Be Kind to Your Mind
By Kathy Ferguson, RN, Parish Nurse
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13
Established in 1949 by Mental Health America, Mental Health Month has sought to put a spotlight on the importance of mental health and wellness. While 1 in 5 people will experience mental illness over the course of their lifetime, everyone will face challenges that can and will affect their mental health. For example, over the past 14 months of COVID-19, many of us have experienced isolation from friends and family, job loss, health problems, worry, and the death of loved ones. This month’s article will provide some statistics about mental health and ideas about what we can do if we are struggling with mental health issues.
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. (MentalHealth.gov)
Because of the stigma that is associated with mental health conditions, people are not likely to share that they are having trouble with their mental health or seek help. Please know that you are not alone if you are experiencing problems such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and others. Consider these statistics from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI):
6% of U.S. adults experienced mental illness in 2019 (51.5 million people). This represents 1 in 5 adults.
5% of U.S. youth aged 6-17 experienced a mental health disorder in 2016 (7.7 million people)
The diagnosis of a mental illness is determined by a health professional. We can however make note of various feelings and behaviors that may indicate a mental health problem. According to MentalHealth.gov, if you have noted any of the following, consult your primary provider to discuss your concerns.
Eating or sleeping too much or too little
Pulling away from people and usual activities
Having low or no energy
Feeling numb or like nothing matters
Having unexplained aches and pains
Feeling helpless or hopeless
Smoking, drinking or using drugs more than usual
Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, on edge, angry, upset, worried, or scared
Yelling or fighting with family and friends
Experiencing severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships
Having persistent thoughts and memories you can’t get out of your head
Hearing voices or believing things that are not true
Thinking of harming yourself or others
Inability to perform daily tasks like taking care of your kids or getting to work or school
The University of Michigan shares these ideas on how you can take care of your mental health:
Treat yourself with kindness and respect, and avoid self-criticism. Make time for your hobbies and favorite projects or broaden your horizons. Do a daily crossword puzzle, plant a garden, take dance lessons, learn to play an instrument, or become fluent in another language.
Take care of your body:
Eat nutritious meals
Drink plenty of water
Exercise, which helps decrease depression and anxiety and improve mood
Get enough sleep
Surround yourself with good people:
People with strong family or social connections are generally healthier than those who lack a support network. Make plans with supportive family members and friends or seek out activities where you can meet new people.
Give of yourself:
Volunteer your time and energy to help someone else. You’ll feel good about doing something tangible to help someone in need.
Learn how to deal with stress:
Practice good coping skills: Do Tai Chi, exercise, take a nature walk, play with your pet or try journal writing as a stress reducer.
Quiet your mind:
Try meditating, mindfulness, and/or prayer. Relaxation exercises and prayer can improve your state of mind and outlook on life.
Break up the monotony:
Plan a road trip, take a walk in a different park, hang some new pictures, or try a new restaurant.
Avoid alcohol and other drugs:
Sometimes people use alcohol and other drugs to “self-medicate” but, alcohol and other drugs only aggravate problems.
Get help when you need it:
Seeking help is a sign of strength — not a weakness.
If you are planning to harm yourself or others get help immediately. The number for the National Suicide Prevention Helpline is 1-800-273-8255.
If you are concerned that you may be experiencing depression, you can take a screening assessment at: https://www.depressioncenter.org/patient-health-questionnaire-phq-9 A note about screening tools: These tools are not diagnostic for any disease or condition. The results are a snapshot of a moment in time. The score you receive may help you decide if you should contact your primary healthcare provider for further discussion.
Take care of your mental health this month and every month! Be well.
Eisenberg Family Depression Center—University of Michigan Patient Health Questionnaire https://www.depressioncenter.org/patient-health-questionnaire-phq-9
Mental Health America mhanational.org/mental-health-month
National Alliance on Mental Illness nami.org
National Council for Mental Wellbeing thenationalcouncil.org/mental-health-month
University of Michigan Health Services https://uhs.umich.edu/tenthings