Mental Health is the state of your psychological well being. The goal is for this to be a positive state without the presence of any mental disorders which is not always possible. The problem is that it is a part of ourselves that tends to get ignored or neglected, lessening even further the chances of maintaining our mental health. Mental health involves a large array of factors and is not based off of any simple one thing. It is one’s ability to enjoy life. Their ability to cope with stressors and build resilience. It is not conclusively the absence of mental disorder but how one manages the symptoms of any possible mental disorders. It is an ability to maintain emotional regulation. It includes the ability to form and maintain appropriate social relationships. It directly effects your ability to perform in daily tasks whether occupational or at home. In short, if it involves your brain, your feelings, your intelligence, your functioning, or your mental well being it is part of or directly effects your mental health. To top all of that off, it can also have a direct impact on your physical health and well being.
If mental health involves to much of ourselves and is so important, then why is it so often ignored. For starters, there is no one true test to measure your mental health. Of course there are psychological testing options that give many answers into mental health and diagnosis, but for the every day person, you cannot simply look at them and see the status of their mental health. This makes it easier to overlook. When there is something off or wrong with your physical health, in many cases you can tell just by looking or feeling. That is definitely not the case when it comes to mental health. Often times we don’t even realize within ourselves when something is off with our own mental health. Another reason our mental health can be ignored is because the effects of negative mental health factors are often dismissed as part of normal life, unimportant, or negligible. Most people today think it is normal to be tired, stressed, rushed, irritable, anxious, or even depressed. While it is normal to experience all of those things on a temporary and brief basis, consistent experiences are definitely not normal and are in most cases preventable. And thirdly, when everything else externally of ourselves has so much more importance placed on them, something so personal and internal as our own mental health loses all importance and priority.
This all becomes a problem when that ignored mental health begins to decompensate or fall apart. It may start as something small, feeling tired or overwhelmed, and then grow more and more, changing from occasional feelings of being overwhelmed to occasional feelings of sadness or anxiety, to frequent tearfulness, to lashing out in anger, to frequent depression, and more, further affecting our daily lives. The other problem is, that it builds upon itself and without that healthy foundation it can quickly become out of our own control and get to the point where we need professionals to help us, but because we are so unaware of our own mental health and its impact on us and everything else in our lives, we do not take these steps. So how do we become more aware of our own mental health and how to we make it a priority in order to maintain it?
It starts simple. It starts with recognizing what our mental health or mental state is and by recognizing when things start to go awry. We can do this by taking a daily inventory of our mental state. It is easy to know when something begins to become a problem physically. You may feel an ache in a joint and know that maybe arthritis is a problem. With mental health, it is not always that obvious. Taking a daily inventory of how we feel, how we are handling stress, how we maintain our daily responsibilities, how are relationships are going, and more can help to give us hints at the very beginning of a problem with our mental health. Daily mindfulness exercises can help increase your mental awareness as well as improve mental health by bringing your awareness into the present and reducing anxiety over the past or future. Journaling is also a useful tool for assessing mental health. It does not have to be pages and pages a day, but taking 5-10 minutes of day to write a stream of consciousness can help awaken you to how you are feeling or what you may be dealing with on a daily basis without even knowing it.
Beyond this, taking small daily steps to maintain your mental well being will have a significantly positive effect on building that solid base to your mental health. Unfortunately, you cannot always eliminate the factors that negatively impact mental health such as stress or conflict, but you can build a foundation to help you start from a healthy place and make it easier to maintain that precious mental health while facing those stressors. Taking care of yourself physically forms the bodily foundation which is always important to your mental health. Getting proper sleep, exercising, eating healthy, being social, and taking care of medical problems all help form the body or the shell for the mental health. Participating in activities that nourish your mental well being and soul keeps you strong and enriched, allowing you to face stressors more easily. This means maintaining the activities that enrich you such as yoga, running, painting, playing a sport, watching movies, ect. even when it does not feel like life allows the time for it. Some people use holistic treatment options to help support their mental health such as essential oils, meditation, or diet. And most importantly, when your mental health becomes something that you no longer feel you have control of or is negatively impacting other factors of your life, getting professional help is vital. Having yet one more appointment in an already busy life may feel impossible, but making your mental health a priority and getting the help will ultimately have a positive impact on all parts of your life and improve them. Realizing and accepting that your mental health must be your number one priority in order to maintain and perform all of your other priorities to the highest level is key to building that healthy mental health foundation.