Nicki Williams, MSW, APSW, Aspirus Director of Behavioral Health. (Contributed)

Column: Care for your emotional health in 2021

By Nicki Williams
Aspirus Director of Behavioral Health

We’re coming off a tough year. There’s no question that 2020 left a lot to be desired. That’s why it’s important in this new year to make a resolution to care for your emotional health as well as your physical health.

Health experts say when you’re emotionally healthy, you feel good about yourself.

Being emotionally healthy means you have good relationships. You’re aware of your emotions and know how to deal with them. You can cope with stress, anger, and sadness. And you’re not afraid to get help from a medical professional when you need it.

Here are five tips for improving your emotional health:

1. Accentuate the positive. Try to keep negative emotions and thoughts to a minimum. Focus on what’s good in your life – and what’s good about you. Forgive yourself for your mistakes and remember the good things you’ve done.

2. Lower your stress levels. Chronic stress is unhealthy for your mental and physical health. To help you manage your stress levels, try to:

  • Get sufficient sleep – seven to nine hours a night is best for most adults.
  • Get regular exercise – aim for 30 minutes of moderately intense physical activity most days of the week.
  • Set priorities – find a healthy balance between work and play, as well as between activity and rest.
  • Try relaxation methods like yoga or deep breathing exercises.

3. Get good sleep. Getting sufficient amounts of quality sleep is vital for your mental health. When you don’t get enough sleep, it affects your mood, energy, concentration, and ability to cope with stress.

4. Be mindful. This means being aware of what’s going on around you and accepting it without judgment.

When you’re mindful, you live your life in the present. Being mindful takes practice.

To get started:

  • Inhale through your nose to a count of four, hold your breath for one second, then exhale through your mouth to a count of five. Repeat frequently.
  • Go outside for a walk and take notice of all that’s around you.
  • Read books or listen to podcasts on mindfulness.

5. Strengthen your social connections. Our connections with others may help us live longer and healthier lives. Make time to visit with friends and family, even if the pandemic forces visits to be virtual.

If you or someone you love needs assistance with stress, anxiety, depression, or other emotional health concerns, Aspirus Behavioral Health has clinics in several locations staffed by psychiatrists, therapists, counselors, and other mental health professionals.

Primary care and walk-in clinic providers also have the expertise and experience to help and, if needed, can refer you to a specialist. Aspirus has clinics throughout central Wisconsin, including Stevens Point, Wisconsin Rapids, Nekoosa, Adams, and Marshfield, and can be reached at aspirus.org or by calling the Aspirus Customer Contact Center at 800-847-4707.

For more information about maintaining a healthy mind and a healthy body to help you stay emotionally well, check out the podcast “Emotional Wellness in Times of Stress.”