Globally around 1 in 5 people suffer from some type of mental health disorder, notably depression and anxiety. Both conditions are classed as diagnosable disorders with treatment regimes available. Some of the ongoing symptoms that will give you a clue that you may need help with your emotional, and mental, health, include:
- Sleeping disorders
- Constant, ongoing tiredness
- Constantly feeling down, stressed, anxious, lack of confidence, feeling hopeless all the time
- Continual tension in the neck, chest tightness, headaches, rapid heart rate
- Irritability, short-tempered, procrastinating, difficulty making decisions
- Inability to concentrate or focus on things, racing thoughts
- Escaping into alcohol and drugs or using food to take your mind off things
We’re used to being told how eating healthily and exercising enough can promote a healthy body and reduce associated health disorders like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, strokes and so on. What many of us may not realise is that we can also promote our emotional health and mental well being in similar ways. Our brain in particular can be trained to focus on other things instead of letting it focus on our problems.
Whilst biologically the underlying cause of many emotional issues are imbalances in hormones secreted by our gonad, thyroid and adrenal glands, there are nevertheless a number of practical ways that we can help ourselves help ourself before we get to the point of having a clinical mental health disorder.
Family And Friends Are Important
Family and friends are more important to us than many of us realise. If you’ve been tempted to take them for granted, maybe now is the time to turn that around. Make a point of keeping in touch with your family, and your friends. This network of support is invaluable in times of emotional stress and anxiety. Interacting with them also occupies your mind and keeps it from focusing too much on yourself and your problems.
Go Out And Get A Life
When it comes to emotional well being, social isolation is a major risk factor. Humans are by evolution a ‘herd animal’. We weren’t always the dominant species on this planet – ancient human skulls have been found in ancient bird’s nests with damage indicating the person, often a child, was killed by said bird.
So we learned rather rapidly that there is safety in numbers and we’ve evolved to rely on being part of a group for safety, security and emotional well being. Therefore many of us don’t cope particularly well being on our own for extended periods of time. Sure, we’re fine in the short term but if habitual isolation becomes our way of life it can lead to emotional issues.
When we’re with other people it helps takes our mind off our personal problems. Being alone, without much to occupy your mind, allows us to become introspective and spend too much time thinking about depressing things, like being alone with no one to talk to! Humans also like to feel needed, valued and accepted. It builds self-esteem, self-respect and ultimately makes us feel better about ourselves. Which in turn contributes to better emotional health.
Get A Hobby Or An Interest That You Can Immerse Yourself In
Hobbies or absorbing activities are a really great way to escape mentally from the things that may be stressing you. When you can keep yourself occupied mentally and physically doing something you enjoy doing, it really does help take your mind off your stresses. If the hobby also involves doing things with other people, you’ll be killing 2 birds with one stone. For some people, their work provides this interest. Learning interesting new things is also a great way to get involved in something that engages your mind and stops you from thinking about yourself.
There is plenty of scientific evidence to support the notion that being physically active improves mood and makes you feel a whole lot better about yourself. Exercise, or just doing things that require a bit of physical exertion, causes the release of ‘feel good’ brain hormones. Just as focusing on hobbies or interests can take your mind off your problems, so too can focusing on exercising. Regular exercise can also give you a sense of achievement, particularly if you’re trying to lose weight or become more healthy.
A tip here though – be sure to choose exercise or physical activities that you enjoy, and that fit into your daily life. There’s no point doing things that you don’t enjoy or that you can’t readily do. That will only end up causing you more stress and anxiety when you can’t do them, or when you have to force yourself to do them. Experts, backed up by research, recommend a combination of both aerobic and resistance exercises for helping with issues like depression. They’re also a great way to get fit generally.
Go Green Or Natural
There is a growing body of research around the importance of urban green spaces and natural environments for improved mental health. They have been linked to decreased incidences of anxiety and depression. Either way, going for a walk or a cycle in your local park or through the bush, or even a trip to the beach, can significantly help raise your spirits and improve your emotional well-being. Better still, pack a picnic and spend several hours just communing with Mother Nature. The fresh air and exercise will also do you the world of good.
Ditch Bad Habits
Bad habits like smoking and drinking too much alcohol also contribute to poor emotional, and physical, health.
It’s interesting how this one, along with exercise, turns up nearly all the time on just about every How To health related list! Yes, eating properly really is “THAT” important. Our bodies rely on a balanced intake of nutrients, many of which can only be obtained through our diet. Vitamin and mineral supplements only go so far. There are still hundreds, if not thousands, of plant compounds that haven’t been identified or replicated chemically. Furthermore, we are designed to obtain these naturally as part of a balanced diet and not necessarily by popping chemical substitutes. These compounds work synergistically in nature and when we eat the plants that contain them, we get the full benefits of all the various compounds, instead of just an isolated few.
Having said that, there is also research indicating that certain types of diets are better for mental health than others. A Mediterranean type of diet for example, that contains plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and fish, has been shown to improve mental health in people prone to suffering from depression.
The Power Of Positive Thinking
Always look on the bright side of life…. There is nothing more depressing than a pessimist. All that looking at things from the perspective of doom and gloom just feeds into depression and low morale. If that sounds like you, try this exercise on for style. When something happens ask yourself this simple question “will this really matter in 10 years down the track?” Most of the time, the answer will be ‘probably not.’ You could also try rating things on an ‘awful scale’ of 0 to 100 and remembering the old adage that “every cloud has a silver lining”. Loosely translated that means ‘most situations have a positive aspect’. Finding the positives can really offset all the negatives and make you feel so much better about it.
Remember too that life isn’t always fair and subscribing to the theory that most of the time, what doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger, can also go a long towards positively rewiring your mindset.
Be Aware That You Can’t Please All Of The People All Of The Time, Including Yourself
Some people set themselves, and others, almost impossible standards and then make life really hard for themselves when they, or others, don’t meet those standards. This is a recipe for mental and emotional health disaster. Know that it’s actually OK to not be perfect. It’s also perfectly OK if not everyone thinks you’re wonderful. In today’s social media and electronic world you can simply block them, unfriend them, send their unopened emails to junk mail and so on. And focus on spending time with people who do like you, and who accept you for what and who you are. Your mind, and your emotions, will thank you.
Finding The Right Balance
For some people trying to find time to balance everything going on in one’s life can cause mental and emotional problems. In which case taking some time out to reassess priorities, relax and unwind is a wise move.
Finally, everyone has ‘those’ days where nothing seems to go right, and you seem to go from one catastrophe to another. Or gloomy days where everything seems dire and the future looks a bit grim. For most of us, they pass over and we come out the other side just fine. If however you find that you’re constantly have those sorts of days, to the point where they’re affecting your ability to function normally and you can’t get through them, it’s time to get professional help.