Mental health is something that affects all of us. Whether you are dealing with day-to-day mental health or handling mental illness, taking steps to improve mental health is important. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to help take positive steps with your mental health.
Why Is Taking Care of Mental Health Important?
To take care of our physical health, we get regular checkups, we eat right, and we go to a doctor if something is wrong. If we need to rest to get over a cold or take medicine to handle adverse symptoms, we do that. Unfortunately, this same care isn’t always given to our mental health.
While physical health deals with our bodies, mental health is concerned with our psychological, emotional, and social state of being. In other words, it affects almost everything we do.
Think about it this way – if your leg is broken, you might have to wear a cast and use crutches. The same goes for mental health, if you are dealing with a problem you will see that problem affect other aspects of your life.
There are a lot of things that can affect your mental health. This can be the things going on directly around you such as work, school, or relationships. It can also be something that happened in the past. Many people who have suffered a traumatic event struggle with their mental health later on.
Aside from what you are and have experienced, though, some people suffer mental health problems due to genetics. This is why it isn’t uncommon to see similar mental health problems carry through a family line.
All in all, mental illness or neurological disorders affect every 1 in 4 people at some point in their lives. Even more concerning, 1 in 25 people in the United States suffer from serious mental illness such as major depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia.
Even if you don’t have a problem with an official mental illness, it’s still important to take care of your mental health. For example, regular, everyday stress can build up to a significant problem if it isn’t handled properly. This means that it’s absolutely crucial to understand how to take care of yourself and your mental health.
1. Develop Coping Skills
The first thing you can do to protect your mental health – whether you are stressed or are working with a mental illness – is to learn ways to cope with the daily grind and the stress that it brings.
One example would be to find a hobby that interests you or that you are passionate about. One such hobby might be the new fad of 2018 – woodworking! If you are interested in woodworking, it can be a great way to try something new and maybe even earn some extra cash with your creations.
Finding a hobby such as this can also help you get into a flow. Psychologically speaking, being in a flow is a state in which you are completely focused on what you’re doing and feel energized working on it. This can give you a chance to escape from the stress of the day for a little bit by getting your mind off of things.
You can also do little things at your desk to help you keep it together. For instance, you can roll your head or massage your neck to relieve some of the tension. You can also use some more well-known techniques such as deep breathing.
Also take the time to laugh! Even if you are in a foul mood, try to take a few moments with friends to tell jokes and laugh together. This is because when you laugh or even just smile, your brain releases dopamine and endorphins – both of which boost your mood. Laugh therapy even exists to help individuals boost their mood through laughter!
Another coping skill you might not know about is simply going outside. You don’t need to go on a long, strenuous hike either. Instead, a peaceful 90-minute walk can be just the thing for you. One study showed that this can decrease activity in the region of the brain that is active when we are thinking negative thoughts; the subgenual prefrontal cortex.
2. The Link Between Mental and Physical Health
Have you ever noticed that when you feel sick, you feel more stressed? Have you also noticed that after you’ve had a great workout, you feel like your mood has lifted? This is because our mental health and physical health have a link between them.
First and foremost, you should make sure to look after your physical health. If you feel sick, go to the doctor. Additionally, make sure you eat right and drink plenty of water.
For now, let’s take a look back at the positive impact of exercise. Not only does this help keep your physical health up but it releases endorphins that improve your mood. You don’t have to do a heavy workout either. Instead, you can simply take a brisk walk – you can even do this outside instead of on a treadmill to gain the benefits of spending time outside we noted earlier!
Dancing is another great way to help mental health through physical activity. One study even showed that dancing can help reduce depression and anxiety and those positive effects stay with us for a long time after we leave the dance floor!
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Get Help
Despite the World Health Organization’s statistic we looked at earlier of 1 in 4 people suffering from mental illness, they also found that almost two-thirds of people who suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder don’t get the help they need.
There are a variety of reasons for this. A huge part of it, though, is shame and stigma.
The sad truth is that many people who suffer from mental illness view what is happening as a personal downfall. For instance, if someone is depressed, they might view their inability to get out of bed as laziness on their part.
A part of this is also, sometimes, a lack of knowledge. This can come from the fact that we don’t always talk about mental health. If someone is experiencing symptoms of a mental health disorder but they don’t know why those thoughts or behaviors are occurring, they might not know how to react to them.
This is where finding help can come in handy. A professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist, can help individuals find out what is wrong and help them learn how to handle it. Working with professionals like this might be a long-term or short-term provision and mechanisms used might range from coping techniques taught by therapists to medications prescribed by psychiatrists.
The unfortunate news, though, is that when it comes to mental illness that needs medication, there is a stigma. While someone taking an antibiotic for a virus they caught isn’t looked at twice, someone taking medication to handle a mental health problem might feel more pressure about how they are taking care of the issue.
With these thoughts in mind, it’s important to educate yourself about mental health and get help when needed. Don’t be afraid to find help for serious problems and make sure to support any friends who need the same!