Understanding Your Mental Health
Imagine you wake up one morning, and as you stretch and yawn, you notice something unusual. You’re not feeling well, but you cannot put a finger on it. It’s not a physical ache or a sore muscle. But your whole body feels heavy. Like a boulder on your chest. A knot of worry that refuses to loosen its grip. You feel so uneasy and uncomfortable, but you don’t know why.
That’s your mental health whispering to you. Calling your attention, just as your body would if it were injured. You see, Mental health is as real and vital as physical health. It’s not just an abstract idea; it’s a concrete part of our overall wellbeing. Sometimes, our mental and physical health are like best friends—they affect each other. When you’re physically unwell, it can mess with your mental wellbeing, and when you’re struggling emotionally, it can impact your physical health. For instance, stress can give you headaches or make your stomach upset. So, taking care of your mental health is just as important as looking after your body. They’re connected, and a happy, healthy you means taking care of both your mind and body.
In this article, we’ll help you understand more about your mental health.
What is Mental Health?
Our mental health is the overall state of our emotional, cognitive, and social wellbeing. It’s how well (or poorly) we interact with ourselves and the people around us. It’s how positively (or negatively) we think, feel, and act.
Our emotional health is not just our mood. It’s almost everything intangible we feel in our body – mood, thoughts, feelings, emotions, and intentions.
What are the components of Mental Health?
Emotional wellbeing involves recognising, understanding, and effectively managing emotions. It’s about being in tune with how we feel, whether it’s happiness, sadness, anger, or any other emotion, and finding healthy ways to express and cope with these feelings.
For example, a close relative or friend passes away unexpectedly. Upon hearing the news, you might experience a wide range of negative emotions. From shock, horror, and denial, to sadness, and grief. It might take some time for you to recover from this traumatic event. And this might lead to mental health issues like depression. That’s because highly traumatic events like this are difficult for us to process. So, to successfully navigate your emotions, you might need to work with a professional to overcome these emotions.
But, for less extreme cases, like day-to-day disappointments, an emotionally healthy person can easily deal with these petty grievances. Things like controlling your temper when someone cuts you off on the freeway, or not ruminating over your boss’ remarks during the last meeting.
Emotional well-being is essential because our emotions are the foundation of our mental health. Having a lot of negative emotions creates negative feelings that seep into the other areas of our mental (and physical) health.
Our cognitive health relates to our thought processes, beliefs, and perceptions. It includes having a positive and realistic self-image, practising self-compassion, and maintaining a healthy level of self-esteem. Cognitive wellbeing also involves our ability to solve problems, make decisions, and manage stress.
For instance, if you have a healthy cognitive health, it’s easy for you to come up with creative ideas. And planning and following through on projects can feel like a breeze.
But when you have cognitive challenges, you might become forgetful. It might even be hard for you to focus on what you’re doing. And you tend to fall for impulsive and destructive behaviour easily. All these might lead to more severe challenges like low self-esteem.
People are inherently social beings. And our mental health is connected with our interactions and connections with others. Building and maintaining healthy relationships, experiencing a sense of belonging, and having a support network are all equally important for our social well-being.
Typically, our social well-being becomes a byproduct of good emotional and cognitive health. When we’re feeling cheerful, optimistic, and confident, it’s easier to make friends. We’re more inclined to want to go out with friends, meet new people, and interact with those around us.
Conversely, we tend to isolate ourselves when our cognitive and emotional health spirals. We avoid interacting with people because we feel ashamed and judged. We don’t feel comfortable spending time with anyone, even those closest to us.
These three pillars of mental health are interconnected. Poor emotional health usually triggers cognitive problems, which result in poor social interactions. That’s why you’ll notice people with severe mental health issues tend to experience life’s difficulties quicker and more intensely than someone without mental health issues.
How can you Maintain Good Mental Health?
Caring for our mental health is a commitment that requires attention, self-awareness, and proactivity. Here are some strategies that promote and maintain good mental health:
Self-care is more than just spa dates, eating out, and living lavishly when stressed or depressed. A good self-care routine charges your emotional battery. And it does not become an avoidance strategy.
You can consider engaging in hobbies, spending time with loved ones, or simply taking time for yourself. Journaling, meditating, and brainstorming solutions can also be a form of self-care. Just remember, it needs to be something that recharges you.
Live a healthy lifestyle:
There’s a saying that your mind follows your body. If your body feels good, it’s easier for your mind to feel good. So, prioritise physical health by exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, staying hydrated, and getting adequate sleep. Also, try to be less sedentary every day. Opt for more active forms of work like getting a standing desk, doing walking meetings, or scheduling stretching breaks throughout your day.
Practice mindfulness and relaxation:
Practising mindfulness, meditation, and deep breathing techniques are all tools we teach our clients. These practices can help you manage stress, reduce anxiety, and enhance mental clarity. Making you feel calmer and better equipped to tackle stressful situations.
Don’t hesitate to reach out for help when needed. This can include talking to your friends and family when things are tough. You should also seek professional help from a psychologist if you think things are taking a turn for the worse. But what we find works best is that, even if you’re not yet at your breaking point, talking to a psychologist can help you identify potential “pain points.” Think of it as getting a regular physical exam from your doctor.
Set personal and professional boundaries:
Establish healthy boundaries in relationships and at work. This will help you prevent burnout and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Plus, it also allows you to build more beneficial relationships with the people around you.
Managing your stress levels:
Develop effective stress management strategies. This might include time management, problem-solving, and reframing negative thoughts. A stress management toolbox allows you to eliminate negative feelings from the get-go and not let them take root and grow into something unpleasant.
Limiting negative influences:
Reduce exposure to negative media, social comparisons, and toxic environments that can impact your mental well-being. That’s because these things influence your thoughts, ultimately affecting your mood and emotions. So, be more mindful of the things you consume.
Foster healthy relationships:
Foster healthy relationships: Build better relationships with your friends, family, and community. Strong social support is a powerful buffer against mental health challenges because it can help you feel less alone. Plus, they can be your source of strength and positivity. Just make sure you’re surrounding yourself with the right people.
Seek professional help:
If you’re struggling with persistent sadness, anxiety, or other emotional challenges, seeking help from a mental health professional can provide valuable insights and tools for managing and improving your mental health.
Managing your mental health is not easy, especially with how busy the world is today. You will need to be proactive and consistent because life will throw a lot of challenges, and we’re not expected to go through them alone. In your journey to building mental resilience, surround yourself with the right people. And if you need help, work with a professional who can guide you throughout your journey.
Need some guidance? We’re happy to help you navigate your mental health journey. Let’s talk!
If you’re experiencing mental health issues, or you know someone who is, reach out to MeHelp Psychology for assistance. We’re here to listen, chat and plan the right support for you.
If you require immediate assistance, Lifeline provides 24-hour crisis support telephone service and suicide prevention services.