Globally, we have been battling this COVID pandemic with lockdowns and Social Isolation for way too long and we need to understand why good mental health is important during this time.
As humans, we are very social creatures and this isolation is adding many health issues.
Many are finding it hard to cope with it any longer from struggling businesses to families having to live in the same house 24/7.
There have been thousands of job losses, and job prospecting doesn’t look good when you can’t go out pounding the pavement like you once could. Your job to FIND a job has gotten many times worse.
Then there are the lucky ones who kept their job by working from home.
Working From Home
Creating a workplace at home can be tricky enough especially having to fit your spouse, kids into the workload. It would be like bringing your family to work with you, every day. Keep in mind the spouse may have work of his own and the kids dealing with online schooling if they have that privilege.
If that weren’t enough we can’t visit friends and family like we use to. Can’t go out to a party to shake things off or even have a fun game outside with a group.
Add to that the fear of getting sick with a new, relatively unknown illness causing many deaths.
Is it any wonder people are having a hard time coping?
This can’t go on much longer, or can it?
Humans need human interaction on a regular basis.
If we don’t find some sense of normalcy return soon I am afraid we may see the rates of mental illness and suicide rise drastically. Economies dropping and the loss of many good businesses.
In this article, I will cover what mental health is, symptoms and signs to watch out for and how to boost your mental health during these hard times. Remember, you are not alone.
What Is Mental Health?
It impacts our lives every day as it affects how we think, feel, and act.
Our mental health directly affects our ability to handle stress, how we relate to others and our decision making.
Mental health is important throughout every stage of life from childhood through our senior years.
Anyone who experiences mental health problems will find their thinking, mood and behaviour could possibly be affected.
Several factors may contribute to mental health problems which may include:
- genetics and brain chemistry
- trauma or abuse
- family history
Mental health problems are common and many people are able to get better and even recover completely.
Are you unsure if you or someone you love is having mental health problems? If you or a loved one are experiencing one or more of the following feelings or behaviours it could be an early warning sign of a problem:
- eating too much or little
- not sleeping well
- withdrawing from people and activities normally engaged in
- lack of energy
- feeling numb or like nothing matters
- unexplained aches and pains
- feeling helpless or hopeless
- smoking, drinking or using drugs more than usual
- feeling unusually confused, forgetful, angry, upset, worried, scared or on edge
- uncharacteristic yelling or fighting with family or friends
- severe mood swings leading to relationship problems
- persistent thoughts or memories you can’t get out of your head
- hearing voices or believing things that are not true
- refusing to believe things that are true
- thoughts of self-harm or harming others
- inability to perform
- normal daily tasks like take care of your kids or go to work or school
It is important that if you suspect you or someone you love may be experiencing mental health problems, help immediately.
Benefits Of Good Mental Health
There are many benefits to maintaining positive mental health.
Those who are mentally healthy, experience:
- a sense of contentment
- a zest for life and the ability to laugh and have fun
- the ability to handle life’s stresses and bounce back from adversity
- a sense of meaning and purpose in both activities and relationships
- flexibility to learn new skills and adapt to change
- maintain balance between work, play, rest, and activity
- are able to build and maintain fulfilling relationships
- have self-confidence and high self-esteem, they know their worth
How To Boost Your Mental Health
Now that we have identified the potential alerts to a mental health problem and we have learned what healthy mental health is, let’s examine what we can do to boost our mental health.
Everything we do in life can affect not only our mental health but our overall health.
It is for this reason that making healthy lifestyle choices will benefit our physical as well as mental health.
In order to achieve the positive, healthy mental health we strive for, let’s examine what we can do to give it a boost.
Eat A Well-balanced Diet
It is becoming increasingly known worldwide that our nutritional choices affect more than just our physical health.
What we eat is in fact also feeding our brain and this affects our mental health.
A recent study in the UK, suggests poor diet may be responsible for the rise in mental health over the past 50 years.
It stands to reason that we will lower our risk of developing mental illness if we eat a healthy well-balanced diet including plenty of fruit and vegetables, whole-grain foods, lean protein and fish, and healthy nuts, seeds and fats.
Choose water or unsweetened beverages and limit alcohol consumption and marijuana usage.
Get Regular Exercise
We all know that regular exercise is a great way to enhance our physical appearance and combat disease but more recently, exercise has become recognized as an essential element in building and maintaining mental fitness.
I know, a lot of us just don’t have the time to spend hours at the gym, right?
Well, that’s the thing, you don’t have to.
Simply head outdoors for a walk after lunch which will help boost your physical and mental health.
It is recommended that adults get a minimum of 150 minutes per week of exercise.
Seriously, that works out to about 30 minutes each weekday.
Benefits Of Exercising
Did you know exercise has many benefits such as:
- Physical activity is becoming recognized as a significant part of the treatment of depression and anxiety.
- Research has also found that regular physical activity appears to be as effective as psychotherapy in treating mild to moderate depression. Patients who exercise regularly feel better and are less likely to overeat or abuse alcohol and drugs.
- Exercise can reduce anxiety. People who exercise feel less stressed or nervous. Even as little as 5 minutes of aerobic exercise can stimulate anti-anxiety effects.
- Physical exercise can help counteract withdrawal, inactivity and feelings of hopelessness. Studies show that both aerobic and anaerobic exercise have anti-depressive effects.
- Exercise can relieve tension, fatigue, and anger.
- Regular exercise can improve your self-esteem.
- Finally, getting out and getting active whether at the gym or just outside, will bring you around other people who share your interest in that particular activity encouraging you to interact with them.
I can certainly attest to the benefits of regular exercise. I love to start my day with a run on the treadmill. The other day my treadmill broke halfway through the workout. It just stopped and wouldn’t start again. While it bothered me some it wasn’t too bad, after all I did get half a workout in.
The next day I really noticed it though. I felt “off” all day. I had trouble focusing on business, I couldn’t write an article.
By the next day, my husband had fixed the treadmill so I was able to run again. My day went smoothly, I was able to focus and not only did I get an article written but I was able to research another and came up with several more ideas for future articles.
Even though it was only one day, I definitely noticed how the lack of exercise affected my mood, ability to concentrate, I was more irritable than when I do exercise.
Get Enough Sleep
Another key area to pay attention to is the amount of sleep you are getting.
I find when I don’t get enough sleep it really has a negative effect on my mood and my ability to cope with life’s stresses.
They say we should get 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
The easiest way I have found to ensure I get adequate sleep is to go to bed at the same time every night.
In the hour before bed, I ensure I have no screen time. No computer, no tablet and no cell phone.
Instead, I read a book, knit or simply take a relaxing bath.
Keep the bedroom a little cool, I find it difficult to sleep in a room that is too warm.
Oh yes, I almost forgot, abstain from caffeine or alcohol right before bed. I find both of these can keep me awake.
We are social creatures so getting together with friends and family is so important.
But we are in lockdown, how can we get together?
In today’s world, it is easier than ever to stay connected to friends and family.
You can Skype, Facetime, text, email, or phone, whatever method you choose it keeps you connected.
We are fortunate that we are in the yellow stage of recovery so can have small get-togethers.
Because our grandson is at high risk with his type 1 diabetes, we choose to limit who we get together with to family and close friends.
Last weekend we were able to travel to PEI(Prince Edward Island) and visit some grandsons we haven’t seen in over a year.
We are grateful we live in New Brunswick and PEI is a part of our Atlantic bubble so this visit was possible.
It is definitely a mood booster to chat with others.
Develop Coping Skills
We all know life can get stressful at times and knowing how to cope with that stress is important.
There are many things we can do to help make stressful situations more manageable such as:
- learn relaxation techniques – meditation and breathing exercises can help reduce those overwhelmed feelings
- set realistic goals – don’t take on too much. It is OK to say no sometimes.
- exercise – regular, moderate exercise helps ease tension and improves sleep and self-esteem
- do something fun – connect with and nurture yourself by engaging in an activity you love
- visualization – practice visualizing the results you want
- maintain a healthy lifestyle – healthy choices like cooking at home rather than grabbing take-out is an act of self-love
- talk about it – sharing your troubles with a friend helps ease the burden and they may even help you find a solution
Another big step towards a healthy lifestyle is to make that first step, be the first one to take the ball out to kick around. Be the first one to go for those little walks. Eventually, the company will come.
Get Professional Help
Sometimes we have neglected our mental health for far too long and we need professional help.
If you find you have made consistent efforts to improve your mental and emotional health yet you are still not functioning optimally at home, work or in your relationships then it may be time to seek a professional.
Oftentimes input from a caring professional can help motivate us for better self-care.
There are many people with mental health problems who get better and many make a full recovery.
There is no shame in seeking help, in fact, it could save your life or that of a loved one.
Many have this belief that they should know themself better than others but the truth is we don’t always. In many cases, we may not even know we are angry until someone else says something like, “You seem angry today?”
If you spring back with an angry voice it clearly shows you to be having something on your mind that needs to get out.
If you are not angry then you would react with a smile and a pleasant voice.
Many of us enjoy helping others and feeling needed.
There are plenty of opportunities in every community to volunteer.
You could volunteer at your local school, schools often need teacher helpers.
The local seniors’ home is likely looking for volunteers. I know when I worked in the local nursing home we found our volunteers really helpful. We looked forward to the days they were able to help with crafts or bingo or simply reading to some of the residents. I know the patients and their families were thankful to the volunteers as well.
How about a local service club like Scouts or Guides? These organizations are run by volunteers. My husband volunteered for all of them as the kids grew up. He really enjoyed the outdoors and teaching the kids survival skills he learned while serving in the military.
Why not coach a kid’s sports team?
The sense of purpose volunteering instills is amazing, so go on out there and give it a try.
True, you may be limited to what you can volunteer in today due to the Covid-19 but there are still organizations that may still be open like the soup kitchen for the homeless.
Why good mental health is important really needs to be discussed and understood especially as we face uncertain futures due to this global pandemic which is not looking to be going away anytime soon.
Mental health affects how we think, act and feel which is pretty much every aspect of our lives.
It is essential to know the warning signs that our mental health may be suffering and seek support ASAP.
If you or someone you love is experiencing any of the symptoms discussed please seek help immediately.
In most cases with mild to medium symptoms, these can be dealt with very quickly just by giving the mind exercise or something to do.
This is the same principle with older folk in a home. They create crafts and get involved in doing things to keep the mind busy and entertained.
Things We Can Do To Keep Healthy
There are several things we can do to help ensure we enjoy the many benefits of good mental health.
- Eat a well-balanced healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy nuts, seeds and fats.
- Drink plenty of water or unsweetened beverages and limit alcohol consumption.
- Get regular exercise. It is recommended that healthy adults engage in 150 minutes per week of aerobic exercise.
- Strive for between 7 – 8 hours of sleep each night. This can be easier to achieve if you go to bed at the same time each night, limit screen time to an hour or two before bedtime, and avoid caffeinated beverages in the evening
- Socialize with family and friends. Even in lockdown, we can stay connected with friends and family through texting, phone calls, Skype and Facetime.
- Develop stress coping skills.
- Volunteer, helping other people gives us a sense of purpose.
- If you are still having trouble lifting out of the dark thoughts seek professional help.
For myself, I had quit work a long time ago and felt some of these symptoms myself. Lost and lonely while my husband went off to work left me feeling helpless, and with nothing to occupy the mind with was starting to drive me insane.
That’s when my husband encouraged me to give blogging a try. I checked out the training he recommended and boy I am so glad I did because I have never been happier.
I had never dreamed of me enjoy writing for a living, I just didn’t think I was Good Enough. It turns out you don’t have to be very good at it to make it work.
Today I am getting praised for the wonderful content that I share with others needing help. What a wonderful feeling to be helpful and no boss to worry about.
The best part is that it also brings in extra money which is never a bad thing now is it? I get paid for having fun.
Today both my husband and I are self-employed as bloggers each with our own website. If this interests you go here and check it out.
“I am not in any way a medical practitioner, please do not rely on the information on our website as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or another healthcare provider. We only share our experiences.”