How to Improve Your Mental Health on a Budget
Mental health is a critical aspect of overall well-being that is often overlooked and undervalued. However, with increasing awareness and education, more people recognize the importance of caring for their mental health, especially during these challenging times.
By utilizing community resources, practicing mindfulness and meditation, engaging in physical activity and exercise, establishing healthy sleep habits, seeking social support, eating a healthy diet, and using stress management techniques, anyone can improve their mental health on a budget.
Today, there are numerous ways that one can bolster and improve their mental health. But, unfortunately, for many people, the price tag can present a barrier. This article aims to provide an overview of the challenges associated with improving mental health on a budget and highlight some of the most effective and inexpensive ways.
Understanding Mental Health and its Connection to Financial Stress
Mental health refers to a person’s overall psychological well-being. It is a complex and multifaceted concept encompassing many emotions, behaviors, and thoughts. Everyone has mental health just as they have physical health.
Mental health conditions can range from minor issues, such as stress and anxiety, to more complex or severe conditions, such as schizoaffective disorders or depression.
Mental Health and Financial Stress
Financial stress is often considered a significant contributor to poor mental health – if not the biggest. Anyone who has been in dire financial straits can attest to this. Financial insecurity can lead to feelings of fear, anxiety, and hopelessness. These feelings can, naturally, hurt mental health.
What’s more, financial stress can lead to physical health problems, such as heart disease, and can also lead to problems in a person’s relationships and overall life satisfaction.
All of this is to say that if your mental health is suffering, experiencing financial difficulty certainly will not improve it. They say that money can’t buy you happiness, and that’s usually true – however, financial stability may impact your mental stability and vice versa. When you improve your mental health, you may be able to cope with financial stressors, too.
Inexpensive and Free Ways to Improve Mental Health
While the cost of therapy and other mental health services can be prohibitive for some people, there are many low-cost and free ways to improve mental health. Here are some of the most effective ways to improve mental health on a budget:
Mindfulness and Meditation
Mindfulness and meditation are often hand-waved as the go-to suggestion by someone who does not understand what a person is going through. However, it shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. Practicing mindfulness and meditation can help reduce stress and improve mental well-being.
It’s often praised and lauded online, especially in the mental health conversation, but what is mindfulness? The word refers to meditation that involves paying attention to the present moment and accepting it without judgment – being mindful and conscious.
Therapists often refer to ‘grounding’ as a form of mindfulness. Sit or stand where you are and acknowledge everything being touched by your five senses. What does the air smell like? What can you see with your eyes and feel with your body? Don’t be afraid to be descriptive.
For tried and true meditation, dozens of free guided meditations are available online. Different from the first one, your YouTube or Spotify search results turned up? There will likely be five more tailored to different needs and meditation styles.
Physical Activity and Exercise
Getting your body moving will do wonders for your mental health. You don’t need to be a gym rat or a bodybuilder to benefit from the natural release of endorphins that comes from exercise.
Squeezing in even a bit of exercise from time to time can boost your mood, reduce stress levels, and improve sleep. Physical activity does not have to be expensive – there are many free or low-cost options, such as walking. Taking a walk is also a great place to exercise mindfulness and meditation!
You can also find videos of workouts online. Be careful, though – do not work or move your body in a powerful way that it’s not used to, and be sure to warm up first. If you’re not an exercise regular, try something low-impact and gentle to keep your body moving.
No one feels good after a stormy night of sleep. But, if you’ve been having too many bad nights in a row, your mental health is likely suffering for it.
Sleep is a critical aspect of mental health, and sleep deprivation can significantly impact mood, energy, and overall well-being. Therefore, establishing a sleep routine, limiting exposure to screens before bed, and creating a relaxing sleep environment to improve sleep is essential. These changes are simple and inexpensive but can significantly impact mentally.
Social support is essential for good mental health, and having a supportive network of friends and family can help reduce stress and improve mood. Spending time with loved ones, volunteering, or joining a local support group are all great ways to connect with others and improve mental health.
You are what you eat, and while occasionally indulging in your favorite sweets or fried food might give you a brief moment of satisfaction, healthy foods will benefit your mental health in the long run.
You’ll want to focus on a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and lean protein. Not only will they assist your physical health, but they’ll give you more energy – thus making you feel better. In addition, minor alterations to your diet, such as reducing processed food and sugar, can significantly impact mental health.
Stress Management Techniques
Many effective stress management techniques include deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery.
But ‘stress management’ is easier said than done. Finding affordable mental health resources wouldn’t be an issue if anyone could whisk away their stressors. Here are some examples of how to manage your stresses:
- Relaxation Techniques: There are ways you can coax your body into relaxing, even when you’re stressed. Deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery are all things that can aid you in reducing physical tension in times when you’re mentally taxed.
- Physical Activity and Exercise: Once again, we turn to exercise. Part of the reason it is valuable for your mental health is that it works wonders for managing stress. Putting yourself in motion gets your brain to release endorphins, chemicals that help improve mood and reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
- Time Management: Don’t we all wish we had more time in the day? Time management becomes stress management when it allows people to prioritize their responsibilities and avoid that overwhelming sensation of being rushed. Find a schedule or planning system that works best for you, your lifestyle, and your needs.
- Laughter: They say that laughter is the best medicine, and we’re inclined to agree. Engaging in activities that bring joy and laughter, such as watching a funny movie, reading something that makes you laugh, and
- Journaling: Keep a journal! Writing down the things in your life that are causing you stress, sadness, or anger can help you ‘release’ those emotions and work through them mentally. It’s not just for the bad stuff – journaling out your gratitude will help you recognize the good parts of life, too.
Utilizing Community Resources to Improve Mental Health
Another fantastic way to improve mental health on a budget is by utilizing community resources. Countless organizations and programs outside your door provide free or low-cost mental health services. Besides those services, getting involved with your community may brighten your outlook.
Community Health Clinics
Many community health clinics offer mental health services, including counseling and therapy, at reduced costs. You can use apps like Zocdoc to find out who in your area can offer you a lower rate or free consultation.
Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)
What about your job? Many employers offer employee assistance programs, or EAPs, which can set you up with free or low-cost mental health services.
If you work at a larger company, see if your workplace has access to in-house therapy or psychiatry.
Many non-profit organizations, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and Mental Health America, provide free or low-cost mental health services.
While they may have more limited resources in some cases, having access to these may be better than nothing. These resources are best used in a crisis, but looking into them doesn’t hurt.
Reach out to government assistance programs to see if things like Medicare or Medicaid are accessible at low costs or for free. Usually, this will depend on your financial situation.
Improving mental health is essential for overall well-being and can be done without breaking the bank. Reach out to what’s available for free or at meager costs. Sometimes, a slight change is all you need to make a big difference.
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You may also be eligible for Lifeline or the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) if you qualify for specific government programs. Lifeline and ACP are government-run programs that help low-income consumers receive free or heavily discounted communication services.
Click here to find out more and apply for this valuable benefit.