In recent times, more attention is being given to the issue of mental health. A lot of organizations have sprung up to promote the awareness of mental health, and everyone is talking about it. It is, therefore, shocking to know that a lot of people know little about mental health, what comprises good mental health and how to sustain good mental health.
Mental health can be defined as a person’s condition with regards to their psychological and emotional well being. Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.
When a person’s mental health is unstable, or when a person is undergoing some mental health problem, it tends to affect their mood, their thinking and their general behavior. Although a lot of things can cause mental health problems, they can broadly be grouped into three major factors:
- Biological factors (eg. genes or brain chemistry)
- Life experiences, (eg. trauma or abuse)
- Family history of mental health problems
Here are some symptoms which could indicate mental health issues in a person:
- Withdrawing from people or activities they would normally enjoy.
- Sleeping or eating too much or too little.
- Feeling numb or feeling as if nothing matters.
- Consistently low energy.
- Smoking or using drugs more than normal (including alcohol and nicotine).
- Displaying uncharacteristic emotions.
- Unusual confusion, abnormal forgetfulness, irrational fear and worry, getting upset suddenly, etc
- Not being able to complete standard tasks, such as getting to work or cooking a meal.
- Persistent thoughts or memories that reappear regularly.
- Thinking of harming one’s self or others.
- Hearing voices.
There are various types of mental health disorders like anxiety disorder, major depression, panic disorder, bipolar disorder, etc. And each of them have different ways they can be treated or managed, ranging from pills to therapy. However, there are a few things one can do to preserve one’s mental health and reduce the risks of having any mental health problems.
Learn how to deal with stress
Like it or not, stress is a part of life. Practice good coping skills: Exercise, take a nature walk, do yoga play with your pet or try journal writing as a stress reducer. Also, remember to smile and see the humor in life. Research shows that laughter can boost your immune system, ease pain, relax your body and reduce stress.
Quiet your mind
Try meditating and/or prayer. Relaxation exercises and prayer can improve your state of mind and outlook on life. In fact, research shows that meditation may help you feel calm and enhance the effects of therapy.
Treat yourself with kindness and respect, and avoid self-criticism. Make time for your hobbies and favorite projects, or broaden your horizons. Do a daily crossword puzzle, plant a garden, take dance lessons, learn to play an instrument or become fluent in another language.
Set realistic goals
Decide what you want to achieve academically, professionally and personally, and write down the steps you need to realize your goals. Aim high, but be realistic and don’t over-schedule. You’ll enjoy a tremendous sense of accomplishment and self-worth as you progress toward your goal.
Break up the monotony
Although our routines make us more efficient and enhance our feelings of security and safety, a little change of pace can perk up a tedious schedule. Alter your jogging route, plan a road-trip, take a walk in a different park, hang some new pictures or try a new restaurant.
Your brain needs a mix of nutrients in order to stay healthy and function well, just like the other organs in your body. A diet that’s good for your physical health is also good for your mental health.
Regular exercise can boost your self-esteem and can help you concentrate, sleep, and look and feel better. Exercise keeps the brain and your other vital organs healthy, and is also a significant benefit towards improving your mental health.
We often drink alcohol to change our mood. Some people drink to deal with fear or loneliness, but the effect is only temporary.
When the drink wears off, you feel worse because of the way the alcohol has affected your brain and the rest of your body. Drinking is not a good way to manage difficult feelings.
Talk about your feelings
Talking about your feelings can help you stay in good mental health and deal with times when you feel troubled. Very often, we shy away from expressing emotions or feelings that we think are ‘negative.’ Being able to express what we’re feeling, or what we like or don’t like, can help us de-clutter our minds. Suppressing emotions is a coping strategy for many of us, yet it can be harmful. Research suggests that suppressing emotions can actually make emotions stronger. This may cause greater stress.The emotion may then be displaced onto something trivial or unrelated.
Emotion suppression is also believed to lead to depression or anxiety disorders. Even anger and sadness are emotions that are worthy of expression. The only thing we need to know is how to express it in a way thatdoes not create havoc on us, our relationships and our environment. “No emotion, by itself, is either good or bad. Every emotion is important and essential. What makes it healthy or unhealthy is the intensity of the experience, and how it was expressed (too much or too less), the appropriateness of the expression, and the frequency of the emotion occurring,” says Dr Manjula.
Keep in touch
There’s nothing better than catching up with someone face to face, but that’s not always possible. You can also give them a call, drop them a note, or chat to them online instead. Keep the lines of communication open: it’s good for you!
Ask for help
None of us are superhuman. We all sometimes get tired or overwhelmed by how we feel or when things don’t go to plan. If things are getting too much for you and you feel you can’t cope, ask for help. Your family or friends may be able to offer practical help or a listening ear. Local services are there to help you.
Care for others
Caring for others is often an important part of keeping up relationships with people close to you. It can even bring you closer together.
Show some love to someone in your life. Close, quality relationships are key for a happy, healthy life.
While this may sound like a cliché, it is true that when you are grateful for what you have, it can take away the focus from what you don’t. Studies show that being grateful for what you have helps you stay optimistic about your future and boosts your mental health. Maintain a gratitude journal. Every night before going to bed, write down what you are thankful for on that day. If you allow yourself to be thankful, and remember your blessings, you will realize that not a single day will go by without you having something to be thankful for, no matter what your specific situation.