To help millions of Americans deal with the stress created by the tough economic times, Mental Health America is recommending strategies to help people feel better and protect their mental health.

One recent poll reported that nearly 60 percent of respondents said the current economic situation is a cause of stress in their lives. And one-quarter indicated that anxiety is serious.

"This is a terribly challenging time for many people," said David L. Shern, Ph.D., president and CEO of Mental Health America. "But there are things people can do to take care of themselves during stressful times such as leaning on the people who care about them and focusing on the positives in life."

Here are some simple steps people can take to protect their mental health.

Take a problem solving approach:

- Sit down and list your problems and some possible solutions. Weigh pros and cons, and once you have some possible solutions, break them into manageable chunks. This process not only can produce concrete answers, but offers a sense of organization and control at a time that may feel chaotic and confusing.

Shift your thinking:

- Review the skills and strengths that have helped you rise to challenges in the past. You can rely on those abilities again now. Try not to blame yourself for matters that may not have been in your control.

Get support:

- You may feel like you don't want to worry your loved ones. But chances are they want to help. You can just enjoy each other's company or, if you're in a relationship, work with your partner to solve financial problems together instead of isolating yourself and struggling alone.

Focus on positive aspects of your life:

- Sure you have worries, but you are likely to have a lot to be grateful for. Thinking about those positives-or writing them down-can boost your mood.

Take good care of yourself:

- Exercising, eating right, getting enough sleep and taking time to relax are essential. You'll be able to cope better with stress and take care of those who depend on you if you find even a few minutes each day to refuel. Beware of turning to alcohol to relax. It may seem to offer a release but actually puts more stress on your body and can drag down your mood.

Watch for signs of excessive stress:

- Be aware of irritability, difficulty concentrating, headaches, stomach pain and fatigue. You might also see if you've developed some unhealthy behaviors, like repeatedly checking the economic news that mostly feed your fears.

Get professional help if you need it:

- Some people feel it's a sign of weakness to see a mental health professional, but it can be a sign of great strength to take the steps necessary to get your life back on track.

For more information or referrals to local services, visit the Mental Health America website at, or contact your local Mental Health America affiliate.

Through its national Resource Center, Mental Health America offers information and referrals to local resources and services. Individuals also may take Mental Health America's anonymous depression screening test at

If you or someone you know is in crisis now, seek help immediately. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to reach a 24 hour crisis center or dial 911 for immediate assistance.

Celebrating 100 years of mental health advocacy, Mental Health America is the country's leading nonprofit dedicated to helping all people live mentally healthier lives. With our more than 300 affiliates nationwide, we represent a growing movement of Americans who promote mental wellness for the health and well-being of the nation-everyday and in times of crisis. In 2009, we are marking a century of achievement with a year-long Centennial Observance: "Celebrating the Legacy. Forging the Future."

Mental Health America