Across human history, it’s only in the last breath of our existence that we’ve even begun to consider our mental health as a factor that can exert significant control over our life circumstances, our productivity, and our fulfillment. With the new release of studies and research showing that a good deal of us will experience some form of mental illness in our lives – that it touches virtually everybody on the planet – this is the best time to take control of one’s mental health in order to seize the initiative and help other people with their own struggles when life becomes tough.
The first port of call on your journey to understanding the mental health of yourself and others is with medical professionals. You’ll be able to talk to your doctor about the wide-ranging symptoms and implications of mental illness, as well as the various ways in which your mental health can take a decline. They’ll give you advice on what you should do when you recognize the warning signs in yourself and others, and they’ll take notes on what you say in case you’re coming to them with a specific problem that you feel you need help and support with.
Of course, if you are approaching a doctor with a mental health issue, you will deserve a pat on the back for having the strength and the wherewithal to make a positive step towards fixing the issue. Doctors in the US tend to prescribe anti-anxiety, anti-depressant, or antipsychotic medicine with a liberal hand and so you will be able to find medication quickly if you feel like you need it. As ever, the other strand of the medical profession’s ability to help is via the counseling or therapy route, which in abstract terms tends to target the root of the problem which the medication targets the results. It’s up to you and your doctor to decide the route you take.
Other than your doctor, there are also a plethora of genuinely helpful, thoughtful communities online where you’ll be able to find not only excellent advice but also heartfelt support for your own mental health worries. This can range from forums set up for certain specific ailments all the way through to the internet meme culture that exists on sites such as Tumblr which encourage people to seek strength in numbers, to feel validated and like they share these problems with other normal people. The internet provides a comfortable layer of anonymity to people who may be unsure about their own mental health; it’s a good place to see what the popular consensus is.
Away from specific forums or blog sites, the internet is also these days awash with the sort of professional and learned advice that once upon a time resided in the thickest and most unattractive looking book in your local library. A quick Google search might now reveal advice from the professionals around the world with regards to lifestyle habits to adopt, food to eat, mindfulness techniques to practice, self-help books to read, and a whole lot more that will be incredibly useful to anyone suffering from a decline in their mental health.
Your mental health is not something that you can rely upon totally through the duration of your life. As humans, we spend much of our time in a state of flux, in the chemical movement from one extreme to the other in a pendulum swing of different moods, energy levels, and vulnerability. The point of this is that we’re at different times in our lives more vulnerable to a bout of mental illness, so it’s best to be sensible, avoiding pushing things beyond our control. The same – and perhaps to a higher degree – can be said for those life events that can really knock the stuffing out of you: personal loss, financial concerns, break-ups and break-downs, and all else that causes extreme emotions to flood our comfortable lives.
One of the key tips here is to be aware that mental health is not stable and, even if you feel it is, to be aware that circumstance might come back around to prove you otherwise. Never suffer the hubris of believing you’re above mental health disorders or a long depression: it’s nothing to do with the strength of will or the fortitude of character, and self-conceit is an insensible way of preventing or delaying a diagnosis that will set you on the path to recovery. Finally, don’t take risks with drugs and a precarious lifestyle – especially if you’re prone to mental health issues already.
Most prevalent in men but nonetheless common enough in women is the impetus to repress a mental health disorder, pretending it’s not there in a state of denial that even close friends and family can sometimes see through. It’s not something to recommend, despite it seeming, on the surface, that you’re able to hold it together. Much research still needs to be done about the links between drug and alcohol addiction as a disease in itself, and its relationship to other mental health issues, but it’s a common form of numbing and repression, and one that should ring alarm bells.
Having read this, you may see it as important to learn more about the implications of drug and alcohol addiction, and how to get clean through rehab. But addiction is not the only manifestation of a potential repressed mental illness. Self-monitoring with brutal honesty is the best way of looking at yourself: you may feel anxious for no reason, suffer from panic attacks, lack a good sleep schedule, or find yourself unable to switch off – these are all potential warning signs and dismissing them as simply ‘the way you are’ is to incorporate them into your day-to-day life instead of taking a step back to evaluate how your life could change if you took control of your mental health by recognizing you have a problem.
Be Open With Friends And Family
It is a sad thing when people lose their support structure – the social safety net of loved ones that come together to prevent people from hitting rock bottom. Most of us are fortunate to have such people around us, even if they’re our workmates, our distant relatives, or our old school friends. As much as it’s their responsibility to look out for you in a kind and compassionate way, it’s the responsibility of someone suffering from a mental illness to speak openly and plainly about what they’re going through so that people are at least able to perceive when there’s something wrong. It goes without saying, hopefully, that you should also look out for others and be proactive in enquiring about their mental state.
By being open with the people closest to you when you’re in a pleasant and stable mental place, even the slightest of changes in your communication will alert them to a potential decline in your mood or your mental health: this is the best place to be – a place of honest and frank communication with the people you trust to look out for you in the tough times. Friends and family are able to deliver the sort of personalized and hard-hitting advice that medical professionals are sometimes held back from delivering due to their distance from the patient, so can be extremely helpful in the early stages of a mental health issue, catching you before it gets any worse.
Adopt Healthy Practices
There is a relationship between mental and physical health that can often go a little understated, but it’s a holistic view of your overall lifestyle and the choices that you make that is the best determiner of your mental health. Habits such as daily exercise are incredibly useful in that they deliver health benefits ranging from cosmetic to muscular to brain chemistry to motivational boosts. Eating well achieves much the same, fueling you in body and mind to tackle the challenges of day-to-day life. Being social immerses us in a community of people that will prevent any collapse of introspection and isolation in the self. These are all fundamental practices to focus on in life.
Army officers encourage recruits to make their beds not because it’s a form of oppressive discipline, but because, even if they achieve nothing else that day, they return to a fresh and well-made bed at night – something that they can take a small about of pride in. In this way, there’s a pretty much infinite number of things that you can do to be kind to your future self: tidying up after yourself, saving up a little emergency money, texting friends, buying a new shirt – anything that gives you a small boost in one way or another is a healthy practice that will help you maintain a healthy mental state.
As a global society, we’re only now beginning to understand the implications of mental health on our lives: use these tips to engender a deeper and more comfortable understanding, helping yourself and your loved ones in the process.