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Care for your emotional health this year

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(Springfield, Illinois) We're coming off a bad 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.

“Being emotionally healthy is vital for your overall health,” said Diana Widicus, MD, FAAFP, HSHS Medical Group Family Medicine physician. “Not only do you feel good about yourself, but you have good relationships, you’re aware of your emotions and have the capability to deal with them. When you’re emotionally healthy, you can cope with stress, anger and sadness as well as not being afraid to get help from a medical professional when needed.”

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 for most adults.
• Get regular exercise. Aim for 30 minutes of moderately intense physical activity most days of the week.
• Set priorities. Aim to find a healthy balance between work and play—and 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.

Dr. Widicus is a family medicine physician with HSHS Medical Group. She graduated medical school from Southern Illinois University School of Medicine and completed her family medicine residency at the University of Missouri. She sees patients in Rochester and Springfield. To schedule an appointment, call 217-789-3630.

Sources: American Academy of Family Physicians; HelpGuide; National Institutes of Health

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