This Is the No. 1 Mental Health Mistake You're Making Right Now

Times are tough right now, don't make them any tougher by having this destructive habit.

COVID-19 has brought countless challenges in addition to the devastating number of people who lost their lives because of the virus. As a result of the job loss, social isolation, and financial strain engendered by the pandemic, there has been a decline in the mental health of so many people in the United States that the issue is often considered a crisis of its own. In fact, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll conducted in mid-July, 53 percent of adults in the U.S. reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted due to worry and stress over the coronavirus.

But it's not only people who were already struggling with conditions like depression, anxiety, and substance abuse that are having a hard time. People without any prior mental health issues are finding these tough times are taking their toll, too. That's why it's so important you avoid these destructive mental health mistakes that you're probably making right now. And for more on maintaining a strong mind, here are 14 Expert-Backed Ways to Improve Your Mental Health Every Day.

You're not sleeping enough.

Photo from the top of young girl sitting on a bed, eating dinner and watching television

This is a tough one because sleep and mental health have something of an intertwined relationship. "Sleep and mental health go hand-in-hand, with many, if not all, mental health problems being associated with problems sleeping," the authors of a 2017 study published in BMJ Open found. "Although sleep has been traditionally conceptualized as a secondary consequence of mental health problems, contemporary views prescribe a more influential, causal role of sleep in the formation and maintenance of mental health problems."

We know it doesn't always seem like something you can control, but there are things you can do to improve your chances of getting yourself some quality rest. Here are 20 Life-Changing Tips for People Who Are Desperate for a Full Night's Sleep.

You don't get enough exercise.

Young woman is lying on the sofa and watching TV

You know exercise lowers your risk of heart disease, stroke, and other serious health conditions. But if you needed another reason to be more active, you might be interested in knowing that exercise has also been proven to have a positive impact on your mental health, too. A 2018 study published in the The Lancet even found that "in a large U.S. sample, physical exercise was significantly and meaningfully associated with self-reported mental health burden"—meaning study participants who exercised reported fewer poor mental health days than those who lived more sedentary lifestyles.

You're not managing your stress.

Shot of a young man looking stressed out at home

Everyone is under added stress right now, which can cause an increased risk of developing symptoms of depression. "When you're chronically stressed, you increase immune activity, which leads to chronic inflammation," Scott Kaiser, MD, director of geriatric cognitive health at the Pacific Neuroscience Institute, previously told Best Life. "This inflammation inflames your brain and leads to attentional issues and depression."

That's why if you're not doing things like meditation, going outdoors, or talking to someone to help keep your stress under control, you're doing your mental health a serious disservice. And for tips to help you avoid getting too overwhelmed, check out 5 Easy Ways to Manage Your Stress Right Now, According to a Doctor.

You can't stop "doomscrolling."

Woman looking at her phone on social media

Do you often find yourself looking at your phone, scanning headlines for bad news? If so, you are doing something called "doomscrolling," a term coined by New York University clinical psychologist Ariane Ling, PhD, that refers to the constant consumption of negative information. And while you can't avoid bad news entirely, you really should try to limit how much time you spend with it. It's seriously affecting your mental health, experts warn.

"The more bad news they consume through social media, the more likely they are to think situations are worse than they are and the more likely they are to experience anxiety, depression, and difficulty sleeping as a result," Mai-ly Nguyen Steers, PhD, assistant professor in the School of Nursing at Duquesne University, recently told Forbes. "For instance, reading about more and more people contracting COVID could lead you to be hyper-vigilant and not want to leave your house, even to take a walk." And for more helpful information about mental health and more delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.