It has been a trying year, especially considering the devastation COVID-19 has been leaving in its wake since last year. We have had to learn, unlearn and relearn lots of things just to keep ourselves afloat. We’ve had to say goodbye to loved ones, deal with being laid off, working from home, or having to work more just to keep up with the ever-changing economy. We’ve had to do all these while still balancing relationships, self-improvement, self-care which you can agree has gotten harder.
All these responsibilities take an enormous toll on how we see the world, how we cope with it, and most importantly, how we see ourselves. Today is World mental health day, so it’s imperative that we talk about how to improve our mental health even in the face of all these responsibilities. But first things first;
What is Mental Health?
Mental health is a broad topic that encapsulates emotional, psychological, cognitive, and social well-being. A state in which how we think, feel and act is expressed. It affects how we cope with life stresses, deal with people, and how we make choices. It also expresses itself in how we see ourselves, our capabilities, productivity, and our contribution to society.
Mental health is influenced by lots of factors which can include but are not limited to, economic factors, cultural factors, subjective assessment of oneself, etc.
Why You Should Improve Your Mental Health
Improving one’s mental health would help us enjoy our life more. Increase our ability to cope with stress and the struggles of life. We would be more in tune with ourselves, others, and our environment, we would smell the roses more, so to speak. An improved mental state means the ability to learn new things, increase creativity, work productivity and take risks. This would improve our quality of life and relationships drastically, help us realize our full potential, and improve our contribution to society.
There is a correlation between mental health and physical health. Just as physical health can impact our mental health, mental health can also affect physical health. Nurturing our mental health can help fight against physical illnesses, for example, managing stress can help prevent heart disease. It can also help combat mental illnesses.
How To Improve Your Mental Health
Physical health care
I can’t stress this enough, exercise, exercise and exercise. When you exercise your brain releases chemicals that make you feel good. This can help fight depression and anxiety. Exercise can help you sleep better, boost self-esteem and help you concentrate. It doesn’t have to mean going to the gym, you can take daily walks, do housework, etc. Just keep moving, anything to get that blood pumping.
Watch what you eat. Improving your diet will also improve your physical health and better improve your mood. There may be a link between a deficiency of vitamin B12 and depression. This goes to show that not having enough òf certain nutrients might cause mental illness.
Sleep better. Quality of sleep affects our brain processes and by extension our moods. Studies have shown a direct correlation between lack of sleep and health issues as well as brain defects. It is therefore important to sleep better.
(For better information on sleep, click on this link “Why you should sleep more”)
Avoid alcohol, caffeine, tobacco. In general, avoid substances that make you feel good one second like you are on a high, and then makes you feel weak and drained that you’ll have to need more. These are psychoactive substances and continued dependence on them can lead to health problems. Most of them are also known as depressants.
(For better information on alcohol, click on this link “Does alcohol really have health benefits?”)
Practising gratitude can help you see your life differently. You choose to be thankful for the good things in your life. This can range from little things to big things. This can also help you let go of the bad things, the things you can’t control as you are more focused on the good things. This can help improve your mental health.
Improve your relationship with others.
Connecting with others can also help strengthen mental health. Having strong healthy relationships, friendships and good social support can help reduce stress and act as a backbone in the face of adversity, or at the very least, give us people to share our problems with. You can also volunteer in your community or join a group with the same hobbies you like.
We must learn to balance different aspects of our lives in order not to burn out. You can develop different coping mechanisms for this, like taking up a hobby or just talking to a friend. At work, you can focus on the part of the job you find more meaningful.
Relaxation and meditation
This cannot be over-emphasized. Taking breaks, relaxing, meditating are ways to ensure our brain doesn’t overwork itself. As busy as life gets, we need to find time to slow down and bring our focus to the present. This can help reduce stress and anxiety. So, take a deep breath, get in touch with nature, take a vacation or just sit and let all the distractions go. Anything to get your relaxation on.
Develop a sense of purpose.
Having a purpose, engaging in meaningful acts can help keep you focused and confident. This can be through your job, hobbies, acquiring new skills, or exploring your spirituality. Improving yourself will also improve your mental health and help battle depression. It is also important to set realistic goals which upon achieving these goals can boost self-esteem and give a feeling of satisfaction.
Don’t forget to make time for fun. Laughter has health benefits, physically and mentally. Also, remember to engage in activities that you enjoy, and are good at. These can also make you feel good and boost your self-esteem.
It’s easy to get swept up in the negativity of the world, but slowing down and focusing on the positive is worth it. Having the outlook that things will get better is softer on our minds than having a bleak outlook on life. Staying positive doesn’t mean you don’t feel bad emotions like sadness, it just means you don’t dwell in them. You feel them and move on.
It is also important to practice self-compassion, to tell yourself you are enough. To believe in and be true to yourself. Avoid comparing yourself to others, especially in ways that put you in a negative light. Remember to hold on to positive moments and disconnect from negativity.
Ask for help
If it gets too much for you to handle, and you feel you can’t cope anymore reach out to friends, family for help. They might be able to help or at least offer advice. No one is superhuman, sometimes we get overwhelmed. There’s also the option of seeing a therapist. Your mental health should be a priority.
How To Know When You Are Having A Mental Breakdown
Different signs indicate nervous breakdowns. However, these signs may vary depending on the person and can also depend on the underlying mental issue. These signs include;
- Thoughts of self-harm or of hurting others
- Having confusion or unexplained memory loss, hallucinations, or delusions. Having vivid flashbacks of traumatic events can be an indication of post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Having difficulty concentrating and an inability to cope with daily activities or challenges.
- Feeling depressed, burnt-out. Having emotional outbursts or mood swings. Feeling exhausted, that is, lacking the energy to carry out routine tasks.
- Withdrawal from social activities or relationships. Having the feeling of isolation. Not feeling like themselves or feeling detached from situations
- Persistent feelings of sadness, anger, fear, paranoia, worry, or anxiety
- Unexplained changes in school or work performance. This can include defiance of authority, truancy, theft, vandalism, substance abuse, including alcoholism, or the use of illegal drugs.
- Dramatic changes in sleeping habits, which may include insomnia. Changes in eating habits too, bowel problems, and intense fear about weight gain.
- Frequent illnesses, headaches and dizzy spells, sore and stiff muscles.
- Frequent panic attacks, racing heart, tightness across the chest or a lump in your throat, clammy hands, and hot or cold flushes.
If you experience one or more of these symptoms, or you recognize it in a loved one, you or your loved one must see a counsellor immediately.
Your mental health should be paramount. Did these tips help you? Let us know in the comments.
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An experienced biomedical researcher cum laboratory scientist. A teacher of the sciences. Self acclaimed health and lifestyle police, changing the world one article at a time.