How many of you have paid attention to what you ate in the last year, maybe gone on a diet, or just tried to get healthier?
How many of you have been to a dentist in the last year, engaged in some form of physical exercise, or visited a doctor to get a checkup?
Our physical health is seen as hugely important, and most of us are aware of the need to look after it on a regular basis. Mental health, on the other hand, is invisible, and humans tend to disregard what they can’t see. However, just as the early detection of chronic illness risk allows us to change behaviours and prevent disease, so the maintenance of mental health can lead to the prevention of mental illness.
Many of the strategies that promote physical health, such as exercise, good nutrition and good sleep, also promote mental health and well-being. There are other things we can do to maintain mental health on a regular basis, and these include:
- Monitoring our stress and anxiety levels and being aware of when we are taking on too much.
- Being aware of when our mood declines for a prolonged period, as this can lead to depression.
- Noticing when our appetites (food, sex, social interaction) start to change.
- Be aware of the changes in our mood caused by alcohol or other substances and reduce their use accordingly. This is not the way to manage difficult feelings or challenging times.
- Seek social support and make time each day for communication with others.
- Take regular breaks to de-stress and wind down, even if it just going for a walk or meditating for ten minutes.
- Talk about your feelings, our emotions are important and shouldn’t be ignored.
- Do things you are good at, this brings about enjoyment and boosts self-esteem.
- Ask for help! Whenever you start to be concerned that you aren’t functioning as well as you normally do, talk to someone you trust or visit your GP, and consider seeing a counsellor or psychologist.
The prevention of mental illness is often an overlooked topic because we worry about the stigma if we admit we are struggling or need to seek help. People might tell us to pull ourselves together or get over it, which only exacerbates our sense that we should be coping better.
Remember, mental health is health. We cannot separate it from our regular routines of caring for ourselves, so care for yours on a daily basis.
If the subject matter in this article resonates with you, then counselling might be a good option to help you to move forward. I offer a free 20-minute consultation so we can explore how I might be able to help you.