All around us, people raise awareness for and celebrate their physical health. We celebrate with those who make a weight loss plan and reach their goal. We raise awareness for Type 1 Diabetes and Childhood Cancer. We cheer on friends when they train their bodies for a race and cross the finish line. We celebrate cancer remissions, low cholesterol, and positive lab results. Our physical health is important to us, and it is a good and wonderful thing to celebrate it. But, what about our mental health? For many, mental health can still be a taboo phrase, conjuring up images of straight jackets and mental institutions. So, what is mental health exactly, and is it something we should work at and celebrate? As we recognize Mental Illness Awareness Week, let’s take a deeper dive into what it actually means.
Mental health can be described as the aspect of our health that includes our psychological, emotional, and social well being. Our mental health impacts how we think, feel, and behave each day. It affects how we make decisions, how we handle stress, and how we relate to those around us. Our mental health is important because it impacts our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Being mentally healthy improves our quality of life and increases our productivity and efficiency in day to day tasks. Mentally healthy individuals typically have longer lasting relationships, are more successful in their jobs, and adapt to change in more positive ways.
Mental illness is the term we use to describe when our mental state is unhealthy. Mental illness refers to a physical illness of the brain that causes disruptions in our thinking, behavior, and emotions. This makes it difficult for someone to cope with the ordinary demands of life. Like most physical illnesses, mental illnesses can be caused by genetics, brain chemistry, brain structure, trauma, and other medical conditions that interfere with the brain. The most common types of mental illness are anxiety disorders and mood disorders, which includes depression and bipolar disorder. Mental illness affects roughly 20% of adults in America, meaning that your neighbors, co workers, and family members could very likely be struggling with a mental illness.
Just like we take steps to improve our physical health, we should take steps to care for and improve our mental health. Taking care of our emotional state is just as important as caring for our physical bodies. We should celebrate successes and victories in our mental health just like we do for our physical health. Here are some tips to help you care for and improve your mental health:
- Exercise – Exercise releases endorphins in your body. These endorphins are “feel good” chemicals that improve mood and emotional state. Exercise also helps to relieve pent up stress and emotions. Exercising regularly is one of the best ways to protect your mental health and keep stress from bottling up.
- Eat a Healthy Diet – The food we put into our bodies matters. Choose foods that are low in sugar and rich in protein, whole grains, and nutritional value. Putting excess junk in your body will make you feel bad and decrease your emotional state.
- Get Adequate Sleep – Research shows that those who get 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night have a better overall mood and emotional state than those who don’t. Our brains and bodies need sleep to repair and restore.
- Take Mental Breaks – We all need a break every now and then. In high stress situations or circumstances, it is important to give your mind and emotions a break. Make time for yourself. Take a walk, read a book, journal, or talk to a friend. Take a break and let your mind process and decompress. This is vital to improving your mental health.
- Open up to People – Having a support group of friends and family is vital to our mental health. We all need listening ears and encouragers in our lives. Find the people that you can vent to, open up to, and go to for advice. Don’t be afraid to share your feelings with them.
- Celebrate Mental Health Success – Be proud of yourself when you set healthy boundaries in a relationship and stick to them. Celebrate small victories like taking a daily mental break, accepting a difficult situation, and being more grateful during day to day life. Just as you would celebrate losing 10 pounds or lowering your cholesterol, you should celebrate the fact that you are reducing stress and improving your thought patterns. Be excited about the small steps you take towards achieving a more healthy mental state!
- Reach out for Help When Needed – Sometimes we go through difficult situations and we need extra support. Maybe you feel anxiety creeping in, or you find yourself in a depressed state. Maybe you know what you need to do, but you just can’t seem to get a hold of things. It may be a good time for you to reach out for professional help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
If you find yourself struggling with your mental or emotional health and are unsure of what to do, please give us a call. The counselors at Waters Edge Counseling help clients everyday to improve their mental health. We are here to celebrate your mental health with you and help you reach your goals as you work towards a healthier mental state. Please give us a call at 912-319-5552. We would love to help you!