Mental health is the silent pandemic that is also taking place right now. 2020 was a hard year, and because of this, the conversations around how to protect our mental wellness have become more widespread.
What once used to be taboo, is now brought to the forefront of mainstream media, governmental conversations, and medical research.
While many of us have questions, we're sometimes too afraid to ask. Based on the latest research and input from our expert network, here are the answers to the most common questions about mental wellness.
What are common symptoms when struggling with mental wellness?
Periods of feeling depressed or anxious are common, but they often pass after a while without significantly impacting our lives.
The issue arises when those feelings last for weeks on end and begin to affect your daily life.
The World Health Organization defines mental wellness as a state of well-being, in which the individual realizes their own abilities, can cope with normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.
These symptoms when struggling with mental wellness vary and can include feelings of numbness, racing thoughts, low energy, lacking motivation, increased blood pressure, or struggle with focusing on daily tasks. Sometimes you may struggle with sleeping too much or too little, eating too much or too little, and avoiding social situations.
Because of these changes to the nervous system, health issues can arise. These can show up as digestive issues, hormonal changes, inflammation, skin issues, adrenal fatigue, or migraines.
What causes mental illness?
Mental illnesses are in general caused by a variety of environmental and genetic factors. The many reasons someone can struggle with mental illness range from personal life, to finances, work-life, family history, other traumatic experiences, health issues, and more. New research has also found that those struggling with gut dysbiosis are at a higher risk for mental illness.
Often, it's a combination of different components. Moreover, certain people may be more affected by some things than others. This is why working with a professional is key to finding the right solution for your needs.
How can I tell if someone has a mental health problem?
Anxiety and depression affect many people but often goes unspoken for those struggling.
“Mental illnesses aren't like physical illnesses. They can't be seen with naked eyes, they can only be felt emotionally. The person who appears to be the happiest in the room could be suffering from mental illness. However, if you are aware, sudden changes in behaviour could be the first clue.” says Drona Dewi, a biotechnologist who is specialized in mental wellness.
Have they been having mood swings? Have they started to isolate themselves? Are they eating differently? Are they sleeping more often or at all?
It’s hard for many to talk openly about their mental wellness and every individual is different. Don’t blame them. Instead, invite them to a conversation about what’s going on so you can help and encourage them to seek the appropriate help.
Can people get over a mental illness without medication?
“It depends on the severity of the mental illness. A doctor will be able to advise accordingly. Depression can be treated with antidepressants. It may take 2-3 weeks for the medication to take effect. Counselling and/or psychotherapy are used to correct negative thought patterns", says Dewi.
This isn’t to say medications do not have their time or their place. Therefore, it is crucial for affected individuals to seek professional help as soon as possible to find out what solution is most effective for their specific situation.
In some cases, a drug isn’t effective in treating the mental health disorder. When someone is treatment-resistant, it just means that they don't experience symptom relief through the use of psychotropic drugs.
Several alternative treatment approaches exist to counter symptoms of mental illness that don't involve prescription medications. Ranging from fitness and nutrition to mindfulness and more. I work on healing the gut-brain connection with my clients, in order to heal the body, including the brain. With over 30 different neurotransmitters being housed in the gut, you can start to make improvements by making changes to someone’s diet and lifestyle.
While you can do many things to support your mental health, take symptoms seriously and don't try to handle them alone. Talk to your doctor to get advice on the right treatment for you.
Why can routines support good mental health?
While 2020 seems discouraging, it has also been a year that shifted the perspective on the importance of daily routines.
As humans, we are creatures of habit. Routines, even simple ones, can be important for maintaining good mental health and dealing with anxiety.
The reason behind this is that when we create a structure for ourselves and know what to expect daily, it’s easier to actively work towards preventing the thoughts and symptoms of mental health conditions.
A study published in The Lancet Psychiatry of over 91,000 adults found that people who have an active daytime routine have healthier sleeping cycles. As a result of better sleep, they have better mental health and minimize the risk of developing emotional difficulties.
What is the best way to improve your mental wellness?
“One way to keep mental health disorders at bay is to have early detection, just like other health problems,” says Drona Dewi. Mental health is your overall psychological well-being, meaning it impacts the way you feel about yourself and others, as well as your ability to manage your feelings and deal with everyday difficulties.
While seeking professional support and treatment is advised, it also means taking steps to improve your mental wellness on your own. This includes things such as:
- Exercise: People who meet the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week are 30% less likely to suffer a depressive episode in future. Exercise is a powerful antidote to stress, anxiety, and depression because your body releases stress-relieving and mood-boosting endorphins before and after you work out.
- Nutrition counseling: What I help my clients understand is that what you eat can improve mood and restore structural integrity to the brain cells necessary for improving mental wellness. Consuming protein-rich foods increases norepinephrine, dopamine, and tyrosine, which helps to keep you alert. Balancing that with carbohydrate-rich foods (in moderate amounts) increases serotonin, a chemical that has a calming effect on your mood. And vegetables and fruits are loaded with fibres that feed every cell of your body.
- Get enough sleep: Research shows that lack of sleep can have a significantly negative effect on your mood. As addressed earlier, try to create a regular bedtime each day, and practice good habits to get better sleep.
- Turn to nature: In Japanese culture, they have a term called shinrin-juku, which translates to ‘forest bathing’. Ecotherapy has been found to help with mental health problems including anxiety and depression. Being outdoors also increases vitamin D intake which is an essential vitamin for boosting moods.
“According to research, there are no guaranteed measures to prevent mental illness. However, the best way is to actually live a healthy life. This can be achieved by relaxing, eating smart, moving more, and sleeping better. It requires a holistic approach”, says Dewi to sum it all up.
The best advice is to start today. Taking daily steps to boost your mood, build resilience, and add to your overall enjoyment of life will help to improve your mental wellness into this new year.
Do you need to recharge?
We know the last months have been tough and you deserve some time for real self-care. A self-care that allows you to rest, help your body restore. A self-care that calms your mind & soul.
Our Relax & Restore Self Care Wellness Kit is designed for you with three pillars in mind - Relaxation, Nourishment & Restoration - to help reduce stress and anxiety, increase clarity, joy and love, providing the deep reset you've been waiting for.
Disclaimer: The information provided is not intended to be and should be relied upon as a substitute for specific professional medical advice.