Skip to main content

Transforming the understanding
and treatment of mental illnesses.

Celebrating 75 Years! Learn More >>

Caring for Your Mental Health

Overview

Mental health includes emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It is more than the absence of a mental illness—it’s essential to your overall health and quality of life. Self-care can play a role in maintaining your mental health and help support your treatment and recovery if you have a mental illness.

How can I take care of my mental health?

Self-care means taking the time to do things that help you live well and improve both your physical health and mental health. This can help you manage stress, lower your risk of illness, and increase your energy. Even small acts of self-care in your daily life can have a big impact.

Here are some self-care tips:

  • Get regular exercise. Just 30 minutes of walking every day can boost your mood and improve your health. Small amounts of exercise add up, so don’t be discouraged if you can’t do 30 minutes at one time.
  • Eat healthy, regular meals and stay hydrated. A balanced diet and plenty of water can improve your energy and focus throughout the day. Pay attention to your intake of caffeine and alcohol and how they affect your mood and well-being—for some, decreasing caffeine and alcohol consumption can be helpful.
  • Make sleep a priority. Stick to a schedule, and make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Blue light from devices and screens can make it harder to fall asleep, so reduce blue light exposure from your phone or computer before bedtime.
  • Try a relaxing activity. Explore relaxation or wellness programs or apps, which may incorporate meditation, muscle relaxation, or breathing exercises. Schedule regular times for these and other healthy activities you enjoy, such as listening to music, reading, spending time in nature, and engaging in low-stress hobbies.
  • Set goals and priorities. Decide what must get done now and what can wait. Learn to say “no” to new tasks if you start to feel like you’re taking on too much. Try to appreciate what you have accomplished at the end of the day.
  • Practice gratitude. Remind yourself daily of things you are grateful for. Be specific. Write them down or replay them in your mind.
  • Focus on positivity. Identify and challenge your negative and unhelpful thoughts.
  • Stay connected. Reach out to friends or family members who can provide emotional support and practical help.

Self-care looks different for everyone, and it is important to find what you need and enjoy. It may take trial and error to discover what works best for you.

Learn more about healthy practices for your mind and body .

When to Seek Professional Help

Seek professional help if you are experiencing severe or distressing symptoms that have lasted 2 weeks or more, such as:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Appetite changes that result in unwanted weight changes
  • Struggling to get out of bed in the morning because of mood
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Loss of interest in things you usually find enjoyable
  • Inability to perform usual daily functions and responsibilities

Don’t wait until your symptoms are overwhelming. Talk about your concerns with your primary care provider, who can refer you to a mental health professional if needed. If you don’t know where to start, read the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Tips for Talking With a Health Care Provider About Your Mental Health. Learn more about how to get help or find a provider on the NIMH’s Help for Mental Illnesses webpage.

How can I find help?

If you have concerns about your mental health, talk to a primary care provider. They can refer you to a qualified mental health professional, such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, or clinical social worker, who can help you figure out the next steps. Find tips for talking with a health care provider about your mental health.

You can learn more about getting help on the NIMH website. You can also learn about finding support  and locating mental health services  in your area on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website.

If you or someone you know is struggling or having thoughts of suicide, call or text the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline  at 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org . This service is confidential, free, and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In life-threatening situations, call 911.

Suicide is preventable—learn about warning signs of suicide and action steps for helping someone in emotional distress.

Featured videos

GREAT: Helpful Practices to Manage Stress and Anxiety: Learn about helpful practices to manage stress and anxiety. GREAT was developed by Dr. Krystal Lewis, a licensed clinical psychologist at NIMH.

Getting to Know Your Brain: Dealing with Stress: Test your knowledge about stress and the brain. Also learn how to create and use a “stress catcher” to practice strategies to deal with stress.

Guided Visualization: Dealing with Stress: Learn how the brain handles stress and practice a guided visualization activity.

Mental Health Minute: Stress and Anxiety in Adolescents: Got 60 seconds? Take a mental health minute to learn about stress and anxiety in adolescents.

Featured fact sheets

Learn more

Last Reviewed: February 2024

Unless otherwise specified, the information on our website and in our publications is in the public domain and may be reused or copied without permission. However, you may not reuse or copy images. Please cite the National Institute of Mental Health as the source. Read our copyright policy to learn more about our guidelines for reusing NIMH content.