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Mental Health

May is mental health awareness month!  As you may recall, our first blog, “A Healthy Balance,” emphasized the importance of creating a balance among essential aspects of human well-being.  These include mental health, physical health, and social health.  Just as we sense hunger or physical illness, our bodies also communicate when there are mental health issues that require our attention.  For the purpose of this blog, we will focus on mental health and the importance of being able to listen to your body to be able to recognize the signs it sends when it needs help.

What is mental health?

 When we talk about mental health, we refer to our emotional, psychological, and social well-being [1].  Unfortunately, there is so much stigma related to mental health.  Some people see this as a weakness; because of that, many do not even want to talk about what they are going through, let alone seek treatment.  Educating yourself on different topics regarding mental health is key to ending this stigma.  Mental health is very important at every stage in life as it can affect so many aspects of it when not properly taken care of.  When we are dealing with problems related to mental health, it can really affect our day-to-day as it affects how we feel, how we act and react.  Have you ever been so stressed that you have done something out of character?  This reaction could occur when our body has been taking on too much for too long, can no longer hold space for more, and just reacts in an unexpected way.  You can’t pour into a cup that is already full; it will only overflow.

There are different factors that contribute to mental health disorders and conditions.  Some are hereditary, as when there has been a person or several in the family with a mental health condition.  Another factor is whether or not the person has been exposed to any kind of trauma or abuse in their lifetime.  Another big one is the brain.  Brain structure, faulty neural connections, wiring, and the use of alcohol and drugs [7] can all affect mental health in different ways.

At times, the coping mechanisms we have created for life stressors are not doing the job, and it might become overwhelming for us to deal with the symptoms.  Similar to physical health, untreated mental health symptoms can lead to actual disorders or conditions that require more than just regular coping mechanisms.  For example, a naturally occurring response like stress, if left untreated without an effective coping mechanism it could become severe and overwhelming over time and develop into anxiety.  Some examples of mental health conditions could be excessive stress, anxiety, rage, excessive fear, obsessive tendencies, eating disorders, depression, etc.

What does caring for your mental health look like?

This can mean very different things for each person, as we do not all need, enjoy, feel, or even care for the same things or even the same people.  For some people, caring for their mental health can mean reading a book, exercising, meditating, practicing yoga, eating balanced meals, going to therapy, treating yourself to something they really enjoy, or being with loved ones.  Some might feel that for them, it is socializing, while for others, it can be staying home and relaxing.  It should be an activity that brings you a sense of relaxation and joy and does not create any stress, tension, or worries.

There are some cases that are a little more severe and might require the help and guidance of professionals.  Some might require not only therapy but also medication.  An excellent place to start when feeling that it might be out of your control is to talk to your primary care physician about the symptoms that you have been experiencing.  Your PCP will then be able to guide you to the specialist they consider is the most appropriate option for the symptoms.

There are several mental health test options online that can be helpful, but it is important to note that these tests do not replace a professional’s diagnosis.  As stated on the MHA (Mental Health America) website, the mental health test or screening is a quick way to determine if you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition [2].  Therefore, these tests might help you determine if there is a need to visit a PCP, who can then guide you in the right direction.

Creating space for coping

Here are some useful tips to try as coping mechanisms.  Notice how your body reacts to them and what works for you when trying to deal with life stressors.

•     Awareness: Be aware of your feelings do not try to suppress them; allowing yourself to feel helps you process and let go of negative feelings.

•     Meditating: As explained on the Everyday Health website [3], several studies have shown a correlation between meditation and improvement of mental health.

•     Exercising: Moving our bodies will help release tension accumulated throughout the day and, at the same time, help you relax.

•     Good sleep: As important as sleep is for our physical health, it is also as important for our mental health.

•      Resting: Taking breaks throughout the day is also important; disconnecting from stressors is a healthy way to cope.

It is important to educate yourself on mental health topics and reach out to professionals who can guide you through the process if needed.  Mental health is something that needs to be taken care of as we do with our physical health.  It is something that needs to be “fed,” healed, and at times medicated; it is different for each person, which is why it is so important to learn about symptoms, ways to address them, and who to talk to or who to ask.

5 Mental Health Facts

  1. One in 5 American adults will experience a mental health condition in any given year [1].

  2. 42.5 million US adults deal with anxiety disorders [2].

  3. People with severe mental disorders die 10 to 20 years earlier than the general population [4].

  4. Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide [5].

  5. 80-90% of people who seek the necessary form of mental health treatment can function the way they used to [6].



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