What is Mental Health?
Everyone talks about mental health, but what is it really? According to the World Health Organization, mental health is “a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.” It is in the absence of mental health where things start to go wrong.
“Research shows that high levels of mental health are associated with increased learning, creativity and productivity, more pro-social behaviour and positive social relationships, and with improved physical health and life expectancy. In contrast, mental health conditions can cause distress, impact on day-to-day functioning and relationships, and are associated with poor physical health and premature death from suicide.
Ultimately, mental health is about being cognitively, emotionally and socially healthy – the way we think, feel and develop relationships – and not merely the absence of a mental health condition.”
So What Can We Do to Help Our Mental Health?
Anxiety is the most common mental health problem in Australia – and affects roughly 1 in 4 Aussies.
Beyondblue has developed a checklist which can help you to get an indication of your levels of anxiety or depression and provides resources to assist in dealing with your circumstances. To try it for yourself, visit beyondblue
As the old saying goes, “prevention is better than cure”, so lets look at some actions you can take to help maintain our own mental health:
Simple things You can Start Doing Today
Take a break.
Practice yoga, listen to music, meditate, get a massage, or learn relaxation techniques. Stepping back from the problem helps clear your head. Mindfulness apps like Headspace can also guide you to bring your attention back to the present moment, and away from problematic thoughts.
Eat well-balanced meals.
Do not skip any meals. Do keep healthful, energy-boosting snacks on hand. The mineral magnesium helps muscle tissue to relax, and a magnesium deficiency can contribute to anxiety, depression and insomnia. Inadequate intake of vitamin B and calcium can also exacerbate anxiety symptoms. Make sure your daily diet includes foods such as wholegrain cereals, leafy green vegetables and low-fat dairy products.
Limit alcohol and caffeine.
These can aggravate anxiety and trigger panic attacks.
Get enough sleep.
When stressed, your body needs additional sleep and rest. Sleep has a huge effect on our physical and emotional health.
Exercise to help you feel good and maintain your health.
Staying active can make a difference to energy levels and hormones that help you feel better about yourself. Being outside can also help reduce stress and boost your mood. So take the dog for a walk or take a stroll through the park. Watch this video for some simple exercises you can incorporate every day without any effort
Take deep breaths.
Inhale and exhale slowly. You can make sure you are breathing correctly by placing one hand on your lower abdomen and the other on your chest. Correct breathing means your abdomen moves, rather than your chest. It also helps to slow your breathing while feeling anxious.
Count to 10 slowly.
Repeat, and count to 20 if necessary.
Do your best.
Instead of aiming for perfection, be proud of however close you get.
Accept that you cannot control everything.
Put your stress in perspective: Is it really as bad as you think?
Enjoy a laugh.
A good laugh goes a long way to making the world a brighter place.
Maintain a positive attitude.
Make an effort to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
Volunteer or find another way to be active in your community, which creates a support network and gives you a break from everyday stress. Withdrawing can make you feel worse, so try reconnecting with friends.
Learn what triggers your anxiety.
Is it work, family, school, or something else you can identify? Write in a journal when you’re feeling stressed or anxious, and look for a pattern. Tracking your thoughts is a good way to identify those that are making you feel down and depressed, and help you challenge the way you think
Talk to someone.
Tell friends and family you’re feeling overwhelmed, and let them know how they can help you. Talk to a physician or therapist for professional help.
Take some time to do things you enjoy.
Try to make yourself do one thing that you used to enjoy doing – even if you initially feel you can’t be bothered.
Want some more ideas? Check out our Hints for Happiness post
The above information has been compiled from several reputable sources worldwide.
Anxiety and Depression Association of America