To say that the last two years have been challenging would be an understatement. During the COVID-19 pandemic, isolation, uncertainty, sickness, and grief became collective experiences that have taken an understandable toll on our mental health.
Many people fail to appreciate how crucial positive mental health is to their overall health and wellbeing. With it, you are better able to enjoy your life and all the people in it. You feel good about yourself, have successful relationships with those around you, and deal calmly and proactively with stressful situations.
However, your mental health state can shift over time in response to various stressors. While mental health struggles continue to be largely underestimated, the truth is nearly one in five adults in America is currently living with a mental illness. That’s what makes Mental Health Awareness Month so vital.
Observed every May in the United States since 1949, Mental Health Awareness Month, otherwise known as Mental Health Month, shines a critical spotlight on the importance of mental health. While in recent times, there has been an increase in mental health awareness with more priority being placed on taking care of one’s mental health, there is unfortunately still so much stigma surrounding mental illness. Concerns about being judged make people hesitant to reach out to their doctor or even to their loved ones for support.
Yet, with mental health issues currently at an all-time high, we must begin to normalize taking care of our mental health. Increased awareness reduces misconceptions about mental illness, encourages those who might be suffering to seek help, and educates people about available services. Beyond that, it shows people that they are not alone in what they are dealing with, and it sends a powerful message that it’s okay to not be okay.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) defines a mental illness as “a condition that affects a person’s thinking, feeling, behavior or mood.” It can also “deeply impact day-to-day living and may also affect the ability to relate to others.”
NAMI also reiterates exactly how widespread mental illness is and how most people in their lives will experience it in one form or another. Some of the more prevalent conditions include:
However, the thing about the vast majority of these conditions is that not only are they common, but they are also highly treatable.
Even if you think that you are not dealing with one of these conditions, an absence of mental illness does not necessarily equate to good mental health. Feeling tired and burned out, stressed and anxious, or just generally down in the dumps can affect everything from your ability to be happy and productive to how you deal with daily pressures and responsibilities.
It can also have a significant negative impact on your physical health through stress hormones that speed up your heart rate, increase your blood sugar levels, and impede your immune system. You may also not feel up to taking care of yourself and your body quite the way you should when dealing with such symptoms.
On the flip side, positive mental health increases your resilience making you better able to deal with life’s challenges. It encourages healthier coping mechanisms and raises self-esteem. You will be able to show up for your friends and family, do better at work, and generally have a higher quality of life.
That’s why it’s so important you take as much care of your mental health as you do your physical health. After all, if you were physically sick or had injured yourself, you wouldn’t hesitate for a second about seeking treatment. The same should be true for treating mental health symptoms. Don’t be scared to ask for help. There are a multitude of services out there that can support you.
Issues linked to mental health can impact different people in different ways. If you see changes in your overall happiness and how you are connecting with people, you need to do something about that.
Here are a few things you can do today to set you on the road to more positive mental health:
Be it a friend, family member, or colleague, having sufficient emotional support is critical when you are dealing with various life stressors. Talking honestly and openly about your feelings in a safe space can lift a weight from your shoulders to help you feel better and able to move forward.
Often one of the most underrated mood boosters, exercise is one of the most important. You don’t have to sweat it out on the treadmill to feel the benefits. A simple walk or bike ride is enough to get your endorphins flowing and instantly lift your mood.
Sometimes we get to the point where we feel we can’t cope simply because we are doing too much and feel burnt out. If you recognize that’s the case for you, you need to take a breather. Getting things done is all well and good - but not at the expense of your mental health.
Music offers massive benefits for mental health, be it reducing stress or dealing with sadness. At Spiritune, we combine principles from music therapy and neuroscience to alleviate negative feelings and inspire a more positive mood with science-driven music for reaching your emotional goals.
If the changes in your mood are having a significant impact on your life, then it’s time to seek help from a professional. SAMHSA runs a National Helpline 24/7, 365 days a year that is free and confidential. Here you can get information and treatment referral advice. NAMI also offers a wealth of vital national mental health services and resources.