Mind Your Men­tal Health

It’s not a hush-hush thing, any­more

Bonita & Estero Magazine - - FEATURES - Klau­dia Balogh is a health and fit­ness writer for TOTI Me­dia.

We all have to take care of our men­tal health. We all deal with anx­i­ety, and we all go through roller­coast­ers of emo­tions over time. Men­tal health, how­ever, is of­ten ne­glected. A com­mon mis­con­cep­tion is that a men­tal dis­or­der is ei­ther ge­netic or un­pre­ventable. Here’s a spoiler alert: Nei­ther of those are true.

Men­tal well-be­ing is just as im­por­tant as phys­i­cal well-be­ing. In fact, they’re closely in­ter­con­nected.

Stacey Brown, a li­censed men­tal health coun­selor in Fort My­ers, be­lieves that to im­prove your men­tal health, one of the most im­por­tant ques­tions to ask your­self is, “Am I well?” If not, can you ex­plain why? What­ever the rea­son may be, it’s not the event it­self that mat­ters, but how you choose to re­spond to it.

Notic­ing signs of anx­i­ety, de­pres­sion or stress is the first step to­ward over­com­ing it, as op­posed to over­re­act­ing to it. To­day’s so­ci­ety is much more open to talk­ing about what used to be a largely ne­glected topic. “The coun­sel­ing com­mu­nity has done a lot of work to re­duce the stigma,” Brown says. “It’s not a hush-hush thing any more. We use the ter­mi­nol­ogy and en­cour­age peo­ple to look for signs.” What makes the big­gest dif­fer­ence be­tween let­ting anx­i­ety con­sume you and be­ing able to man­age the pres­sure is how well you are able to in­tro­duce bal­ance into your life. “A lot of peo­ple who come to my of­fice are out of bal­ance,” Brown says, not­ing that anx­i­ety is the most com­mon is­sue that brings clients to see her. Why are we such an anx­ious na­tion? Be­ing con­stantly busy has be­come the new norm, so many of us are fo­cused on ev­ery­thing around us, yet for­get to lis­ten to what’s hap­pen­ing within us. “We live in a so­ci­ety that val­ues pro­duc­tiv­ity, mov­ing for­ward and pay­ing at­ten­tion to a lot of things at one time,” Brown says, adding that al­though it’s good to be pro­duc­tive, “you want to have bal­ance with rest, recre­ation, turn­ing in­ward and eval­u­at­ing your­self.” What can you do to re­gain sta­bil­ity? Brown says one im­por­tant way is to make sure your body gets all the nu­tri­ents it needs for op­ti­mal phys­i­cal and brain func­tion. She also talks about fun and ro­mance, spend­ing time with fam­ily and friends and tak­ing part in so­cial gath­er­ings. Bal­ance be­tween work, ex­er­cise and sleep is also im­por­tant, be­cause over­do­ing or un­der­do­ing any one of those will neg­a­tively af­fect not only the other two, but also your over­all health. Fi­nally, Brown sug­gests a prac­tice that has been work­ing for more than 5,000 years: yoga, med­i­ta­tion and mindfulness, also re­ferred to as spir­i­tu­al­ity, which doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily re­fer to re­li­gion, but rather be­liev­ing that you are part of some­thing big­ger than you. There’s a lot of mis­in­for­ma­tion around mindfulness, and many peo­ple find it over­whelm­ing and give up. “It’s called prac­tice for a rea­son—you have to work at it,” says Brown, who also teaches med­i­ta­tion and yoga. “It’s hard at first. Our brain is busy—busier than we re­al­ize—but you can do it as long as you take time to prac­tice.” Most days we tend to run around re­lent­lessly, and be­fore even fin­ish­ing one task we’re al­ready think­ing about the next, which of­ten leads to peo­ple crash­ing and burn­ing out. There’s no rea­son to feel guilty or un­pro­duc­tive if you de­cide to take some time out of your day just to be still and be pre­sent in the mo­ment. It’s called “me time,” which is just as pow­er­ful as your time spent with other peo­ple.

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