatric Clinical Psychologist Jael Jaffe-Talberg says being outside naturally regulates our nervous system and improves mindfulness. Not to mention, sunshine is a natural source of vitamin D, which according to Healthline is “important for typical growth and development of bones and teeth, as well as improved resistance to certain diseases.”

Nurture your relationships

Humans are social creatures, and if you ever doubted your need for social connection, the isolation brought on by the pandemic surely changed your mind. Your friends and family provide emotional support, keep you from feeling lonely and can give you an instant mood boost. Text your loved ones to say you’re thinking about them, or set up a regular phone call. Healthline also suggests you “meet up for a morning walk or breakfast,” or “schedule biweekly or monthly dinner dates.

Give yourself time to recharge

Some people feel compelled to be in constant motion. But everyone needs time to rest and recharge. That can mean snuggling with your dog while watching a movie. Resting can also mean taking a yoga class, hiking, lying in a hammock or reading a good book. Or, you may recharge by taking a long-deserved vacation. Do whatever you find relaxing, even if that’s as simple as taking a nap.

Take your medication

The CDC states that in 2020, 16.5% of adults had taken prescription medication for their mental health. For people coping with bipolar disorder, PTSD and borderline personality disorder, taking regular medication can be a particularly important way to control feelings of hopelessness, paranoia or mania. If you take medication for your mental health, consistency is crucial, to ensure it works properly. Set an alarm and use a pill sorter to remind you to take your medication.

Make mental health care a part of your routine. Take time for yourself daily, set a bedtime routine, leave time to explore interests, spend time outside, nurture your relationships with loved ones, take time to rest and if you take a prescription for your mental health, remember to take it each day.