Protecting Your Mental Health For Life
By Health Desk
Tuesday, April 11, 2017.
Mental health is something so many of us take for granted, but chances are we know someone who is having problems with theirs right now. Many of us will suffer mental health problems during the course of our lives too. Twenty-first century living is challenging, hectic, and full of socio-economic problems. This doesn’t mean you’ll become ill or need hospitalization. In fact, you can do a lot to protect your mental health for life.
We’re all aware of dementia and the devastating effects it can have on the sufferer. Of course, the effects on the rest of the family can be equally heart-breaking. Every day there is more and more research into this type of illness in the hope it can be prevented and even cured. We know there are certain things we should avoid to reduce our risk of cancer. Can we reduce the risk of developing dementia too?
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Research published by preventdementia.co.uk suggests raised air pollution might cause mental health problems. A lack of vitamin D could also increase the risk of dementia. Studies into this side of mental health is still in its infancy. It’s worth considering the environmental impact on our overall health, though. If you can avoid polluted city living, and ensure you are taking a vitamin D supplement, you might be reducing the risk of dementia.
For many working age people, stress is the biggest risk to mental health. Stress has many effects on the body and the mind. Stress hormones can be released when we are under constant pressure. This has been found to cause weight fluctuations and other changes to the body’s chemistry. It is perhaps the effect on sleep that we should be most concerned with. When sleep quality is poor, mental health is affected in ways that can be quite dangerous.
Judgment is most affected due to a lack of sleep. This could be similar to the effects of alcohol. It lowers your inhibitions and leaves you prone to saying something you might just regret. Reaction times are also affected. Driving can be very dangerous if you’re tired or you didn’t get a good night of sleep. Add stress to the mix, and you may find yourself behaving in completely inappropriate ways.
Mentalhealth.org.uk quotes a paper on mental health and well-being in the UK that suggests 1 in 6 people every week experience a common mental health problem. Mentalhealthamerica.net also publishes alarming figures to suggest 40 million Americans are suffering from a mental health problem right now. If it’s so prevalent, shouldn’t more be done to prevent it from happening?
There are many ways you can prevent problems with your mental health. Some of the most common approaches include mindfulness, yoga, meditation, and ‘talking’ therapies. Each of these has a common purpose. They are designed to help you free your mind from actively contemplating or ‘dwelling’ on the things that bother you most. Can a natural worrier become more easy-going, or are we born with these traits built in?
Take emotional distress, for example. More and more Americans sue for emotional distress each year. This can happen when they have experienced an emotionally damaging trauma caused by someone else. Many cases have merit and prove successful in the courts because our experiences can cause mental health problems. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder isn’t the only diagnosable condition. To be successful in court, it is likely a psychiatric expert would need to confirm a diagnosis that hadn’t been present prior to the traumatic event. So why does one person become crippled by their trauma, yet another brushes it off with relative ease?
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There are many theories to suggest answers to this question. None can truly determine if you would be deeply affected by experiencing a trauma. Of course, it can be incredibly difficult to avoid some traumatic events, so this isn’t a viable way to protect your mental health. Fortunately, such traumas are rare, and only a minority of the population will even experience one.
Mental Agility and Stability
Protecting your mental health is essential. You might perceive it as a way to prevent overwhelming pressures in life. Is there anything affecting your mental stability and emotional well-being? Or maybe you’re keen to maintain a good level of focus and mental agility? Whatever your reasons, there are many things you can be doing each and every week to help look after your mind and soul.
They say if you don’t use it you’ll lose it. That hasn’t been confirmed as yet, but you can certainly lose your focus and speed at problem-solving over time. However, many elder members of the community actively exercise their minds. They work to sharpen their skills at chess, crosswords, and sudoku. They might claim it’s just practice. Perhaps it is. Think about learning a musical instrument. If you’re not practicing each day, you can’t improve, and you’ll find it difficult to play familiar melodies in the future.
When it comes to playing a musical instrument, you may find this is one of the best ways to prolong mental acuity. It is suggested that playing a musical instrument uses more areas of the brain simultaneously than any other activity. Perhaps this is the perfect mental workout? Of course, those reaching senior years may find physical barriers to playing an instrument. Arthritis and muscle wasting can be problematic at this age. Is this when we need to remember that adage about using it or losing it?
Fresh air, natural light, and daily exercise that raises the heart rate are known to be essential for good health. They are also essential for a good night of sleep. We have already discussed the dangers of losing sleep at night, whatever the cause. Part of ensuring good mental health includes eating, drinking and exercising the right way. It’s not always easy to fit it in, but you should aim to prioritize it daily.
Recognizing the signs of stress will help you adjust to it. Once you understand how stress is affecting you, it is easier to take a step back from it. Avoiding stress isn’t always easy. Many of us enjoy larger salaries that compensate for the extra mental pressure involved with the job. That doesn’t mean you’re not entitled to take a break when it is getting too much. It is better for your company too, if you take some time to relax and rest rather than pushing on to a breaking point.
All of us have a favorite pastime or hobby that brings us pleasure and relaxation. It’s important to prioritize this every week so you can unwind and do something that is all about you. ‘Me’ time is underrated but can be an important part of your stress relief toolkit. Thirty minutes soaking in the tub or half an hour meditating can be enormously beneficial for your mental and physical health. Treat yourself to a massage, sit on the beach to watch the sun go down, or read a chapter of your favorite book. It doesn’t matter what it is so long as it gives you a mental, emotional, and physical break from your stress.
Some people believe that the food we eat can lead to mental health problems. We’re aware of the dangers of drug and alcohol use on the brain. Processed foods are thought to be just as harmful. While a strict ‘fresh’ diet is a nice idea, it isn’t always practical. However, why not try to swap out one processed pack of chips or snack bar for a piece of fruit each day. See if it offers any clarity of thought or improvement of mood. Love your beautiful mind.