Building a mental health toolkit

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SALT LAKE CITY — Everybody, at one time or another, feels overwhelmed by what life throws at them, and often, no one thing helps them feel better. That's why a psychiatrist at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute says it helps to have a mental health toolkit, an assortment of strategies for coping with the challenges.

Psychiatrist Kristin Francis said everyone's toolkit is different, but it might include:

Hydration: "How hydrated you are can really impact your energy levels, how clearly you're thinking, and consistent nutrition."

Sleep: "Getting enough sleep and good quality of sleep. So being cool in your environment, making sure it's dark enough, making sure that you go to sleep at a reasonable time and that you wake up at a consistent time."

Movement: "I like to say movement instead of exercise because I do think exercise in our society comes with a lot of expectations and a lot of people won't start something because I feel like I can't like commit to that. But just moving your body that can be doing laundry, you know, putting on a good jam and dancing while you're doing whatever."

Fun: "Having enjoyable things in our day. So, do you carve out time for joyful things?"

A glass of water being pulled out of a mental health kit as a reminder to keep hydrated.
A glass of water being pulled out of a mental health kit as a reminder to keep hydrated. (Photo: KSL-TV)

Francis suggests activities that give life purpose: "Are we contributing to the lives of others? Do we have meaningful connections?"

Mindfulness: "I think that a lot of people think it needs to be a formal practice, and it can just be focusing on what you're doing and being present for it. So when we're playing with our kids really being present."

Peter Cornish has dealt with depression and said he includes talking with family and friends as well as journaling in his toolkit.

"Something about the process of writing that actually helps get it out for you," he said. "It keeps me more grounded, you know, when you can write some things."

Cornish said if he's feeling especially low, he writes a letter to his future self as a reminder that even when he's feeling down, things will improve.

"One of the things that helps me is to recognize that we all go through those tough periods," he said.

Cornish writing to himself in the future to help with his mental health.
Cornish writing to himself in the future to help with his mental health. (Photo: KSL-TV)

Francis said it's important to recognize when a personal toolkit isn't enough, and you need professional help.

"If someone is finding that they really aren't fulfilling their kind of roles, responsibilities, duties, if they're not really getting by in their every day, if they're finding that they're feeling like life isn't worth living, that's always a sign to seek support," she said.

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Peter Rosen and Emma Benson


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