What is mental health?Everybody has mental health. An easy way to think about it is the same way that we think about physical health. Let's make a comparison; when your physical health is tip top you've usually been drinking water, eating properly and exercising. If, perhaps, you stop eating well and drinking water, you may notice that you're more tired and you're not feeling as fab as usual. Mental health can be viewed similarly. If your mental health is well you've probably been fuelling your body with the right materials, spending time with friends, speaking out about concerning thoughts or issues, practicing things that make you feel good.
How does it happen?Sometimes a situation can affect our wellbeing. If we fall and break our leg, that's a shock factor. We need to address that, see a doctor and put the right help and support in place. If something traumatic happens in our lives (e.g.: the passing of a loved one), this might cause a huge change in feelings. So many things can trigger a decline in our mental wellbeing. If your mental health takes a slow decline, perhaps you've stopped speaking to your friends about what's really going on for you and as a result, these feelings build up and you feel fearful. You may fall into patterns of isolation and therefore end up overthinking social situations and thus develop further social anxiety. This could make you more upset and you may find yourself feeling under the weather.
Am I depressed?Our generation is consumed by the media and vice versa. We are shown most of the time are people with diagnosed mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. We are not shown that people can simply feel down, anxious or unsure and then sometimes people can recover. If we were shown this side of things, maybe when we feel this way we'd feel less crazy and be more inclined to speak out about what's really going on for us. Of course there are people, like me, that have diagnosed illnesses. And sometimes medication can be prescribed and stronger support systems put in place. But not everybody may fall into that category and that's what Mental Health Awareness Week should raise awareness about. If you are seriously concerned about your mental health, I urge you to speak to someone about it.
The key to mental wellbeing consists of three things. Your voice, your maintenance and your eye to help somebody else that may be struggling.
Am I alone?Everybody has bad days. Even the happiest, richest, most beautiful and confident person in the world has bad days and although our heads may tell us so, it is important to note that we are not alone. We are human. And sometimes life gets a little bit difficult, sometimes there isn't even a reason to feel down but we just do. Nobody has it all figured out, this is the first thing I remind myself when I feel down.
How do I deal with this?Maintaining your mental health is basically an excuse to treat yourself as much as you like! If you enjoy cooking - cook! If you enjoy eating chocolate - do it! If you like spending time with your friends - be my guest. But remember, everything in moderation. Treats aren't treats if they're permanent. It is a well known fact that both a healthy diet and exercise can contribute greatly to your mental wellbeing. By fuelling your body, you're fuelling your brain! If you feel your mental maintenance slipping, do something extra special to put yourself back on track. Put a night aside for 'you time', have a hot bath, light a candle and watch your favourite film. Self love is a wonderful thing. You cannot give to the world if you are not fully minding yourself. You cannot take from an empty vessel. So love up, you deserve it!
What if it's not me?The best advice that I could possibly conjure when it comes to keeping an eye out for the mental wellbeing of family and friends, is just to note isolation levels. Being alone is nice, but not all of the time. If you see someone you love spending more time in bed and less time in groups, maybe just check in and see if they're okay. If you find that you're being pushed away by someone you care about, instead of judging and taking it personally, consider that they may need space and an understanding ear. And if a situation arises and you simply can't handle it or don't know how to help, services like Samaritans are free of charge and available over the phone or you can speak to your GP. Passing a friend on to something like this could, in some situations, be the best thing that you could do. But for the best part, simply being a little more aware could improve yours or somebody else's life.
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