We all want to be healthy. We get medical check-ups, any discomfort in the body we take OTC medicines, for illness we visit doctors and follow the prescription and advice. We eat nutritious food, take supplements, workout to keep ourselves fit and healthy. We strive to be physically healthy. What about mental health? What are we doing to be mentally fit and healthy?
WHAT IS MENTAL HEALTH?
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, cognitive 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.
For those experiencing mental health problems, their thinking, mood, and behavior could be affected.
WHAT CAUSES MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES?
Many factors contribute to mental health problems, including:
- Biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry
- Life experiences, such as trauma or abuse
- Family history of mental health problems
- Environmental / Social stressors
TYPES OF MENTAL HEALTH DISORDERS
Some of the most common and frequently reported mental illnesses include
- mood disorders (such as depression or bipolar disorder)
- personality disorders.
- psychotic disorders (such as schizophrenia)
- eating disorders
- trauma-related disorders (such as post-traumatic stress disorder or disorders caused by long-term chronic illness)
- substance abuse disorders.
IDENTIFYING A MENTAL HEALTH ISSUE
Not sure if you or someone you know is living with mental health problems? Experiencing one or more of the following feelings or behaviors can be an early warning sign of a problem:
- Eating or sleeping too much or too little
- Pulling away from people and usual activities
- Having low or no energy
- Feeling numb or like nothing matters
- Having unexplained aches and pains
- Feeling helpless or hopeless
- Smoking, drinking, or using drugs more than usual
- Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, on edge, angry, upset, worried, or scared
- Yelling or fighting with family and friends
- Experiencing severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships
- Having persistent (negative) thoughts and memories you can’t get out of your head
- Hallucination: Hearing voices or believing things that are not true
- Thinking of harming yourself or others
- Inability to perform daily tasks like taking care of your kids or getting to work or school
TIPS TO PREVENT MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS
Meditation : Practicing meditation helps reduce stress, controls anxiety, provides sense of calm and relaxes body and mind. A regular practice of meditation can help you combat the everyday stressors and helps prevent or overcome mental health issues.
Physical Activity : We all know about the benefits of exercise as a proactive way to enhance our fitness and physical health. We also should know that exercise also plays an essential role in improving and maintaining mental health. Physical activity releases endorphins that lift your mood and provide added energy.
Nutrition: We can never stress enough about the importance of quantified nutrition on health, be it physical or mental / emotional. Mental health professionals point out that good eating habits are vital for people wanting to optimize the effectiveness of and cope with possible side effects of medications used to treat mental illnesses.
Eat a balanced diet of:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish, nuts, seeds and eggs
- Whole grains
Sleep : When it comes to your mental health, getting enough sleep is a necessity, not a luxury. Skipping even a few hours here and there can take a toll on your mood, energy, mental sharpness, and ability to handle stress.
Sun Light : Many studies proved sun light can help in depression and anxiety. This is because of the serotonin, the feel good hormone is triggered by sunlight. So go out in sun and thank for the vitamin D.
Reading books : Read self-help books or biographies of leaders. While self-help books can help you with strategies to improve your life, biographies of leaders not only provides valuable lessons but also gives the reader hope and determination that they can overcome the challenges they are facing.
Playing with pets : Yes caring for a pet makes you feel needed and loved. There’s no love quite as unconditional as the love a pet can give. Animals can also get you out of the house for exercise and expose you to new people and places.
Hobbies : Sing, Swim, play, paint, create, cook, gardening…do anything you feel like doing. You don’t need to be an expert in doing all these things, just doing any of these will divert your mind from the problem and elevate your mood.
Learn : Learn a new language or instrument or join a course you are wanting to do from long. Any new activity will need focus which will improve your brain functioning.
COPING WITH MENTAL HEALTH DISORDERS:
While all the above points help you prevent mental health issues, if you already have a mental disorder or find it difficult to cope with the above tips, don’t hesitate to take help.
Do not label : Do not label yourself. This issue / problem does not define who you are. This is something you are going through and it will pass. You are not alone. Everyone at some point in their life goes through it.
Seek Professional advice : At times we simply cant do without professional help. So don’t be hesitant. Some people avoid professional help because of the stigma attached to it while few others don’t want to be under medication(which come with unwanted side effects). Professional help not mean just medication, it is a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy, relaxation techniques and medication(if needed) and other strategies.
Take help of friends and family : Your family and friends are your well wishers. If you are not comfortable to talk to everyone, at least confide in one person who you are confident wont judge you and take their help in your journey of coping up. Don’t isolate yourself.
Meaningful contribution to society : The sense of satisfaction we get when we help others in need or contribute for a good cause can not be explained. It has to be experienced. And this satisfaction will make us feel confident and important & give us a zest for living. It need not be monetary or huge, it could even be a small favor which can make an impact.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP
If your friends or family members are going through a mental condition, sometimes your presence can make a lot of difference. Your timely help can make them cope better.
- Identify : It is important to first identify the symptoms. Each illness has its own set of signs and symptoms; no two experiences with a mental illness will be the same.
But First Warning Signs of Mental Illness to look out for:
# Long-lasting sadness or irritability.
# Extremely high and low moods.
# Excessive fear, worry, or anxiety.
# Social withdrawal.
# Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits.
- Connect with them : Never let them isolate. Connect with them and offer help. Do not judge them. Gain their confidence so they can confide in you. Be willing to lend an ear or a shoulder to cry (if need be). Be compassionate. Spend time with them, together make plans for hobbies of common interests or for some fun / entertainment. Let them know you are there for them and they are not alone.
- Keep an eye on them : Keep a check on them and see if they are improving or worsening. And if they exhibit warning signs, never isolate them and seek professional help.
Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. Most people believe that mental disorders are rare and “happen to someone else.” In fact, mental illnesses are common and widespread. Anyone of any age can suffer from mental or emotional health problems—and over a lifetime most of us will. However, due to the stigma that often surrounds mental health, most people are afraid to discuss it or seek help for it.
Having solid mental health doesn’t mean that you never go through bad times or experience emotional problems. We all go through disappointments, loss and change. While these are normal parts of life, they still cause sadness, anxiety and stress. And just as physically healthy people are better able to bounce back from injury or illness, people with strong mental health are better able to bounce back from stress, trauma, adversity.
Reaching out if you think someone you know needs help can make all the difference.
About the Author : Vedavani is an INFS scholar and has completed Foundation and Expert certification from INFS (Institute of Nutrition and Fitness Sciences). She is passionate about helping people gain / maintain good health. She was intrigued by how a tailor-made quantified nutrition transforms a person, which started her quest to learn about Nutrition and Fitness.
Institute of Nutrition and Fitness Sciences (INFS) was established with the intent of providing comprehensive and practical knowledge in Health and Fitness. INFS Nutrition and Training courses are divided into levels so that everyone from a general health enthusiast to someone who wants to build a career in Fitness industry can benefit from them.
For more about INFS Courses, visit us here.