Our mental health controls a lot about our lives, be it the moods and emotions that we experience, the actions that we do or don’t take, the expectations that we have of ourselves and our lives,to the state of our physical health. But mental health is something that is also very poorly understood. To many of us, mental health is about being “crazy,” or about sitting on couches and complaining to psychiatrists. The reality is that there's so much more to mental health than these vague (and largely inaccurate) notions. Here's what you need to know.
What is mental health, really?
Simply put, when referring to mental health, what is meant is the aspect of our overall health that has to do with our minds. This includes our brains, thoughts, mindset, emotions, and the conditions that can make our lives difficult by affecting the function of our minds and emotions.
Mental health is not about being "crazy" or “not crazy." It's about a wide variety of situations and conditions that can affect the mind. It’s vital to note that symptoms of mental health distress and illness are on a spectrum. They can sometimes be mild and do little to affect everyday life. Other times, the symptoms can disrupt productivity, limit happiness, or harm relationships. Many mental illnesses also have comorbidities, which means other associated mental or physical health conditions, that can lead to different diagnoses over the course of one’s lifetime. The most important factor to consider is whether the symptoms are causing disruption to one’s typical everyday routine, and the extent of their interference.
Just like physical illnesses, mental health issues are in no way a sign of weakness. Mental health issues can come without warning and seemingly without cause, just like physical illnesses and injuries. They can also be brought on or worsened by situations and even lifestyle decisions, just like physical issues can be.
Your mental health and your physical health
Mental health works like physical health in many ways. Symptoms of mental and physical ailments can also overlap. A mental illness can make us feel fatigued and can even lead to chronic conditions. Likewise, physical problems can often lead to mental health-related symptoms, like feeling down or anxious. Physical and mental health issues can reinforce or even cause one another. Someone who is depressed, for example, can lose the ability to exercise and to care for his or her physical needs and health.
Both physical and mental health require care. You should turn to experts for check-ups and treatments, and you should know that overall lifestyle decisions — like eating healthy and sleeping well — can affect both physical and mental health.
Physical and mental health are clearly similar, yet most of us do more to care for our physical sides. We're more likely to visit a doctor or take medicine for our physical ailments than for our mental ones. It shouldn't be this way.
Caring for your mental health
We should care for our mental health just as we do for our physical health. This should include regular check-ups, emergency care, and lifestyle decisions designed to maintain our health. It may beneficial to also consider therapy. Just as you have a primary care physician who helps you care for your physical health, a psychologist or psychiatrist can help you with your mental health. Therapy should form a much more basic part of our overall healthcare plans than it currently does, explains one therapist in NYC. You can make the decision to help yourself by reaching out to a professional.
Therapy can help you improve your mood and better handle your emotions. It can give you coping mechanisms and perspectives that make it easier for you to handle stressful and triggering situations. It can strengthen your relationships, improve your self-esteem, and make you more productive. The benefits of therapy are numerous.
Now is the time to take your mental health seriously. Make the decision to get a therapist, and start thinking about your mental health as an integral part of your overall health picture.