Each year one in five of us will experience a mental illness. There are many people within the community that unfortunately have a genetic predisposition to diagnosable mental health conditions. But for many of us, including myself, the source of mental ill-health, including anxiety and depression, are the result of ongoing stress or distress over an extended period of time.
What may have started as a worry, fear, a negative situation, built up of stress, running on adrenalin to get everything done, or broken sleep with thoughts racing, can develop into something further.
“You are not a machine with broken parts, you are a human with unmet needs”Johann Hari
Without addressing these worries, fears and stress, we may experience low energy, and our first response is often to boost through caffeine, sugar or other supplements. We may also experience low motivation, avoiding social situations, excessive worrying about minor things and poor sleep. As this continues to build over time, it starts to impact our day to day functioning and we may experience symptoms such as increased heart rate, dizziness, nausea, or catastrophising.
By the time we address these symptoms we may need treatment to reset or calm our nervous system. This is often the point where anti-depressants are prescribed, to provide a sense of stability so we can start the process of re-establishing a healthy and productive routine. Some people may experience many of their symptoms for more than 6 months before it qualifies as a clinical diagnosis. That is a long time to be trying to function at a less than ideal state. Treatment and results at this stage will often take months to see real improvement.
If we better understood our individual needs to sustain our health and wellbeing, there are often simple options or small shifts available that can have a massive benefit.
For some it may be the realisation that they are so absorbed by work they haven’t spent time with friends in weeks, for others it’s physical exercise throughout their week. Prioritising what feeds us, each and every day, doesn’t need to be expensive or indulgent. What it does is support a more sustainable life where we have the energy and resilience to adapt to the challenges life throws at us.
Everyone looks at life through different personalities, perspectives and experiences. While there are broad elements that apply across society, the significance or how we as individuals prioritise those elements is unique. If there is no set formula, then what can we do, to take a proactive and preventative approach to our mental health?
- Make time for self-care whatever form that takes, without guilt or shame.
- Invest the time to work out what activities or elements you need in your day to support your mental health.
- Be aware of the negative influences that shape unhealthy behaviour, such as digital addiction and junk values.
- Be clear on your time, emotional and physical boundaries.
- Get support and ask for help, for both the small challenges as well as big ones.
Remember, physical activity, mindfulness, meditation and relaxation techniques can all help create calmer minds, which are vitally important during periods of stress or anxiety.
If you are experiencing symptoms which don’t dissipate or don’t connect to a specific event, please seek medical advice or professional support.