Hey there! You’ll hear… or read… mental health A LOT on our website, Instagram, blog posts… so it’s important we get some common misconceptions out of the way and focus on the facts. If you are thinking, I don’t have any mental health problems, I don’t need this. please stick with me because understanding mental health is vital.
When you think mental health, what do you think? Your brain may instantly go to mental illness. You may think about the recent crimes committed by people named “mentally ill” in the media. You may think about the women in TV shows that are commonly referred to as “bi-polar” when they snap at loved ones or lose it in a mall. You may even picture someone you have met in real life who shows signs of being not fully in touch with reality.
If your brain does not instantly go there, you get some bonus points. If it did, that’s okay. These are ideas of SO many people that it’d be unfair to blame you for this… so here, bonus points for you too because you are reading and learning.
It took me 5 years to begin understanding mental health, so I cannot possibly explain it well enough within a blog post. There are more than 200 classified types of mental illness, but at its’ foundation, mental illness is characterized by a variety of symptoms that interfere with people’s ability to meet their daily needs. Here’s what is most important:
mental illness DOES NOT make someone less than.
It means he or she have a treatable condition, just like diabetes. It DOES NOT mean he or she is dangerous, crazy, or unworthy of time, love and support. It means he or she is a PERSON, not a DIAGNOSIS.
While not everyone will experience mental illness in their lifetime, mental HEALTH is something everyone has from birth.
So, what is it? Mental health is, at its most basic form, everything that makes up our thoughts and emotional processes.
“Mental health includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being. It affects how we
think, feel and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.” (What is Mental Health, 2017).
It impacts all aspects of our lives, so by not understanding mental health, we are neglecting vital pieces. Our relationships, our abilities to handle change, pressure and responsibilities, our identity… the list goes on and on. So why is it not as discussed as frequently as physical health? The stigma attached. Remember how I had to explain what mental illness was NOT? That’s the stigma. Right there. I hate it. We often fail to ask for help or even recognize the problem, simply because we have been conditioned to believe mental health=mental illness, and that both are inherently bad.
So what’s more important… physical health or mental health?
The answer is… BOTH. Mental health impacts physical health and vice versa. Think about this.. you’re trying to lose weight. You have gone through the physical steps- you shopped for all the healthy meals, you are getting good work-outs in. You’re progressing… and then you have a rough day. You’re stressed at work, your hubby forgot to set out the chicken needed for your healthy dinner… and you find yourself saying, screw it let’s just go get a Hot & Ready. Your body didn’t physically need the pizza… instead, for a variety of reasons, stress-eating, wanting to relax, etc., the pizza sounded like a better choice despite it not being the best for your physical health. This is why people who deal with high stress-levels often become sick frequently, have trouble sleeping or losing weight. If you are only focused on your physical health, you are missing a crucial piece of the puzzle.
It works the other way. Food has such a big impact on how we think, feel, etc. although it is generally thought to be a physical fuel (unless you are a stress eater like me! #icecream #pizza #nachos!) We will delve into this a little deeper in future posts, but for now.. grab nuts, fish, fruit, dark chocolate or raisins when you need a brain boost! It works, I promise!
Our mental health often requires maintenance.
Here’s a crucial piece we often miss: our mental health often requires maintenance. We usually do not think about our mental health until something is wrong. I am a mental health professional, and I still did not pay attention to mine until I was struggling. Typically, we wait until we are irritated, depressed, overwhelmed, isolated or quick to anger. That’s like not worrying about your car until the engine blows. It’s like not worrying about what you eat until you have diabetes. It’s like… well, you get it. Understanding mental health & building maintenance and creates balance so you can love yourself AND others.
What is Mental Health? (Aug. 29, 2017). MentalHealth.Gov. Retrieved from: https://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/what-is-mental-health