How have you been feeling lately? How are you currently managing your daily hassles and stress? These are questions that most people do not ask themselves as often as they should.
With all the changes forced upon us over the last couple of years by the pandemic, which continues to loom over us, and the never-ending political turmoil in the country, it is no surprise that many of us do not feel as good as we wish.
World Mental Health Day is celebrated on October 10 every year. This day gives us an opportunity to recognize the ways mental illness impacts people’s lives, provide education over available services, and highlight ways to be an advocate.
Throughout the years, people have shied away from having important conversations about mental health. But recognition and education are effective ways to remove the stigma associated with mental health and mental illness. Although related and sometimes used interchangeably, these terms — mental health and mental illness — refer to different things.
Mental illness refers to a diagnosable condition that results in changes in emotion, thinking or behavior, or a combination of this. Mental health can be defined as “the capacities of each and all of us to feel, think, and act in ways that enhance our ability to enjoy life and deal with the challenges we face… it is a positive sense of emotional and spiritual well-being that respects the importance of culture, equity, social justice, interconnections, and personal dignity.”
In short, mental health is all about mental well-being. Thus, while not everyone has a mental illness, anyone can have moments of poor mental health at some point in their lives.
It is normal to feel the stresses of life as challenging or difficult. Luckily, there are different things anyone can try whenever matters do not seem to be the brightest:
Take a deep breath
Take a step back from the situation and breathe. Literally, take a deep breath. At times of high stress, breathing can dictate how well your body and mind handle an event. If you control your breathing and try to take slow, deep breaths, your heart rate should decrease and settle your mind. This task may seem complicated to complete at first, but it should get easier to perform with practice and will aid in reducing stress levels.
Spend time outdoors
Another way to counteract a demanding day is by taking a break from the indoors. While many may prefer being indoors during the hot summer days, taking a walk and receiving grazes of the sun on the skin can make long days feel more tolerable. Taking a walk in the park or sitting outside under some shade for a few minutes to get some fresh air can really change the outlook of the day. If activity in public parks or areas increases your anxiety, try to find a less lively scene and listen to the sounds of nature around you. These actions may appear to be minuscule, but altering the typical environment you are used to, or just being part of a calmer nature, can help you appreciate life a bit more.
If you find yourself unable to envision silver linings in your circumstances, look for help. It is OK to ask for help. The weight of the world does not need to rest on any one person’s shoulders. Trying to ignore issues or hiding painful emotions compounded by isolation can be detrimental to one’s mental health and lead to greater suffering. There are several forms to discuss difficult thoughts and emotions and find professional help at little cost.
Therapy can be conducted via telemedicine in today’s day and age. Additionally, many universities, community clinics, and local organizations have means of providing mental health support for unique or general events.
By making positive lifestyle adjustments, and with proper support, anyone can improve their mental well-being. Visit who.int/campaigns/world-mental-health-day/2022 for more information on World Mental Health Day 2022.
Mental Health Resources:
Texas Tropical Behavioral Health Crisis Hotline: 1-877-289-7199
Lifeline prevention number: 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)
(Co-Authors include Dr. Mercado’s Mental Health Lab at UTRGV: Cassandra Arteaga, Frances Morales, and Andy Torres)