We often hear how we need to watch what we eat, make sure we exercise at least twice a week, go for morning walks, breathe in fresh air every day, but reminders about caring for our mental well-being are few and far between. We often neglect that the mind is as important as the body. It is only when the two are in balance and union that can progress well in our daily lives.
Another notable thing about mental health is that it is largely absent in the education imparted to children growing up. Lacking this essential know-how, they are left to fend for themselves and are often left with deep-seated emotional traumas that could have been mitigated early on.
It is therefore essential to know about your mind as much as you know about your body.
What is mental health?
Mental health refers to our psychological, emotional, and social well-being. It pertains to how we thing, feel and behave. It is essential from childhood, through adolescence, and continues well into our adulthood. The early years are more important because children are more impressionable and are easily affected by situations and circumstances around them.
In the absence of biological factors which directly affect the genes or brain chemistry, good mental health depends upon a delicate balance of a large number of variables in our personal life and the world at large. It affects how we interact with the world, make life decisions, handle stressful situations and even our inter-personal relationships with others.
With a global pandemic at our door and lockdowns commonplace, we need to pay even more heed to what affects us and maintaining a positive outlook on life.
Why is mental health important?
Good mental health is important because:
- It affects how we see and perceive the world around us. A negative worldview can hamper our ability to see things, situations, opportunities, and people around us as they are.
- It is directly and indirectly linked to our physical well-being. Good mental well-being has been linked to better physical health even through research studies.
- It helps us to have a good and fulfilling relationship with the important people in our lives.
- When we are not burdened by our own sense of being then we can freely mingle with those around us and enjoy life and the surprises that it has in store for us. Those with good social relationships have in turn been shown to lead longer and healthier lives.
- It helps us to be meaningfully involved in our community and make our own contributions to it. It is only when we are free of problems assaulting us in our day-to-day life that we can look at the broader picture. It is only then that we can be called functional members of the society.
- Our ability to work is directly linked to our mental state. The less distracting and demeaning thoughts that we have the more we can focus on the work at hand.
- Poor mental health can also lead to burn-outs at work and affect our ability to contribute meaningfully professionally.
- It helps us explore our full potential and capabilities in life. We are able to bring out all our qualities and have the drive to positively impact our life and those of others around us.
What are the signs of a mental illness or disorder?
There can be many reasons why someone is experiencing a mental condition. Some common mental disorders caused by unrest in our personal and/or professional life or vicinity in general are:
- Anxiety disorders, including panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and phobias
- Depression, bipolar disorder, and other mood disorders
- Eating disorders
- Personality disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia
These changes might help you get an idea if you or someone around you is going through a difficult phase mentally:
- Poor or broken sleeping patterns; never getting enough sleep.
- Loss of appetite.
- Things that seemed enjoyable to you before don’t excite you as they did before.
- Withdrawing and avoiding contact with people.
- Feeling burned out or tired all the time; no energy.
- Often feeling that things don’t matter, or are pointless and/or hopeless.
- Excessive alcohol, smoking or your using drugs more than usual; often as an escape.
- Feeling a range of emotions overwhelming you most of the time or whenever something triggers you; confused, angry, upset, worried, scared, etc.
- Experiencing severe mood swings that cause problems in your relationships; personal & professional.
- Being stuck with the same thought or memory in your head; brooding about the same issues over and over again.
- Having thoughts about hurting/harming yourself or others.
- Inability to perform daily tasks like going to school, work or taking care of your children.
How to take care of your mental health?
Once you have determined that your mental state is somehow hampered, you need to mindfully remedy the situation.
These are some of the known ways in which you can engage to help improve mental health go forward to living your life to the fullest.
1. Spend time being physically active
A lot of clinical studies and research has shown that spending time on physical activity has been shown to relieve symptoms of low to moderate anxiety and depression. Physical activity has been recommended to people irrespective of whether or not they are suffering from any physiological or mental disorder in order to improve their quality of life. At least 30minutes of physical activity is good for mental health & recommended every day in any form; it can be dancing to your favourite track, a quick yoga session in the morning or working out! Avoid excessively straining your body to prevent ill-effects.
2. Pay proper attention to your diet
Eat a rich diet nutritious diet, preferably plant based to fulfil your daily requirement of nutrients. Eating (fast) food that has excessive sodium(salt), cholesterol, oil, sugar (present in carbonated drinks), etc cause you to ingest a large number of bad calories and lead to health problems. These substances negatively affect our physical well-being and are linked to a decline in mental health(depression).
3. Follow a routine- it helps to keep you grounded in reality.
According Psychologist Dr. Deborah Serani, having a fixed routine can be instrumental in dealing with difficult times. Having a proper sleep schedule, regular eating patterns, indulging in exercise and maintaining social contact can prevent unstructured time. This prevents boredom and spikes in depression or anxiety which may lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms.
4. Accept who you are!
Any and all mental healing comes after you realize that there are issues that are hindering you in your life. These issues may be external and or internal. The first step in the positive direction that you can take is to forgo any delusion or expectations and accept the status quo. Accept your situation in its entirety and the circumstances surrounding it.
Take the first step from there to improve your mental well-being.
5. Ask for help: Talk to someone who will listen
Don’t shy away from asking for help. Be vocal with your feelings and try to talk to someone who will listen to you patiently. It can be your loved ones, friends or even a stranger. There are many mental health resources available where you can get in touch with experienced consultants who can guide you, sometimes even for free.
6. Spend time doing something you enjoy.
It could be playing your favourite videogame, binging a TV show that always makes you laugh or engaging in creative outlets like drawing or writing. It has been shown that focused attention to any such task is as good as meditation and is very therapeutic for the mind.
7. Surround yourself with Positive energy
Surround yourself with positive people who uplift you and want to see you do better. They will lend you an ear when you want to speak your mind and will support you as you try to better yourself. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a person either; pets are known to help relieve stress (lowers cortisol levels) and boost the feel-good hormone (oxytocin levels).
8. Take a break
A break can be a 5-minute breather from work, a 30-minute lunch at a place you wanted to try or a weekend getaway with a partner of your choosing. For some it might mean trying an adventure sport to relive the stress and for others it might mean being a couch potato or listening to your favourite tracks on repeat.
Just take some time out for yourself from your busy schedule. Try meditation. Catch up on your well-deserved sleep.
The world can wait.
These tips can get you started in identifying if you have been too troubled and help in mitigating them. Even without any particular mental disorder, these wholesome tips can be included in your daily routine to make your life more fulfilling, relaxed and meaningful!
The priority, in this blog, is to supply the reader with clear and unambiguous information. However, neither The New Me nor Gagan Dhawan makes promises, or guarantees regarding the completeness of the information found here. The content is not a replacement for advice of a licensed professional. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely that of the writer’s.