Today we see a lot of emphases is laid on the importance of mental health and wellbeing. However, in order to make our mental health a priority, we need to understand and also identify signs which indicate unstable mental health.
Mental health generally encompasses a person’s social, emotional and psychological well being. With optimum mental health, a person is able to handle stress, make informed choices and maintain healthy relationships with themselves and the people around them.
What are the factors that impact a person’s mental well being?
Just like physical health, there are many facets to maintaining optimum mental health. Genetics and a family history of mental health are some contributing factors, however, they cannot be individually modified. Other factors that contribute to mental well being are considered modifiable to an extent. These include:
- Previous trauma/abuse
- Physical illness
- Financial status
- Substance abuse
How would I know that I need assistance with my mental health?
It is often difficult to pinpoint changes in your outlook to a mental health condition or just another bad day. Often the slight inkling that something might be wrong should be one of the first signs to you that you might need to pay more attention to your mental health. Often it is the people around us that bring changes in our behaviour to our attention.
Here are a few signs that you should look out for that might indicate towards disturbances with your general mental health:
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Appetite loss or gain
- Feelings of guilt and hopelessness
- Detachment from your surroundings
- Crying often and sometimes without reason
- Low energy levels
- Body aches and muscle tension
- Hearing voices and seeing things that aren’t necessarily there
- Feelings of indifference
- Thoughts of self-harm
These are just a few of the long list of possible signs. People with a mood disorder do not present with all the signs and symptoms mentioned above. They can have one, two or a combination of these over the course of a few days, weeks or months.
What do I do when I identify signs of mental illness?
At the outset, the first thing to do would be to talk it out. This can be with friends, family or within any judgement-free safe space. Today in our fast-paced world, it is easy to neglect our mental health concerns. One of the primary reasons for this is, that it doesn’t manifest evident physical symptoms. However, it is good to note that a common manifestation of mental health illness is through physical symptoms, such as a tummy ache, fatigue, muscle tension etc.
Seeking professional help should not be the last resort. Both psychologists and psychiatrists are trained to identify changes in mental health. Several mental health conditions do not require medications and can often be treated with a simple one on one sessions.
How do I take care of my mental health?
Maintaining optimum mental health requires an investment into daily healthy routine habits, just as you would for your physical health. A few key points that are vital for maintaining good mental health include:
- Actively managing stress: Identifying your stressors is the first one here. Working overtime, deadlines, not enough sleep, family concerns. List them down. Tackle each one. Identify which ones are more important than the others. Never forget to ASK FOR HELP where required.
- Staying active: Exercising, even just 30 minutes a day, helps to boost mood, assists with sleep, alleviates stress and improves memory. Exercising also helps to boost confidence levels and self- esteem.
- A healthy diet: “Traditional” eating, which has limited processed and refined foods, contributes towards a healthy brain. Diets high in refined sugar (white sugar, bakery items, cakes, candy, doughnuts etc) and trans fat increase inflammation and often contribute to symptoms of depression and anxiety. Diets rich in fresh fruits, veggies, lean meat such as fish, unprocessed grains assist with increasing antioxidants, which is great for your mental health.
- Evaluate your relationships: Often the people around us impact our mental health in ways that we are probably unaware of. People who have good personal relationships within their family and society tend to be more mentally healthy. Stay away from negative influences or the naysayers. Create a support system that you can rely on.
- Carve out your areas of interest and setting goals: There is saying, “An idle mind is a devil’s workshop.” When we let our mind ruminate with negative self-talk we often contribute to building an unhealthy environment for our mental health. Reading, learning, growing and driving ambitions often helps to prevent this. Even mindful silence or meditation to tackle negativity is great for improving and sustaining good mental health.
- Stay away from alcohol, smoking and drugs: Well this is self- explanatory. If you need a way to vent or relieve stress, go for a run, enrol yourself in a kickboxing class, cook, sip some tea, there are many other healthier ways that will contribute to better mental health.
- Finally, seek help when required: There are professionals that can assist you in dealing with your mental health concerns. Psychologists and psychiatrists are trained professionals who are capable of identifying mood disorders, offer psychological counselling and prescribe medications when required. Getting your concerns checked out early is always the best course of action.
Taking care of your mental health is as vital as taking care of your physical health. An unhealthy mental space often reflects in several areas of your life including work, relationships and on your physical health. A person who is mentally healthy is able to cope with stress, handle complex dynamics within their life and still have a smile on their face at the end of their day. It is perfectly fine to have a day or two that isn’t so great. But if you observe yourself having more than one, quite often, it might be time to re-evaluate your mental health and seek help if required.