Depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mental health issues can leave you feeling disconnected, isolated, disengaged and lonely. Here are some ways to reconnect with yourself and others this summer:
Engage and Reconnect
Make time to spend with family and friends. Take a summer day trip or vacation with your family. Stay local and hang out with friends at a barbecue. The National Center for Telehealth and Technology developed the Positive Activity Jackpot app as a tool for pleasant event scheduling in your area. The app allows you to plan group activities in a simple, helpful way. Give yourself permission to leave if an event becomes overwhelming, but make the commitment to go connect for a bit.
And thanks to technology, you can connect with others no matter where you live. You can easily reconnect with a relocated battle buddy via phone, text or social media. Real Warriors shares how social media can help maintain and strengthen existing relationships, and develop new ones regardless of your location.
Enjoy Summer’s Bounty
With heat and humidity, comes sunshine and fresh produce. Seasonal fruits and vegetables can revamp your diet and keep you healthy. Operation Live Well’s "Eat Well Live Well" cookbook offers some great recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner that showcase fresh, in-season foods. The recipes are dietician approved for the defense community.
Get outside and soak in some sunshine too. Studies show a link between low levels of vitamin D and depression. The National Institutes for Health concluded that sunlight can improve mood; their study reported that depression decreased in people who took vitamin D.
Exercise releases feel-good endorphins to the brain. It can relieve stress and divert the mind all while keeping you physically fit. Summertime allows you to diversify your exercises – such as hiking, biking, swimming, etc. A study conducted by the National Institute of Health found that structured exercise can alleviate symptoms of clinical depression with long-lasting benefits. Adults with depression that took part in the study showed significant improvements in anxiety, depression and self-concept.
Exercise is also a great tool for those coping with PTSD. The National Center for PTSD cites exercise as a way to take a break from difficult emotions, regain control, and promote a positive self-image. Exercise can also be a useful distraction from daily stresses and worries. The Human Performance Resource Center features new routines to try out in the gym or in your backyard.
Mindfulness has both physical and mental health benefits. It can improve posture and breathing, and help you maintain control and balance in your everyday life. Practicing mindfulness meditation can be a useful tool for mental health. Meditation can improve calmness and focus. Try and integrate a few short meditations into your day whenever you have a few minutes.
Improve Your Sleep
Sleep is important and the summer is a great time to reset your internal clock. For those with PTSD, having a set sleep schedule can help you relax and sleep through the night. According to the National Center for PTSD, a regular routine before bed along with a set wake-up time will help your body get used to a sleep schedule. DCoE also provides helpful tips for better sleep habits like avoiding caffeine or alcohol before bed and powering down electronics at least two hours before bedtime.
Seek help if you need it. The DCoE Outreach Center is a free service that provides 24/7 professional health consultants that offer customized responses and information resources on psychological health and traumatic brain injury.