An entire month is dedicated to mental health awareness and how it impacts you. You may have heard that it is important, but mental health is more than how you take care of your mind.
Often people misunderstand and label being or feeling unwell with mental health and use the phrase interchangeable with mental illness.
It is also important to note that insurance providers use the term behavioral health when referencing mental health and mental illness, which may further confuse some people.
Anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, personality disorders and eating disorders are also associated with the phrase and when we struggle with any of these (or other mental illnesses and challenges) we can feel and might be mentally unhealthy.
It is beneficial to know strategies to manage these challenges, but managing them are only part of what mental health means.
By learning about mental health, you are empowering yourself to make changes that improve your whole life and relationships with people who matter most to you.
What is mental health?
Not only does it include our emotional, psychological, and social well-being but also it affects how you cope with life because of how you feel, think, and act.
To experience mental health is to experience well-being and striving toward managing stress, navigating relationships in a healthy way, acknowledging when you need support and seeking it, taking care of your body, and making choices in your everyday life that support feeling mentally well.
It’s a matter of mind, body, and spirit. They are all connected and helping one aspect of yourself can better other parts too.
Why is mental health important?
It’s easy to avoid mental health as a priority because it can be overwhelming. Self-reflection can be painful and taking accountability has tough moments, but they are worth it.
If you don’t make mental health matter, it can eventually catch up to you and every day worry, stress, or feeling down can lead to an anxiety disorder, depressive disorder or other mental health disorders.
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Making your mental health a priority supports several factors in your life to benefit your overall well-being. When you focus on your mental well-being, you will likely experience the following:
- Positive experiences using coping skills that work for you to help with stresses of life.
- Improved physical health (movement and nourishing your body is part of mental health)
- Improved relationships and stronger boundaries with those who might not be healthy for you to be in a relationship with.
- Contributing more to your community in a meaningful way with intention and a healthy mindset.
- Increased job satisfaction and maintaining work in society
- Realizing your potential and taking action in your life that is in line with your values and what you want for yourself.
What impacts my mental health?
There isn’t always one aspect that impacts your mental health. Often there are several factors that impact your mental health. It is important to become aware of changes that shift your mental state (positively and negatively) so that you can continue to help yourself.
Some things that are known to affect one’s mental wellbeing are:
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- Biological traits: brain chemistry, genetics, medical conditions, etc.
- Life experiences: loss of a relationship, job, loved-one, chronic illness, medical conditions, trauma, abuse, etc. Or, positive experiences and milestones you accomplish.
- Family history of mental illness, substance abuse, abuse: generational, ancestorial, etc. that impact the functioning and overall well-being of the family.
- Relationships: family, friends, co-workers, etc.
- Lifestyle: diet, exercise, substance abuse, finances, job, extra curricular activites, etc.
- Mindset: having a positive or negative focus on life experiences, using coping skills to manage stress, meditation to calm your mind and body, practicing gratitude
Is it possible to change my mental health over time?
Absolutely. Life is not stagnant so there are changes that can occur anytime. You have choice in how you respond to things that happen in life and these responses impact your mental health.
You may face chronic illness, living with a sick relative, money issues, death, or divorce.
While these experiences can be painful, overwhelming and unpleasant, they are not unique and support is available for the issues we face in life.
You don’t have to suffer or try to figure it all out on your own.
Mental health therapy and treatment can also help alter your mental health over time and can help you make lasting changes over time.
What signs indicate that I may need help?
It may be time to seek treatment or additional help if you notice any of the following symptoms or risk factors:
- Your sleeping and eating habits change.
- You begin to withdraw from relationships and activities that you enjoy.
- You have little or no energy.
- You feel like nothing matters in your life.
- You have aches and pains in your body that are unexplainable.
- You feel helpless, hopeless, and/or worthless.
- There is an uptick in your smoking, drinking, or drug use.
- You feel confused, forgetful, angry, upset, worried, or scared more than usual.
- You experience mood swings that cause problems in your relationships.
- You ruminate on thoughts and memories.You hear voices or are having a hard time discerning reality.
- You are having thoughts of suicide, fantasize about not being alive, begin making plans for suicide.
- You have thoughts of wanting to hurt others.
- You have thoughts of or are engaging in self-harm.
- You have obsessive thoughts of food, your body, your weight, or struggle with an eating disorder.
- You are unable to perform daily tasks like getting to school or going to work.
While these risk factors might indicate you are experiencing poor mental health, they do not necessarily indicate you have a mental illness, mood disorder, or mental health disorder.
It is best to speak with a mental health professional to decide what might be best for you and your needs based on what symptoms or changes you are experiencing.
How can I get help for my mental health in Denver?
You don’t have to wait to get yourself help. You aren’t alone, and there are medical and mental health professionals who can aid in your recovery. Talk and somatic (body)-based therapies are available to you and can help in your healing or wanting to improve your life.
Denver Metro Counseling offers private pay individual and family therapy for teens and adults who live in Colorado both online and in-person. Located in Denver, Colorado, their Denver therapists can help you identify contributors to reasons you might be struggling mentally and help you navigate your journey to feel better mentally so other life circumstances feel more manageable.
In addition to providing therapy, a therapist can help you identify other helpful activities that can support your mental health as well.
Becoming aware of how your mental health impacts you is the first step to improving your overall well-being.
It does take time, energy, and resources to help yourself. When you notice changes in your perception and habits, it may indicate that self-reflection is needed.
You deserve a life worth living and you are the first person who can do that for you.
Written by: Randi Thackeray, MA
Clinically Reviewed and Edited by: Julie Reichenberger, MA, LPC, ACS, ACC