A conscious look at mental health

Last Modified: 5/24/2021

mental health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mental health includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being. It not only affects how we think and feel but also how we act. It’s what helps us determine how we handle stress, relate to others and make choices. Our mental health is a vital component of everyday life. In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, Ahsan Mahmood, MD, PPG – Psychiatry, and chief medical officer for Parkview Behavioral Health Institute, recently spoke on the subject, highlighting the different states of mental health and factors that could affect it.

Mental health and wellness

When we talk about mental health, it’s a broad umbrella, but I want to focus on mental wellness. Under this umbrella, there are three categories: mental wellness, mental illness and resiliency. Our focus on mental health should be the same as our focus on physical health. Our goal is to provide our bodies with the nutrition, activity and rest required to function properly. Mental health is the same. You must provide your brain, along with your body, the nutrition, exercise and rest it needs to work appropriately and consistently. This, in turn, leaves you feeling satisfied in your relationships, both professionally and personally, while finding a healthy balance in other aspects of your life. This stability allows us all the chance to journey through life at a pace that keeps us feeling fulfilled at every stage. To prevent mental stress or illness, you want to remain resilient in these aspects.

The different states of mental health

We often observe mental illness on a spectrum, which consists of two categories:

  • Symptoms: What we feel, mentally and physically, which we can explain, as well as the outward signs others are seeing
  • Coping: How well we can function amid the symptoms

For example, some individuals might be suffering from high levels of stress or a significant degree of depression, but they can function with it. They can maintain their job, their relationships and their normal daily activities. However, this is not the case for everyone. Depending on how these two categories cross paths and based on their intensity, we can further divide them into four stages:

  • Stage 1: Mild symptoms and warning signs, little to no disruption to daily life
  • Stage 2: Symptoms increase in frequency and severity, interfering with life activities
  • Stage 3: Symptoms worsen with relapsing/recurring episodes, seriously disrupting life activities
  • Stage 4: Symptoms are persistent and severe, jeopardizing a person’s life

Certain stages may also require continued treatment, including counseling, therapies, medication and even hospitalization.

The relationship between mental, emotional and physical health

We can’t separate the brain from the body, but it’s extremely common for people to view what’s above the neck differently than below. We often see issues with our body divided into mental and physical, but whatever affects our body affects our brain. It is all connected. Additionally, mental and emotional health may seem different, but they are connected as well. Take a computer, for instance. It has hardware and software. Your brain is like the hardware, and your emotions are the software, which can be both positive and negative. Positive emotions provide us with a sense of relief. Negative emotions, on the other hand, are distressful. With that said, we shouldn’t view positive and negative as good or bad, but instead as an essential part of life. Emotional health means we can stay fulfilled with our positive emotions while handling our negative emotions and can still cope and function in the midst of them. Furthermore, how well we cope with the positive and negative is how we measure our emotional health.

Nutrition and environmental hazards

Proper nutrition affects not only our physical health but also our mental health and well-being. Eating a well-balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, lean proteins, nuts, antioxidants and omega-3’s help provide us with essential nutrients. Avoiding processed food is also helpful, not only for our brain but also for our overall health. Generally speaking, a balanced diet will help yield a balanced result for both the mind and body. Environmental factors can also play a role in our mental health and well-being. While there are all sorts of environmental factors that can affect us, everything is relative. There is no absolute, but insults or adverse exposures can have harmful effects on our bodies and brains.

Benefits of counseling

I strongly advise counseling, talk therapy or psychotherapy, as it is an effective form of acknowledging what’s wrong and what we’re feeling. With counseling, we’re able to process these things with an individual who has expertise in the area, helping us recognize our emotions, why they’re bothering us, how they’re affecting our behavior and what steps we need to take toward improving things. It’s like having a coach or trainer when you’re at the gym. They support you and instruct you on how to exercise so you achieve optimal results properly. Talk therapy is the same thing for your brain and mental health.

Final thoughts

If you are a loved one are struggling and need help, please call the Parkview Behavioral Health HelpLine anytime at 260-373-7500 or 800-284-8439. This free service is staffed 24 hours a day with experienced specialists who can guide you to the most appropriate care and resources for your situation.

 

Sources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Mental Health America

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