Health and Wellness: Mental health boosters to try in 2022 – Daily Herald

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Have you felt stressed lately? You’re not alone! Value Penguin reports that, “nearly 8 in 10 Americans feel stressed at least once in a typical week — with 1 in 7 of them reporting feeling stressed seven days a week.” 
Focusing on mental health can be hard when worries about the coronavirus, the economy and personal challenges abound. But these challenges can provide a positive opportunity for growth.
“COVID-19 can be very isolating for seniors who are trying to stay safe, but it can also give people a chance to focus on their own needs,” says Cynthia Oliva, director of nursing at Cedar Crest Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, a skilled nursing facility in Sunnyvale, California. “Make a conscious effort this year to take better care of yourself — mentally, physically, and emotionally.”
With the new year rolling around, it’s a good time to evaluate your habits and see what could be tweaked or added to help you feel happier and calmer. This year, laugh more, try aromatherapy, relax deliberately, exercise and eat healthy. Here’s to a happier new year!
There’s nothing like a good laugh to lift your spirits and help you relax! The relaxed feeling you get from having a chuckle isn’t a coincidence. Laughing activates and then relieves your stress response, leaving you feeling calmer. It also helps your brain release more endorphins (the happy hormone) and stimulate circulation and muscle relaxation.
Aromatherapy can help you with anxiety and poor sleep. How does it work? According to, “[Scented] oils may activate certain areas of your brain, like your limbic system, which plays a role in your emotions. They could also have an impact on your hypothalamus, which may respond to the oil by creating feel-good brain chemicals like serotonin.”
Light a scented candle, use some lavender oil or hop into a bath with a scented bath bomb at the end of a long day to help yourself get some extra serotonin. 
Relaxing can feel impossible when you’re experiencing a lot of stress. That’s why it’s a good idea to get into a deliberate habit of relaxing when you’re feeling good. Then, when those hard times hit, you have an established habit to help you. Try some breathing exercises, close your eyes and tense and then relax one muscle group at a time or write down your thoughts in a journal. Habits like these can help you feel better.
When you’re feeling down or anxious, exercising can really help give you a boost. If you really don’t feel like exercising, don’t worry: Any physical movement will do! Play catch with a friend, do 10 minutes of yoga, walk down the street or lift weights while you watch TV. Exercising has the dual benefit of producing endorphins, the feel-good hormone, and helping you sleep better, which improves your mood.
Did you know that the foods you eat can make a difference in how stressed or down you feel throughout the day? 
“If stress, anger or sadness trigger your sweet tooth, remember this: The sugar high comes with a low afterward. This low can lead to increased cravings later,” according to the Cleveland Clinic. “And, sweets and processed foods can even make certain mental concerns, including symptoms of depression, worse.”
To help yourself stick to healthy snacks, prepare foods like nuts, popcorn or sliced veggies ahead of time. Then when you get hungry, grab a baggie or container of these healthy snacks to help yourself feel good throughout the day!
Have a happy, calm 2022 by laughing more, trying aromatherapy, relaxing deliberately, exercising and eating healthy. Tweaking your current habits or adding a new habit or two can make a huge positive difference to your mental and emotional health. 
Sarah Hilton, RN, has 20 years of healthcare experience and serves as Stage Marketing’s director of advisory services.
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