January is Mental Wellness Month
What does mental wellness look like to you? Joy? Happiness? Calm? Peaceful?
It might. In fact, mental wellness can look, feel, and mean something different to each of us.
Regardless of what mental wellness means to you, there are some common things we can all do to help maintain our own good mental health.
Part of that involves our perception of ourselves.
Do you love who you have become? Are you happy with your body?
Today, January 24, 2019 also happens to be “Woman’s Healthy Weight Day.” How we, especially women, perceive ourselves and our weight is an important factor in establishing and maintaining proper mental health.
Read on to discover 4 common phases of mental wellness and 7 tips on how you may be able to improve yours.
What is Mental Wellness?
Mental wellness or mental health includes our psychological, emotional, and social well-being. It affects all aspects of our life including how we think, feel, work, and behave. It is also a factor in determining the choices we make, how we handle stressful situations, how we relate to others, and how effectively we contribute to our community and society as a whole.
Many factors, both internal and external, work together to contribute to our emotional and cognitive well-being. They include our genetics and brain chemistry, life experiences or trauma we may have faced, financial issues we may be having, our coping behaviours and skills, our work environment, and the relationships we hold with others.
When any of these factors take over, cause excess stress, or become overwhelming, our mental wellness can suffer. We may experience anger, anxiety, or sadness, or get physically sick. Physical symptoms of stress can range in severity and vary from person to person, but commonly include headaches, heart palpitations, gastrointestinal problems, and even heart attacks or stroke.
Our mental health is important at every stage of life and is essential to our overall health and wellness, yet it is often taken for granted. [quote]
What does good mental health look like?
There is not one mould that suits everyone in terms of mental health. Rather, there is a continuum upon which we all fit. Sometimes we may fall under one part of the continuum and other times we may fit into a different one.
This is normal and happens to all of us at various times throughout our lives.
Because of the ease at which we can slide across the continuum, it’s important to recognize that if you are struggling right now, that doesn’t mean you will always struggle. Alternately, if you are well today, you may not be tomorrow.
So wherever you fit on the continuum of mental wellness, it’s important to know what action steps you can take to keep yourself where you are or move you more towards the healthier side of things.
4 Phases of Mental Health: Mental health continuum
The following are what I call the 4 phases of mental health. They fit along a continuum from Healthy (Phase 1) to Unwell (Phase 4). Under each is a list of characteristics that typically fit within each phase along with action steps you can take at each phase in order to maintain healthy mental wellness or move you toward that direction.
Phase 1: Healthy
Normal mood fluctuations
Normal sleep patterns
You are physically well and full of energy
You perform consistently at work and at home
You are regularly active
Phase 2: Wavering
You feel nervous, irritable, or sad
You have trouble sleeping
You get tired easily and have low energy
You experience muscle tension or headaches
You procrastinate often
You are minimally socially active
Phase 3: Impaired
You feel anxious, angry, hopeless or have unrelenting sadness
You are restless at night or have disturbed sleep
You experience constant fatigue, aches, and pains
Your ability to perform daily tasks has decreased
You have little interest in maintaining your physical appearance or cleanliness
You avoid social situations or withdraw from groups
Phase 4: Unwell
You have excessive anxiety, a decreased mood, and are easily enraged
You are unable to fall or stay asleep
You are exhausted all the time
You experience physical illness
You are unable to perform daily duties
You have increased absenteeism
You remain in isolation and avoid social events
Focus on the task at hand
Break large problems into manageable chunks as they arise
Identify and nurture the positive support systems in your life
Continue to maintain a healthy lifestyle
Recognize your limits and what upsets you
Get adequate rest, food and exercise
Engage in healthy coping strategies
Identify and minimize stressors
Identify and understand your own signs of distress
Talk with someone
Seek social support instead of withdrawing
Seek professional help as needed
Follow the recommendations of your health care provider
Regain your physical and mental health
Learn to recognizing where you are the continuum of mental health and follow the recommended action steps to help you move closer to the healthy phase.
And to help 2019 become your best year yet, I’d also like to share some mental wellness tips that can help you maintain good mental health - today and all year long!
7 Tips to positive mental wellness
Mental Wellness Tip #1 - Manage stress.
We all know the hazards of living with high cortisol levels, so be aware of the stressors in your life and learn to mange them appropriately. Taking a hot bath with relaxing magnesium salts or calming essential oils can help. You should also take the time to do things that bring you joy, especially if they take you outside. Being outside in nature and breathing in fresh air also helps reduces stress.
Mental Wellness Tip #2 - Stay positive.
Staying positive can sometimes be hard, especially when faced with repeated problems or adversity. But trying to stay positive and learning to let go of things outside of your control can eventually lead you to always look for the good in any situation, even if it seems impossible.
When we focus on the positive and beneficial side of things, we often experience better mood, less anxiety, and reduced depression.
Mental Wellness Tip #3 - Take some “me” time.
Making time for ourselves is very important for our mental wellness. It may involve some quiet down time, curling up with a good book, participating in an activity or hobby you love, or spending quality time with the four-legged friend in your life.
Mental Wellness Tip #4 - Get physically active.
Exercise is a great way to improve your mental health. If done regularly, it can have a profound impact on anxiety, depression, ADHD, and other mental health disorders. It’s also a great way to relieve stress, improve memory, get a better sleep, and boost overall mood.
Mental Wellness Tip #5 - Connect with others socially.
Creating connections within a social group is a powerful way to protect our mental health. Having someone to share in life’s moments, someone to laugh with, and someone to count on can keep us grounded and help us gain perspective.
Mental Wellness Tip #6 - Eat well.
Coming from a neuronutritionist, I’m sure this will come as no surprise to you! The right foods can help improve not only our physical health, but our mental health, as well. In fact our state mind and mental wellness is directly related to the food we eat. So feed your body and brain the right anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense and quality foods.
If you’d like more information on which foods you should eat to improve your mental health, consider making an appointment to see me, either in person or online. I can help you discover which foods you may need to optimize your mental health.
Mental Wellness Month Tip #7 - Get quality sleep.
Sleep is important to every aspect of our health - especially our mental health. If we are tired or sluggish all the time, every task becomes more difficult. Our productivity, memory, and overall health suffer.
Aim for 7-8 hours of quality sleep every night. Try going to bed and getting up at the same time each night, sleep in a cool, quiet, and dark environment, and avoid using electronics at least one hour prior to turning out the lights.
Of course, if you feel your mental health or wellness is not where you would like it to be, or if you or a family member is experiencing mental health issues, you do not have go it alone! Give me a call or make an appointment to see me today. Proper nutrition and the right mindset can make a positive difference in improving anyone’s mental health.
And as always, I’d love to hear what you think. Drop me a line or comment below with your thoughts and tips on how you maintain your positive mental health.