Mental health is a condition that affects physical, emotional, and social well-being. Mental health is linked to our emotional and physical systems. The way a mind processes and functions describes the state of mental health. Mental health is similar to physical health and needs to be cared for just like the body.
If we’re not able to manage our mental health, it can lead to distress and dysfunction. It’s always important to check in with ourselves, take care of ourselves, and see a doctor when we’re stressed and having trouble functioning.
Moments of Distress
Some people may not have a diagnosed mental illness, but their thoughts, behaviors and actions show signs of being mentally distressed. A family member who hasn’t dealt with a past pain or loss, may take his anger and frustrations out on his loved ones and become abusive. He may use maladaptive approaches to cope with his mental struggles.
I even knew a superior who enjoys asking his subordinates vexing questions about their private lives, love and sexual affairs. Although he made his subordinates feel horrified and uncomfortable, he remained oblivious of his pesky behavior. Sometimes I wonder if such behaviors are also signs of deteriorating mental health?
Our ways of communication, perception, action and behavior unfold our state of mental health. I perceive distress as unconsciously affecting the peace and well-being of self and others.
Some mentally exhausted people don’t show direct or roaring signs, they continue suffering in silence. While self-soothing silently in a state of denial, they became absent-minded and no longer had the focus, interest, and attention to understand extensive information.
Moments of Dysfunction
Dysfunction may occur in performing activities and communicating with others. When mental performance is impaired, we cannot function as effectively as we once did. Examples include missing appointments, forgetting to complete a task, or neglecting hygiene, health, and general well-being.
A person may gamble all night or drink alcohol and skip work the next day. I’ve met some who remain adamant about keeping their bad moods in check during conversations and making decisions.
In times of distress or discomfort, some use maladaptive coping methods to deal with the situation. For example, always talking negatively about others, finding fault with any positive situation, externalizing blames, relying too much on nicotine, alcohol and other substances, eating too much, or being addicted to pornography are all unconscious ways of coping with psychological instability. These dysfunctions reflect a lack of social and self-awareness. They show that the psyche continues to lose vitality and clarity.
A Brief Understanding of Mental Disorders
It states that in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders DSM-5, there are nearly 300 types of mental disorders. The most common include personality disorders(i.e., obsessive-compulsive personality disorder) psychotic disorders (i.e., schizophrenia), neurological disorders (i.e., global developmental delay and mild intellectual disability), anxiety disorders and mood disorders (i.e., bipolar disorder and depression). Mental disorders are quite similar to physical illnesses. We’re diagnosed and must deal with our challenges and care for ourselves, in order to maintain our health.
I strongly believe that a person can suffer from mental health problems without being diagnosed with a mental disorder. Therefore, mental health is a priority for everyone, whether there’s a diagnosis or not. We should all take the initiative and work to maintain a positive form of social and emotional well-being.
What are the causes of mental health problems?
There are many causes of mental health problems. They can be due to trauma, childhood abuse, intimate partner abuse, stigma, discrimination, social disadvantages, stress, burnouts, emotional meltdowns, emotional suppressions, compassion fatigues, any pressing emotions like guilt and regret, grief, losses, crisis situations — e.g. the loss of a job, physical health problems, psychosomatic symptoms, genetic roots, family dynamics, cultural factors and lifestyle factors(work-life balance, sleeping patterns, diet and nutrition).
There are many chained reactions taking place within a person when their mental health is affected. For example, psychological problems cause emotional pain and psychosomatic symptoms. These psychosomatic symptoms then cause even more worry and affect mental health even more.
So what can we do to prevent and self-intervene?…..
Here are 5 tips to manage mental health:
1.) Do a Self- Assessment
These are some questions that can be used to do a self-assessment.
a) How do my thoughts work?
b) How do my thoughts affect my feelings?
c) How do my feelings affect my actions and behaviors toward myself and others?
d) Am I able to do my daily activities well?
e) Am I struggling hard to be competent, or constantly worrying about what others will think of me?
f) Am I able to do my work in a calm, joyful, relaxed, and flowing way?
g) Am I working too hard or totally neglecting work?
h) Am I fighting to be a people pleaser or constantly seeking validation?
i) Do I skip workouts and eat sweet pies and cakes for breakfast every day, and then self-comfort myself that it’s okay to enjoy this way?
j) Do I smoke a lot during work breaks or think desperately of weekends to party hard?
k) Are my own values, beliefs, norms and culture, in any way tormenting my thought processes?
Some signs look normal, but they’re the precursors to mental energy leakage.
2.) Prioritize Your Work and Commitments
Practice saying no, when your mental, emotional, and physical health is strained. Never take on any tasks that jeopardize your well-being.
Next, write down the important tasks and work on the ones that are most important to you. Don’t put off important tasks and don’t always rush to get them done. Relax and do them in a calm and joyful way. Do your tasks consistently and do them bit by bit. This way you’ll do less work and achieve more productive results. You will no longer feel stressed.
3.) Connect with Nature
Take a walk through your park. Look at the trees, the river and the squirrels, and smell the fresh air, it relaxes and grounds your energy. I usually go to the park to walk, read and write. I feel creative, joyful and mentally peaceful when I do that. Nature brings the mind to its natural state of euphoria.
4.) Change The Channel and Change the Environment
If any information imperils your mental health, it is a piece of toxic information. Change the channel if the news doesn't make you happy and triggers painful thoughts.
If your current environment is affecting your mental and emotional well-being, it’s time to plan a change. If you find yourself in a place where you face discrimination, feel unvalued or unprogressive, then you need to leave. Stay around people who lift your spirits. Communicate with people who inspire and energize you.
It’s always good to limit all interactions and distractions that rob you of your sacred mental energy. Feed your mind and body only with invigorating activities and nourishment.
I learned and applied this method before. I am writing it here in my own words for easier understanding and application.
Step one: Understand and apply the ABC theory.
Activating event: What’s causing the stress to your mental health?
Beliefs (your irrational beliefs and thoughts about the event): How do you perceive it — that adds to your mental stress?
Consequence: Your emotional reactions and actions that result from your irrational beliefs and thoughts.
When we make demands on ourselves or frantically try to meet the demands of others, it also affects our mental health.
Step two: You can replace your mental demands or irrational thoughts and beliefs, and reframe them to an acceptable and manageable form.
1) Mental demand: I need to get this task done by today. If I am unable to complete my task, I will feel incompetent and useless.
1a) Reframe: I shall try to get as much done as possible today and will continue tomorrow. I trust that I can function better after a short break tonight.
2) Mental Demand: I am not good at all, my colleagues accuse me of not showing my commitment during the group discussion about the upcoming project.
2a) Reframe: I did my part to do the group work but I can’t control the perception of others. I’m aware of my strengths and will follow through on explaining my points about my efforts, and the support I can provide for the project’s success.
3) Mental Demand: My partner suspects me of cheating, I have to defend myself aggressively to prove my loyalty.
3a) Reframe: I’m angry and frustrated. But I’ll use this challenge as an opportunity to empathize with my partner’s concerns, express my love and strengthen my intimate relationship.
4) Mental Demand: I failed my exams thrice. I feel so hopeless and less successful than others.
4a) Reframe: I have failed thrice, maybe there is something that I missed looking at. Let me take some time to think and explore what I can do to improve my situation. Perhaps, I should try studying another course that fits my interests and potential.
An easy way to start is by replacing the many demanding ‘musts’ in your life, and reframing them to ‘can, should, may, will, shall or would.’
Release yourself from mental structures of rigid demands and heavy expectations. Be mentally prepared and brace yourself to face situations that don’t turn in your favor. You cannot always stop an adverse situation but you can always choose the best possible way to deal with it.
However, if a situation isn’t improving despite persistent efforts, you may end up feeling mentally fatigued. In such stagnant situations, practice knowing when to reframe the situation and when to let it go.
When a balloon is popped, don’t try too hard to mend it, practice accepting, let it go and move on. Accepting what is in our control and letting go of situations beyond our control improves our mental health.
Thank you for reading my insights.