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While most people will vow to exercise more, eat healthier and lose weight in 2016, many don’t realize that physical health and mental health are intricately linked. From deployed troops and new parents to college students and retirees, every day stressors can leave everyone feeling overwhelmed.

Depression is a common but serious mental illness which affects 19 million Americans each year.  Depression is also the number one cause of disability in the U.S. leading to approximately 225 million lost workdays.

Before we resolve to lose weight, we should consider our mental health. Just like the body, our minds are susceptible to illness, and without a healthy mind, our resolutions may be hard to keep. If you have been feeling sad, anxious or irritable for more than two weeks, it could be a sign of a more serious health issue. The new year is a perfect time to take stock of your emotions and incorporate resolutions that can improve both your physical and mental health.

Healthy tips for coping with stress in 2016:

  • Engage in physical activity or exercise. Studies indicate that the psychological and physical benefits of exercise can help reduce anxiety and improve mood.
  • Give back.  Helping others can also help you feel better. Volunteer at a homeless shelter, mentor a child or visit people in a nursing home.
  • Limit your alcohol consumption.  Problems with alcohol abuse or dependence increase your risk of developing depression or may exacerbate existing symptoms.
  • Eat a more healthy diet. Dietary changes can bring about changes in your brain structure, both chemically and physiologically. Those changes can help improve mood.
  • Try to set realistic goals. When making life changes, take baby steps.  When you have unrealistic expectations, you are at high risk for getting hurt, disappointed and depressed.
  • Stay connected. Spend time with other people, try not to isolate yourself. Confide in a trusted friend or relative about your feelings.

This New Year’s, it’s easy to take the first step toward emotional health by completing an anonymous self-assessment online at www.HelpYourselfHelpOthers.org. The screening website offers brief questionnaires for depression, alcohol problems, and other mood and anxiety disorders. The questions are designed to assess whether an individual may be at risk for a disorder. Helpful information and referrals to local treatment resources are also provided.

Let’s make getting mentally fit the number 1 resolution in 2016!

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