Happy New Year, Welcome 2017! Let’s Reinvigorate Ourselves, Relish in Individual Strengths, Refocus Priorities, and Regimen Self-Care

In navigating through the complex maze of life and handling a myriad of responsibilities, many of us are inclined to place our own personal needs at the bottom of our long “to-do- list”. This can be damaging to our overall health and well-being. We must take better care of ourselves– we are worth it!

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices (DHHS, 2016). Mental health is a springboard of thinking and communication skills, learning, emotional growth, resilience, and self-esteem. Mental illnesses are health conditions that are characterized by alterations in thinking, mood, or behavior (or some combination thereof) and associated with distress and/or impaired functioning. It includes a complex interaction among biological, psychological, social, and cultural factors.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI, 2016) mental, emotional, and behavioral health issues affect a significant portion of the U.S. population, with an estimated 43.8 million Americans experiencing mental health conditions every year. We know from extensive research that has been conducted that there is a relationship between mental and physical illnesses – there is no health without mental health. Talking with a primary care physician is an excellent first step for you to discuss personal thoughts, feelings, & life stressors. It is also a means to get screened for common mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety (NIMH, 2013). Furthermore, you can choose to get a comprehensive assessment from a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist.

One major concern that is prevalent in many communities is stigma about mental illness. Stigma is a barrier that can discourage individuals from getting any type of help due to the fear of being judged or discriminated against. Nevertheless, do not get discouraged from seeking professional assistance. There may be a problem that you should find help for if:

  • You experience an overwhelming and lingering sense of helplessness and sadness, and your
  • problems do not seem to get better despite your efforts to get help from family and friends.
  • You are finding it difficult to carry out expected activities at home, work and/or community.
  • You worry excessively, anticipate the worst, or are constantly on edge.
  • Your actions may be harmful to yourself and/or to others.

We all have various types of stressors and may experience mental, emotional and/or behavioral health problems at some point in time during our lives. For example, some of the stressors could be: health concerns, personal issues, problems with interpersonal and intimate relationships, daily demands, unresolved pain or trauma, negative life events, job/employment issues etc. Often, it is a combination of several stressors that elevate our risk for mental, emotional and/or behavioral health problems.  Adequately coping with life issues is critical for the prevention of anxieties from becoming overwhelming and/or progressing to a point of being problematic. Here are a few strategies that you should consider:

  1. Self-Awareness and Monitoring-be conscious of your level of functioning and when a break is needed.
  2. Stress Management and Relaxation-engage in pleasurable activities that work for you, such as meditation, reading, listening to music, spiritual fellowship, mini-vacations etc.
  3. Stop Self Destructive/Defeating Behaviors-refrain from negative self-talk, excessive use of alcohol, smoking tobacco, and/or engaging in risky activities.
  4. Social Support-establish a network of people in your life who are positive, empowering, and uplifting.
  5. Self-Care-conduct tasks that encourage health, such as routine exercise, adequate sleep, healthy eating, & seeing a doctor(s) for regular check-ups.

We have the propensity to be resilient. Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of emotional difficulties, adversity, tragedy, and/or overwhelming stress. It is being able to “bounce back.” We are strong and can effectively manage multiple roles—spouse, partner, parent, daughter/son, professional, community advocate, leader etc. So let us make it a priority to take good care of ourselves and cultivate a personal culture of self-care.

“Mental health is fundamental to a person's overall health, indispensable to personal well-being, and instrumental to leading a balanced and productive life.” David Satcher, MD, PhD, 16th U.S. Surgeon General

For additional resources contact: American Psychological Association (www.apa.org), American Psychiatric Association (www.psychiatry.org), Mental Health America (www.mentalhealthamerica.net), National Alliance on Mental Illness (www.nami.org), and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov).

 

References

National Alliance on Mental Illness (2016). Mental Health By the Numbers. Accessed from
https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental- Health-By- the-Numbers

National Institute of Mental Health. (2013). Major Depression Among U.S. Adults. Accessed from
http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/major-depression- among-adults.shtml

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2016). What is Mental Health? Accessed from
http://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/what-is- mental-health/