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The Importance of Taking Care of Your Mental Health

6 Mental Health Tips to Help Promote a Positive Outlook

Our mental well-being is as important as our physical well-being, yet we often take our mental health for granted. Often, we notice physical symptoms before psychological ones. From an early age, we learn to spot signs of illness, such as fever, cough, or rashes. Yet, when it comes to our mental health, we are not as quick to detect or treat problems when they arise.

When individuals can be productive, have fulfilling relationships, adapt well to change, and cope with difficulties, they have good mental health. Like physical health, mental health changes throughout a person's lifetime, and illnesses and disorders can occur. People get better or worse, depending on their life circumstances or their treatment.

In this article, we will go over different mental health tips to help you recognize signs and symptoms, identify different conditions, and practice self-care and find other types of help when needed.

What Is Mental Health?

Our emotional, social, and psychological well-being makes up our mental health. How healthy we are mentally impacts the way we think, feel, and behave. Our mental health determines how well we manage stress, make life choices, and relate to other people. From our childhood to our senior years, mental health plays a vital role in our quality of life throughout our lives.

Anytime there is a change in a person's mental health, their thoughts, emotions, or actions can become affected. Mental health problems can occur over the course of a lifetime. Here are some factors that can play a part in the status of your mental health:

  • Major life experiences, like trauma or abuse
  • Family history of mental health problems
  • Biological reasons, like brain chemistry or genes

Almost everyone will experience poor mental health at one time or another. However, poor mental health is not the same as mental illness. A person can undergo periods of poor mental health and remain free of mental illness. On the other hand, a person can be diagnosed with a mental illness yet experience mental well-being. A person diagnosed with a mental illness can still live a fulfilling life.

It's important to remember that a person's mental health can change. Therefore, when events occur that exceeds a person's ability to cope, the person's mental health can change.

For example, financial hardships, working long hours, or the loss of a loved one can strain a person's mental health, causing them to experience mental health problems.

Why Mental Health Is Important

Good mental health impacts almost everything in your life, including our physical health. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 60% of our physical health depends on our lifestyle choices, and our lifestyle choices are directly impacted by our mental health.

When a person is not emotionally stable, or their thought process is not functioning well, they are less likely to make decisions that are healthy or promote wellness. They're less likely to get enough sleep, avoid drugs and alcohol, or eat nutritious food. As a result, their physical health can deteriorate due to unhealthy lifestyle choices.

Sadly, there is an 18-year life expectancy gap between those who have severe mental illness and the general population. This large life expectancy gap is not because of suicide or self-injury, but because of lifestyle choices and resources.

Those with mental illness often struggle to eat healthy or choose to be physically active, making them more likely to develop chronic disorders like diabetes or heart disease. People with mental illness are also more likely to suffer from addiction to drugs or alcohol, which can negatively impact their health and shorten life expectancy.

At the same time, a person does not have to have a mental illness to experience compromised decision making. When a person is experiencing poor mental health, they have to work harder to make appropriate lifestyle decisions.

You may recall a time when you were anxious or depressed and turned to unhealthy foods to make you feel better. We've all experienced this type of unhealthy decision making at one time or another. When someone has poor mental health, these types of decision-making struggles can occur more often.

Good mental health also adds to an individual's quality of life and improves the lives of people around them. When someone is mentally healthy, they are able to:

  • Contribute meaningfully to their families and communities
  • Realize and work toward their full potential
  • Manage the stresses and challenges of life
  • Work productively and positively

A person does not need to be happy all the time to have good mental health. People with good mental health will still have painful experiences and hardships, but they have a solid foundation to manage these challenges.

Because mental health is vital to our quality of life, it is crucial to maintain good mental health. Part of this maintenance is being able to spot the early signs of mental health problems and address them as soon as possible.

Early Signs of Mental Health Concerns

Unlike physical symptoms, mental health problems are much harder to detect and accept. As a society, we have not cultivated the mindset that mental health is as essential as physical health. Therefore, spotting problems and seeking assistance for mental health is not at the forefront of our minds. Society may also view mental health problems as a weakness, and the stigma prevents people from being honest about their mental health or that of their loved ones.

If you are not sure you or a someone you know is experiencing mental health problems, the following are emotions or behaviors that indicate early signs of mental health issues:

  • Low energy or no energy to perform their responsibilities or engage in activities they used to enjoy
  • Less positive interaction with friends and families
  • Easily angered or irritated
  • Feeling a loss of hope
  • Feeling helpless
  • Frequent fights with family and friends
  • Increased smoking, drinking, or drug use
  • Repetitive thoughts or memories that do not go away
  • Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, or feeling "scattered"
  • Eating or sleeping more than usual or less than usual
  • Hearing voices or seeing things that other people cannot
  • Persistently believing things that aren't factual or accurate
  • Experiencing aches and pains that have no medical explanation
  • Unable to perform daily tasks and responsibilities

Being alert to these warning signs in ourselves and others can help keep them from getting worse or turning into mental illness. It may not be possible to avoid ever experiencing mental health problems.

Just like your physical health, mental health is subject to various factors beyond our control, like genetics and family history. We can, however, try our best to maintain good mental health.

Examples of Mental Illness

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one-fifth of adults in the U.S. experience mental illness each year. Young people also struggle with mental health disorders.

In the six to 17-year-old age group, one-sixth experience a mental health problem each year. Mental illness typically begins at a young age, with 75% of all lifelong mental illnesses starting by 24.

NAMI indicates that the most prevalent mental illnesses are anxiety (19%), depression (7%), post-traumatic stress disorder (3.6%), and bipolar disorder (2.8%).

The National Institutes of Health defines mental illness into two categories: Any Mental Illness (AMI) and Serious Mental Illness (SMI). All types of mental illness fall into the category of AMI. Under SMI, however, are mental illnesses in which the condition prevents a person from functioning in one or more major life activities, such as work, family, or school.

Unfortunately, only 43% of those with AMI obtain treatment. Due to stigma, lack of access to a practicing psychiatrist or therapist, or no insurance coverage, people who may need mental health treatment may not be receiving it. What's more, mental illness can be treated, and with early interventions and mental health self-care, some can even be prevented.

When Mental Health Struggles Turn Into Illness

We all feel sad, lonely, or stressed at times. It's the typical response to life's disappointments and challenges. There are times, however, when these feelings become overwhelming. They may persist and become more intense. Without intervention, these feelings can keep a person from functioning well at work or school and may turn into depression or anxiety.

If significant life changes occur all at once, or a person experiences a large amount of stress, it can quickly surpass their ability to cope. A job loss, death of a loved one, or constant pressure at work can turn a mental health concern into mental illness.

Addressing mental health issues before they become an illness and establishing good mental health can make all the difference.

Nurturing Good Mental Health: Self-Care

Taking care of your mental health should not be considered a luxury. It should be a priority. Much like taking care of your physical health, looking after your mental health should be a part of your daily routine.

The following are ways to nurture your mental health.

Foster Your Connection With Other People

One of the first mental health tips is communicating. Humans are social creatures. We've thrived as a species because of our ability to develop a community and rely on others. It's important to create and foster strong relationships with other people.

Establishing connections with others creates a circle of people to turn to in challenging times. It also enables you to help others in their times of need, which strengthens your self-esteem.

Connecting with other people also exposes you to different viewpoints, which expands your understanding of the world around you. Developing an awareness of your place in your community helps to ground your thought process.

You do not have to be a social butterfly to nurture your mental health, but even having a small group of friends can benefit your mental health.

Get an Adequate Amount of Sleep

We tend to think of sleep as something to fit into a busy schedule, but sleep enables us to tolerate a busy schedule. Sleep is not an inconvenience, it is a necessity.

Adults need an average of 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night. Children and adolescents need anywhere from 9 to12. Sleep not only helps the body physically rejuvenate, but it also helps the mind re-energize as well.

A good night's sleep reduces feelings of stress, improves your mood, and allows you to make better decisions. A lack of sleep can cause impairment in thinking, making you less likely to process information well, or gauge your interactions with others appropriately. This compromised thinking can lead to misunderstandings and frustration.

Sleep deprivation can also make you easily irritated, quick to anger, and have irrational thoughts.

Manage Your Stress

Most life stressors are unavoidable, so finding ways to manage stress can help your mental health. Carving out time, even for short periods, to do activities that help you relax or relieve tension can help you deal with the burden of stress.

For some people, it could be participating in a hobby or healthy recreational activity that keeps them from thinking about stress. For others, it can be taking part in relaxation techniques like meditation, deep breathing, or yoga.

Finding mental health tips that work for you and incorporating stress management into your life can buffer poor mental health.

Make Healthy Lifestyle Choices

Eating nutritious food, maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active, cultivating good mental health, and avoiding smoking and alcohol are all part of a healthy lifestyle. Enjoying a healthy lifestyle provides you with a solid foundation to build on.

When our bodies are unhealthy, it can cause stress and affect us mentally. Our body and mind are interconnected, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle keeps both our physical and mental health functioning at its best.

Be Thankful

This is one of the most important mental health tips. Gratitude changes the way we see the world around us. Sometimes, we get caught up in the negative aspects of our lives. We can start to perseverate on those negative thoughts, making the negative parts of our lives seem worse than they are. This negativity tends to center around the good things that we do not have or that we think have been kept from us.

When we concentrate on the good parts of our lives and become thankful for them, our focus shifts from the negative aspects to the positive ones. These positive factors in our lives help protect us from the effects of adverse events.

Expressing thanks to the people around us, ourselves, and the world, in general, creates a positive way of thinking, which helps our mental health.

Seek Professional Help

Once you begin to see your mental health as vital to your well-being, you become much more aware of your thought process and moods. If you start to see early warning signs of mental health concerns, you can seek professional help.

In most cases, just talking to a supportive friend, family member, or religious leader can help you manage your emotions. However, if you're finding it difficult to cope with mental health issues on your own, then seeking help from a mental healthcare professional may be necessary.

You can always consult with your family physician or meet with a mental healthcare professional in your area who can offer other mental health tips and treatment options.

Taking Care of Your Mental Health

We hope these mental health tips enable you to make the most out of life, no matter what it throws our way. How we react to challenges, interact with the world around us, and relate to others depends on our mental health.

Good mental health allows us to face the world at our best and empowers us to make healthy decisions for ourselves. Make investing time and attention on your mental health an essential part of your healthy lifestyle routine.

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