Mental Health Awareness: An Empowered Wellbeing
By Dr. Delaney Smith, System Chief Clinical Officer & Dr. Ameena Kemavor, Vice President, Advocacy & Engagement
The pandemic increased our awareness about mental health and the importance of overall wellbeing. We have all learned a lot over the last two years and we have had our resiliency - that ability to recover from difficult situations - tested
Some of us have made a commitment to more intentional care of our mental health, similar to how we care for our physical health. Others are still developing awareness in how we pay attention to our emotional health and how it impacts our daily lives.
Awareness is the first step towards an empowered wellbeing.
Mental and physical health are intertwined. For example, depression has been linked to chronic physical diseases such as diabetes and asthma. Stress also produces physical symptoms that can range from digestive problems and headaches to elevated heart rates. Overall, people struggling with mental health issues are at risk for developing a chronic physical condition, just as people with chronic physical conditions are at risk of developing mental health struggles.
About one in five people in the U.S. struggle with their mental health. Signs that we may want to reach out for help may include changes in sleeping or eating patterns, negative self-talk, feeling sad or depressed, isolating ourselves from family or friends. Physical manifestations can include muscle tension, racing heart rate and digestive problems.
Here are some helpful ways that we can better manage our personal wellbeing and overall mental health:
- Do a self-check assessment:
- How fast am I breathing?
- Is my body tense?
- Am I over thinking or worrying about something excessively?
- Pay attention to daily behaviors. Have there been any changes lately such as:
- Sleeping longer or sleeping less?
- Running late to work or other important commitments?
- Difficulty doing regular tasks (e.g., going to the grocery store or another common routine)?
- Deploy grounding techniques to shift focus:
- Check in with the world around you. Identify something to see, smell, touch, feel, taste or hear.
- One example: Drink a cup of tea, observe how hot it is on your tongue, what it tastes like, the smell, the steam on your face. Doing this provides an opportunity to refocus thoughts moving them to the present, shifting focus away from stressful triggers.
- Acknowledge your own strengths:
- Ask a close friend or family member to share the strengths they see in you.
- Use positive self-talk. Start by writing down positive words to describe yourself (e.g., "I am caring because…" "I am courageous when…" "I am hopeful because…"
- Set attainable goals:
- Take pride in accomplishments.
- Follow through on healthy commitments.
- Don't be afraid to fail.
- Know what self-care looks like and practice it:
- Go out in nature
- Read a book
- Volunteer in your community
- Spend time with an animal (pet)
It is important that we make ourselves a priority. We cannot take care of others in our lives if we don't take care of ourselves first.
As a community, we must work to chip away at the stigma and taboo that is too often associated with mental illness. Mental illness is just like any illness; it is not a moral failing or punishment.
Empowerment in mental health can be a difficult journey because we still live in a world where acknowledging mental health struggles is not always acceptable.
Recognizing these realities, we must choose to build strength through resilience as we approach our daily lives. Choose to live in a space of optimism and hope and find support in community and the people who care about you. None of us are alone.
If you or someone you care about is experiencing a mental health or addiction crisis, call Netcare at 614.276.CARE (2273) for adults or Nationwide Children's Hospital at 614.722.1800 for youth (17 and under).