Imagine this scenario:
A patient with familial hypercholesterolemia visits his doctor and has his cholesterol levels tested. The doctor finds his LDL (bad) cholesterol levels are much higher than the HDL (good) levels, so he asks a few questions…
The patient says, “no.”
The doctor then asks if the patient has been active, if he’s been getting regular exercise.
Again, the patient says, “no.”
The doctor pushes on, surely the patient has been taking his prescribed medicine, correct?
Alas, the patient says, “no.”
The Stigma’s Damage
It seems pretty unbelievable that someone with a genetic predisposition to a health problem like high cholesterol wouldn’t change his lifestyle or even take his prescribed medication to help manage his illness, right? If it seems off-base for a patient to behave this way as a reaction to a physical illness, why do people think it’s correct to behave this way when they have a mental illness?
Even in this modern age, mental illnesses are surrounded by stigma. Whether it comes from internal or external influences, because of the stigma, people have a harder time accepting that they are are struggling mentally. That lack of acceptance can often lead to avoiding the problem rather than being proactive towards healing. While the argument that we should treat mental and physical ailments exactly identically is not without its flaws, one way we should undoubtedly be handling them the same is through taking personal responsibility for both our mental and physical wellbeing.
Importance of Taking Care of Mental Health
Your mental wellbeing impacts everything in your life. It impacts your family and relationships. It affects your professional life and job performance. Not to mention, it has a huge influence on your overall physical health.
- Mental Health & Relationships: Some of the common symptoms of mental illness include mood swings, withdrawal, strong feelings of anger, and other behaviors that can affect relationships. Family members begin to feel like they almost don’t know you anymore and relationships are strained.
- Mental Health & Career: Sometimes, the symptoms of mental illness can make it difficult to perform at the office. For instance, people with depression often lack the motivation to be productive.
- Mental Health & Physical Health: Your mental wellbeing is strongly connected to your physical health. Those with poor mental health are more likely to suffer from chronic physical ailments and vice versa.
How to Nurture Your Mental Wellbeing
If you struggle with your mental health or feel that you may possibly, there are various things you can do to be proactive in your recovery or get answers. The first is to talk to a medical professional about how you are feeling and your concerns regarding your mental wellbeing. Your doctor may tell you to implement a few lifestyle changes to see if they help before turning to medication. However, for some people, medication is necessary, and that’s okay, too! There is no one-size-fits-all treatment, so it’s about finding what is best for you.
While there is no universal approach to treating mental illness, there are some generally accepted practices of healthy habits that improve one’s mental wellbeing:
- Exercise and be active
- Be social and connect with loved ones
- Take up a new hobby and learn something new
- Practice mindfulness
- Be giving and/or volunteer
- Get enough sleep
- Avoid drugs and alcohol
- Develop positive coping skills
Health is Health
Just like everyone gets sick now and again, we all – at least to some extent – struggle with our mental wellbeing as well. However, the mental illness stigma can cause people to retreat and avoid doing the things necessary to feel better. It’s important to be as proactive about caring for your mental state as you are in caring for your body when you are sick. Not doing so can affect your relationships, career, and even your physical wellbeing. Certain things – such as exercise, mindfulness, and positive thinking – help to maintain your mental wellbeing. However, if it’s getting difficult making it through the days, it may be time to get a professional opinion and assistance. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment, but it’s necessary to put forth the effort to find what works best for you. Not putting forth that effort will all but ensure that improved mental health isn’t achieved.
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