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Staying Well When You Have a Mental Illness

Watch what you eat. Sometimes, medicine can cause you to gain weight. Other times, eating unhealthy foods can cause weight gain. Foods high in calories and saturated or “bad” fats can raise your blood pressure and cholesterol. This can increase you chances of gaining weight and having other health problems, like heart disease and diabetes. Here are some short cuts you can take to healthy eating.

  • If fresh vegetables are too costly, buy frozen vegetables. They can cost less and last a long time in your freezer.
  • If you eat at fast food restaurants, many now offer healthy foods such as salads or grilled chicken.

Talk to your doctor to learn more about how to have a healthy diet.

Exercise. Along with a healthy diet, exercise can improve your health and well-being. Exercising regularly can increase your self-esteem and confidence; reduce your feelings of stress, anxiety and depression; improve your sleep; and help you maintain a healthy weight. Find a type of exercise that you enjoy and talk to your doctor. You might enjoy walking, jogging or even
dancing. You don’t have to go to a gym or spend money to exercise. Here are some things you can start doing now to get active:

  • Check out your local community center for free, fun activities.
  • Take a short walk around the block with family, friends or coworkers.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Make sure the stairs are well lit.
  • Turn on some music and dance.

Do something you enjoy. During the week, find time — 30 minutes, a couple of hours or whatever you can fit in — to do something you enjoy. Read a book or magazine, go
for a walk or spend time with friends. Taking time for yourself to have fun and laugh can help you relax, ease stress and improve the way you feel.

Connect with others. Spending time with positive, loving people you care about and trust can ease stress, help your mood and improve the way you feel overall. They may be family members, close friends, members of a support group or a counselor at the local drop-in center. Many communities even have warm lines you can call to talk to someone.

Substance Abuse
If you find yourself drinking or using drugs to cope, it is time to seek help. Although using drugs and alcohol may seem to help you cope, substance abuse can make your symptoms worse, delay your treatment and complicate recovery. It can also cause abuse or addiction problems. To find help now, call 800-662-HELP or visit
If you smoke, talk to your doctor about quitting. Smoking puts you at risk for problems like heart disease and cancer. For more information about quitting, call 800-QUIT-NOW or visit

For more information, contact your local Mental Health America affiliate, call Mental Health America at 1-800-969-6642 or visit If you’re in crisis now, seek help immediately. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or dial 911 for immediate assistance.

Staying Well When You Have a Mental Illness

Mental Health America

APA Reference
America, M. (2020). Staying Well When You Have a Mental Illness. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 29 Jul 2020 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 29 Jul 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.