“Suck it up,” “cheer up,” “snap out of it,” “but you don’t look sick”- these are just some of the phrases that well-meaning friends and family tell loved ones struggling with mental health issues. Research shows that one in five adults struggle with mental health conditions. Mental health struggles include depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, schizophrenia, and eating disorders.
Mental illness is also becoming increasingly common among teenagers; studies indicate that approximately one in five teens between ages twelve and eighteen are diagnosed with a mental health disorder. These issues deeply impact day-to-day living and may also affect the ability to relate to others. When your mental health suffers, everything in your life will suffer as a result.
What is Mental Health?
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, 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.
The fact is, a mental illness is a disorder of the brain – your body’s most important organ. Like most diseases of the body, mental illness has many causes – from genetics to other biological, environmental and social/cultural factors. And just as with most diseases, mental illnesses are no one’s fault. For many people, recovery – including having meaningful roles in social life, work and school – is possible, especially when you start treatment early and play a strong role in your own recovery process.
What Are the Warning Signs?
Each illness has its own symptoms, but common signs of mental illness can include the following:
- Avoiding friends and social activities
- Feeling excessively sad or low
- Feeling helpless or hopeless
- Extreme mood changes
- Thinking of harming yourself or others
- Inability to perform daily tasks like taking care of your kids or getting to work or school
- Feeling numb or like nothing matters
- Overuse of substances like alcohol or drugs
- Having unexplained aches and pains such as headaches or stomach aches
- Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy
- Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, on edge, angry, upset, worried, or scared
What Are Some Things You Can Do to Look After Your Mental Health?
- Talk About Your Feelings – Just being listened to can help you feel supported and less alone. Talking with a friend or loved one is helpful but remember, therapists are not only for those in the middle of crisis – they’re incredibly beneficial for people in all stages of life
- Exercise regularly – Exercise releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects. Aim to exercise about 30+ minutes at least five days per week
- Eat Well – Your brain needs a mix of nutrients to stay healthy and function well, just like the other organs in your body
- Stay Connected with Family and Friends – Close, quality relationships are key for a happy, healthy life
- Take a Break – a change of scenery or pace is good for your mental health
- Get Outside to Enjoy 15 Minutes of Sunshine – Sunlight synthesizes Vitamin D which experts believe is a mood elevator
- Send a Thank You Note – Let someone know why you appreciate them. Written expressions of gratitude are linked to increased happiness
- Practice Forgiveness – People who forgive have better mental health and report being more satisfied with their lives
- Pursue Your Passions – Enjoying yourself can help beat stress and achieving something boosts your self-esteem
- Sleep – Most adults need around 8 hours of sleep each night so try to make sure you’re getting enough shut-eye
Mental health is undoubtedly just as integral as physical health but it’s something that we often don’t prioritize. We all experience times when we feel stressed or overwhelmed but if these feelings persist, it’s time to slow down and re-evaluate your mental wellbeing.
Most people are afraid to ask for help, but seeking help is actually a sign of strength, not weakness. If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health, please reach out to a local mental health professional.