Mind Your Mental Health
It’s not a hush-hush thing, anymore
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.