Mental well-being or mental illness?

Mental well-being is an opportunity that is little explored with the focus being more on mental illness.

The first-line treatments are usually mental therapies and medicines when a person suffers from a mental health illness, such as depression or anxiety.

However, the variable lifestyle choices that affect our mental well-being often get overlooked. In the effort to throw pills and interventions at us, we often feel that Mental Health is a health issue to resolve by others, not ourselves.

Additionally, the oversubscribed and woefully under-resourced Mental Health services are mainly ineffective. We have accepted as our norm a big package of helplessness, inability to participate in our wellness, and isolation from those who would dearly love to help. We wait till a doctor, a policeman, or a mental health worker intervenes.  We call this “the mental health system”.  Little emphasis is placed on mental well-being.

The power of Community in promoting mental well-being

There is a saying, “no man is an island”.  This is equally true for women.  While we are “being fine” and battling stoically and silently, we deprive others of the opportunity to be of value, and ourselves of the gift of perspective.  When our choice is only the thoughts we have, we can not hope to see the world any other way.

We must seek help from our community, friends and family. But, most importantly, it’s equally vital that we take responsibility for our mental well-being.

Taking responsibility for what we can address is essential to mental well-being. Most people with stress, anxiety, and other emotional disturbances feel entirely broken. However, once you can reframe your situation, it can change quickly, and I have seen that happen repeatedly.

Taking responsibility for our own health and well-being

According to Psychology Today, “Lifestyle changes—things as simple as nutrition and exercise—can have a significant impact on quality of life, for any of us, but especially for those dealing with issues such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. In addition, the study noted that they can help minimize the development of risk factors that can lead to conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension, all of which are seen at higher rates in those with mental illness.”

Making beneficial life choices can be uplifting. While time and financial constraints may restrict a few people’s capacities to make such choices, we can all make small but significant changes.

Five Lifestyle Choices To Improve your well-being

 Make Healthy Diet Choices

According to studies, our diet can impact our mental health, both positively and negatively. For example, according to new research from the University of Warwick, fruits and vegetables are associated with improved mental health.  If you ever made this change in your diet, you may remember the clarity you had in your mind at the time.  You can get this back again.  It’s good!

Water also plays a massive part in achieving that feeling of clarity. Water helps flush toxins contributing to that unhealthy feeling, and being hydrated provides more energy, clarity and a generally healthy feeling. An added benefit is the exercise you get from regularly running off to the loo.

Jokes aside, this is significant because mental well-being—feelings of enthusiasm, joy, self-esteem, and resilience—can help safeguard against mental health issues and physical illnesses.

 Cut Back On Your Vices

The following is a message, particularly for the younger generation but applies to everyone. Alcohol abuse is not as fun as you think it is. Eventually, most people can not cope with drinking or become alcohol dependent.   Worse, excessive alcohol at a young age shows up in cancer and illness later in life.

Managing problem drinking or substance abuse is a no-brainer regarding mental and physical health. But unfortunately, people with alcohol and drug problems are more likely than the general population to suffer from a mental illness, and their health outcomes are far worse.

A recent Statics NZ report shows the following:

  • In 2020-2-21, 35% of those aged 18-24 years were drinking alcohol in a hazardous way
  • One in five adults (19.9%) had a hazardous drinking pattern. (equivalent to 824,000 people)
  • The highest rates of hazardous drinking were 18-24 at 24.9%, but 45-54 year-olds were still represented at 23.8%
  • 34% of adults and 13% of children were obese
  • Chronic pain was experienced by nearly one in 5 adults

According to WebMD, side effects of alcohol consumption include:

Worsening of mental health after the calm feeling fades

  • Hangovers, including headaches and nausea and vomiting
  • Post-alcohol anxiety and/or depression

Are you fighting the urge to rebel and tell me to stop already?  Sure, no problem, but why would you fight harder for your vices over your own well-being?

 Spend Time In Quiet

We live in a noisy world. Outside, we are encircled by cars honking, public noises created by individuals, and the general hustle and bustle of the surroundings. However, when we are inside all day, such as at a desk, we are bombarded by sounds from dialogues, texting, cell phones, office equipment, and so on.

We also have noises from TVs or radios inside our homes. Our phones are constantly buzzing, with notifications and, of course, the deafening call of social media.

That is just the outside noise! Add to that the constant chatter inside your head. Phew! You could need a break!

Having quiet private time can do wonders for our mental well-being, resulting in more focused thoughts throughout the day. You can even try meditation, which promotes mental health.

Being silent and taking yourself to a wonderfully quiet spot is good for the soul. I live near the beach. It’s an excellent place for a walk. Leave the phone behind and take in the surroundings.

If you find going to a quiet place difficult, that is an indication of where you have work to do.   Make yourself a project instead of the many voices (must do, have to, should do, haven’t done) 🙂

Use Stress Reduction Methods

Mental illness sustains stress, and stress sustains mental illness. Taking measures to reduce stress in your life can help to break this destructive cycle.

According to LifeHack, “There are many forms of stress. People do not even realize they suffer from stress. Still, the buildup of small and regular negative thoughts and energy could negatively impact your mental and physical health. In addition, stress can cause poor mental health in various disorders such as depression and anxiety, personality changes, bipolar disorder, problem behaviours, cognitive (thinking) problems, etc.”

 Effective Stress Management Techniques

  • Emotional Freedom Technique
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Rest and relaxation
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation
  • Deep Breathing
  • Eliminating sources of significant stress
  • Distractions
  • Tai Chi
  • Unplug
  • Spend time doing things that bring you joy

Discuss Your Problem With Someone

If you have things or an issue on your mind, you get it off your chest when you share a problem with a trusted confidant. It can help you a lot. It is important to remember that desiring assistance implies strength, not weakness. It has been said that an issue that is partially shared is an issue that is half solved.

The Physical cost of mental illness

When you suppress negative or hurtful thoughts, such as frustration, your mental health suffers. You will feel stressed and tense and may not get enough sleep at night. These emotions accumulate quickly, resulting in a somewhat desperate state you cannot resist, such as depression or stomach ulcers.

So take responsibility to have a strong focus on yourself and your mental well-being.  It will turn your life around 🙂