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World Mental Health Day Means Time to Check in with Yourself

Ever hear someone say they were going to take a ‘mental health day?’ What is a lighthearted way of using a sick day to get some downtime is also a very real event—on Oct. 10, 2019, we mark World Mental Health Day as a time to spend a few minutes checking in on our mental condition.

All kidding aside, mental health is a serous business. World Mental Health Day began in 1992 as an initiative of the World Federation for Mental Health, a global mental-health organization with a presence in more than 150 countries. This year’s theme is suicide prevention, something that resonates in every community worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, suicide is the second leading cause of death for 15- to-19-year-olds globally and takes more than 800,000 people per year.

Know the Signs, Heed the Warnings

One way to work on mental health, either for ourselves or as part of the larger community, is to be aware of triggers and behaviors that indicate something’s wrong. Psychology Today spells out a few easy things to take note of:

  • A Change in Personality
  • Uncharacteristic Anxiety, Anger, or Moodiness
  • Social Withdrawal and Isolation
  • Lack of Self-Care or Risky Behaviors
  • A Sense of Hopelessness or Feeling Overwhelmed

Often, people chalk up a change in mental health to having stress, or too much on their plate. That’s understandable, and not incorrect. So, to head that off, why not take a look at how to manage stress? First, look at what stress does to the body and mind:

  • Headaches
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Jaw pain
  • Changes in appetite
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling overwhelmed

Short-term stress is bad enough; long-term stress is even worse. Stress over time means the brain is exposed to increased levels of cortisol, a hormone that can weaken the immune system and open the door to illness. So, then you’re stressed out and sick.

And if you already are dealing with a mental-health diagnosis, stress can exacerbate that condition. For instance, those suffering with schizophrenia can see an uptick in hallucinations and delusions, while those with bipolar disorders can experience both manic and depressive episodes.

If knowledge is power, then it’s good to know when stress can hit, or ramp up. That’s usually when you are:

  • Not getting enough sleep
  • Don’t have a support network
  • Are experiencing a major life change ( moving, the death of a loved one, a new job, having a baby, getting married, getting divorced)
  • In poor physical health
  • Not eating well

It gets better, but it takes work

Stress is different for everyone, and that’s why it’s important not only to know when you are at a heightened risk for it, but also to have some techniques ready to go to get those stress levels back to a manageable place. Those can include:

  • Recognize your triggers. What situations make you feel physically and mentally agitated?
  • Manage your time.Prioritizing your activities.
  • Practice relaxation. Deep breathing and meditation and are time-tested methods to relax in the moment, and they also have long-term benefits..
  • Exercise daily.Schedule time for yourself to take a walk, a group fitness class or other fun activity that gets your heart rate up.
  • Honor “you” time.Read a book, get a massage … whatever it is, put it on your calendar as you would any other appointment.
  • Eat well.Load up on whole grains, vegetables, and fresh fruit and cut back on processed junk.
  • Sleep well.Getting enough sleep helps keep mental health conditions manageable, as well as being good for your body and overall outlook.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs.A drink doesn’t relax you; in fact, it can add to your stress..
  • Talk to someone.Don’t keep it in. Family, friends a counselor — have someone (or several someones) ready and willing to hear you out.

Stress comes with a busy and productive life. That doesn’t mean it’s welcome, or necessary. Knowing what tips you over the edge can help you step back, take a few breaths and work on lowering your stress levels.

 

Access materials about suicide prevention.

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