Under appreciated, often misunderstood, and mightily important, mental health is a huge component of our overall well being that we all should regularly take into consideration. Like other parts of the body, the brain needs to be cared for – sometimes there are things we can do to help how the brain functions and grows, and sometimes, just like other organs in the body, there are factors that negatively affect it beyond what anyone can control.
There are many ways to work towards improving mental health – and a lot of avenues should be used in tandem. Consider physical fitness – you don’t just go to the gym to work one area of the body. You work multiple areas in balance, alternating high intensity workouts with days of rest. And then of course there is nutrition to consider. And sleep. And how your personal life and goals intersect.
The same goes for keeping your brain healthy, or working to reverse illness in the brain. Here are a few general avenues to start down for those who may wonder if their mental health is waning, as well as those who are trying to help out.
For You: Seek Out a Therapist
Finding someone objective and educated to talk you through issues and problems of the past and present can go a long way to help improve your state of mind. Friends and family can provide much needed advice and offer unconditional love and listening, but a quality therapist can help not only acknowledge and support your concerns but find ways to alleviate them.
BetterHelp is a great resource to find an affordable and quality therapist in your area, but most importantly provides online sessions for those who live in remote areas or who’s depression or anxiety may keep them from easily venturing out into the world. They can help identity the seriousness of your illness, alleviating milder issues in a short time or working with a team to focus on larger, deep-seated problems.
For Others: Don’t Give Cliched Advice
If you’ve a friend with mental illness – and I’m sure you do whether you know it or not – make sure you’re not offering well-intentioned advice that’s actually incredibly harmful, reductive, and wrong. Curing mental illness isn’t a matter of simply going outside, getting a plant, taking a bath, or smiling more – that’s absurd because if that were the case, there would be no mental illness. While these are all nice suggestions, they are better for everyone in general to help with motivation or energy, not those suffering from mental illness.
For You: Stay Dedicated
Whatever your means of improving your mental health, it’s important to stick with it. There are absolutely no quick and easy solutions. If there was some magic fruit or exotic smoothie that fixed mental health issues, then no one would have any mental health issues! Don’t fall for anything that says you’re going to be cured quickly and easily. Any effort to either improve yourself or work with a deficit or disorder means sacrifice, patience, and perseverance. Know that there are likely side effects to any medication, that there will be people who don’t understand and judge, and that anxiety, depression, paranoia, and hopelessness won’t ever fully go away. There are many deterrents to improving your mental health, but all of them are worth overcoming.
For Others: Don’t Diminish Mental Illness
The easiest way to think about mental health for those who struggle to grasp just how serious, uncontrollable, and debilitating it can be is to consider someone who broke their leg or tore their ACL. You wouldn’t tell them to shake it off, go for a walk, or stay positive in order to make it better. You also wouldn’t tell them you don’t really believe something is wrong simply because you can’t see the tear or break. To fix such a problem, a combination of professionals, from doctors to nurses to surgeons to physical therapists, to medication and the support of family and friends, is required. The same goes for the brain, the most complex and important organ in the body. Friends and family are needed for emotional support, while therapists can provide counseling and guidance, psychiatrists can consider medication, and the individual stays dedicated and honest. It can work.