Mental health challenges are a global concern.
This isn’t just because it costs trillions of dollars yearly (with the US alone racking up $225 billion in 2019). More so because even the concept of a “mental health challenge,” is largely stigmatized and misunderstood. It is hard to recognize, and even more tricky to treat.
The reality we find ourselves points to one glaring fact: The task of protecting, managing, and treating your mental health challenges is largely your responsibility.
Taking care of your mental health is not just about therapy, practicing meditation, and sticking to your medication; there are also things you should NOT do in order to help yourself.
It is true; life is full of ups and downs. For some people, it has always been the “downs” and they have to struggle for the rest of their lives. Sometimes unexpected things happen that shake “healthy” people to the foundations of their beings (they call these traumas).
Other times, prolonged challenges from life events mounts insane pressure on peoples’ lives and they are left struggling under the immense weight.
No one chooses to have mental health issues.
However, it is still our responsibility to stand up, and do something about the situation we find ourselves in. For the sake of this article, we will focus solely on the things you might be doing, that aren’t helping your mental health.
If mental health challenges are starting to overwhelm you, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional. Mental Health America is available 24/7 if you need to talk to someone. In Canada, reach out to the Canadian Centre for Mental Health & Sport via email, phone or text.
Below are 9 things that aren’t helping your mental health:
Isolation simply means being disconnected from people.
Not a lot of people know this, but isolation has been observed to actually physically alter the brain of lab animals.
This causes the brain to shrink and can lead to other abnormal brain changes that are similar to those of patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
Isolation also increases the risk of depression, stress, anxiety, loneliness, heart attack, and stroke. So, while it is advisable to cut off unhealthy social interactions, it is crucial that you build and maintain healthy interactions from time to time.
Thanks to the Internet (particularly Social media), we can now stay “connected” with millions of people around the globe, and this is good.
One problem with it is that it's also created an avenue to escape reality – to escape real physical social interactions.
The result is that those who stay glued to the screens and ignore spending quality time with loved ones, can consequently emotionally starve them.
The simple habit of going out and meeting new people (or loved ones), and putting the phone away when interacting with them can go a long way in helping your mental health.
A lot of people are very busy, being busy.
For the sake of your mental health, you must figure out the difference between the tasks that are important, and those that are urgent. And oftentimes the “urgent” tasks are not important.
Juggling several “urgent” activities often comes with cognitive costs – which brings about burnouts. This can leave you too drained for the truly important tasks, not to mention being stressed, and in a bad mood.
Slow down, and focus on the important things; the world is not on fire, right?
Saying “Yes” to everyone is very unhealthy.
For a start, it can leave a lot of dreaded and unimportant tasks on your to-do list. Not only will this make you miserable, but it can also leave you stressed, bitter, tired, resentful, and sometimes sad.
We do not overcome our negative emotions (such as fear, anxiety, sadness, anger, etc.) by ignoring, or suppressing them, but by facing and processing them.
When we ignore our thoughts and emotions, we risk having them build up only to explode (or implode) at an unexpected time – sometimes with an unbearable intensity.
Situations like this can lead to mental breakdowns, panic attacks, or emotional outbursts to mention a few. These issues may be avoided if you talk to someone, or found a way to not suppress those negative emotions.
It can be so hard to simply ask for help. And most of us don't have the coping skills or knowledge of how to deal with these emotions. But you can learn. And it can help you.
Aside from the numerous physical benefits of exercising, it has a lot of psychological, emotional, and mental benefits.
For instance, walking for just 12 minutes daily can lift your mood, and help you cope with stress better.
Spending just 15 minutes daily under the sun can greatly boost your mood because sunlight helps you synthesize vitamin D (which is believed to be a mood booster).
Being out in the sunlight also helps optimize your circadian rhythm (so you can sleep better at night). All of which brings about a healthier mind. Even if you feel you can't leave your house yet, sitting by a window or out on your deck to get a dose of sunshine can help.
Anxiety, depression, stress, bipolar disorder, and some other mental health challenges both cause and are worsened by lack of adequate sleep.
Due to this circular relationship between sleep and mental health challenges, it is important that a sleep schedule is drawn-out, and followed religiously; having an erratic sleeping pattern – especially when sleep time is reduced – often leads to dark places and negative emotions.
Food and substances are often viewed as coping mechanisms, but they can also worsen the situation at times.
For instance, the chances of a person struggling with a mental health challenge harming themselves significantly rises once they start using substances.
This may be because of how it (the substance) negatively affects their mood, other coping skills, self-esteem, and relationships. On the other hand, binging on comfort foods may feel like a very effective means to relieve yourself and boost your mood.
But just like alcohol, they can also leave you feeling depleted, ashamed, and guilty in the long run if you don’t eat them in moderation.
One reason many people slip into these aforementioned habits is that they can be quite alluring.
Avoiding social contact and distracting yourself with endless social media feeds can be easy.
It is easy to avoid dealing with upset people by just saying “yes” and mounting tasks upon yourself. But this can serve to help you run from the “important” task of processing your thoughts and feelings.
Not exercising and staying indoors all day can seem like the easiest choice. And it is easy to stay up all night watching TV and having your nightly glass of wine and portions of comfort foods.
But, you must realize that the “small things” do add up.
You must also remember that the assignment of taking care of your mental health is in your hands, and all that you do (or don’t do) works for (or against) you.
We recognize some of this is easier said than done. 'If it was so easy, I would have done it before.' If you can do anything to help yourself feel better, just give it a try. No judgment.