Mental Health Isn't What You Think It Is.
Mental health is so much more than just your thoughts.
Therefore, improving your mental health requires more than simply training yourself to think more positively or suppress negative thoughts.
So, what is Mental Health?
Mental health is a person’s emotional, psychological, and social well-being.
It encompasses how you think, feel, and act and how you handle stress, make choices, and interact with others. In other words, mental health affects all aspects of your life, including your thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and overall quality of life.
Good mental health implies a state of balance where you can cope with the everyday stresses of life, work productively, maintain fulfilling relationships, and contribute to your communities. It involves having a positive sense of self, the ability to manage emotions effectively, and the resilience to navigate life’s challenges.
Conversely, poor mental health can lead to difficulties in various areas of life, including relationships, work or school performance, and overall well-being. Mental health problems can manifest in different forms, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and many others. These conditions can significantly impact your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, making it challenging to function effectively and enjoy a satisfying life.
What ISN’T mental health?
Mental health isn’t just your thoughts, nor is it a set destination. It is the culmination of it all: thoughts, feelings, and actions as you handle stress, make choices, and interact with others.
And by the way, no one ever fully “arrives” to a place of perfect mental health. Yet it is a worthwhile and ongoing journey to live the happiest and healthiest life possible.
Consider mental health as a continuum, ranging from optimal well-being to various levels of distress or illness. The best we can strive for is optimal while still being patient and empathetic toward ourselves and our journey as life inevitably throws new curveballs.
To take it a little further, I like to explain mental health with a metaphor.
Think of a flower with roots, a stem, and a blossom.
The root is your emotion, the stem is your thought, and the blossom is the signal or symptom that blooms due to your emotion and resulting thought.
The emotion under the surface is the “root” cause of your thoughts and symptoms; therefore, it makes sense to start there.
So, what are the emotions driving your thoughts and resulting behaviors?
Journaling the answer to this question is a great place to start.
Just like physical health, everyone has mental health, and it is essential to take care of it through self-care, seeking support when needed, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Mental health is vital to overall well-being. To learn how I can support you, your family, or your team on your mental health journey, reach out!
Four Ways to Heal Chronic Stress
Regular exercise is an effective tool for managing chronic stress and promoting healing. Engage in enjoyable exercise that is appropriate for your fitness level, as this can help to ensure that you stick with it over the long term. Here are some ways that exercise can help:
Reducing stress hormones: Physical activity helps reduce stress hormone levels such as cortisol and adrenaline in the body. These hormones are released during periods of stress, and can cause a range of negative effects, including increased heart rate, blood pressure, and inflammation.
Promoting relaxation: Exercise can stimulate the release of endorphins, natural chemicals that promote relaxation and well-being. This can help counteract chronic stress’s negative effects and improve mood.
Improving sleep quality: Chronic stress can disrupt sleep, leading to fatigue and other health problems. Exercise has been shown to enhance the quality of sleep and promote deeper, more restful sleep.
Enhancing cognitive function: Chronic stress can impair cognitive function, leading to problems with memory, concentration, and decision-making. Regular exercise has been shown to improve cognitive function and protect against age-related cognitive decline.
Chronic stress can erode self-confidence and self-esteem. Exercise can help boost self-confidence by providing a sense of accomplishment and mastery and promoting a positive body image.
#2: Relaxation Techniques
Relaxation techniques help reduce physical and mental tension to promote calm and well-being. They help to counteract the negative effects of ongoing stress on the body and mind by reducing muscle tension, heart rate, and blood pressure, improving immune function, enhancing sleep quality, and reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. It is important to find relaxation techniques that work for you and to practice them regularly to achieve maximum benefits.
Some of my client’s favorite relaxation techniques that I teach are:
● Breathing Colors:
Visualizations and breathing are very useful to relax and heal chronic stress. When breathing colors, we utilize both! Close your eyes and take three deep belly breaths. Close your eyes and continue taking slow, deliberate breaths, this time imagining you inhaling and exhaling your favorite color. Imagine inhaling the color, allowing it to swirl and fill your lungs and body, then exhaling it back into the world. Continue doing this and watch your stress melt away.
● The Big, Red Hot Air Balloon:
A big source of chronic stress is often the things that weigh us down in life, like responsibilities, tough relationships, and worries. Close your eyes and visualize yourself standing in a beautiful grassy field. Focus on transporting yourself to this space; feel, hear, touch, smell, and taste every element of this imaginary place. Then, notice a big, red hot air balloon in the distance. You walk up to it and begin unloading everything that weighs you down into the basket. As the basket gets heavier, you get lighter. Then, the hot air balloon drifts into the sky and goes further away, soon becoming just a speck in the distance. You know this isn’t a permanent solution, but for the moment, you appreciate the break and shift in perspective.
● Say Your Name:
Self-love is essential when looking to heal chronic stress. Often, we are stressed because of the pressure and expectation we put on ourselves, and we don’t stop to give ourselves gratitude and attention. With this technique, take a deep inhale and, on the exhale, say your name aloud. It can feel odd to say your own name aloud, but it’s an important part of the process that will help you reconnect with yourself with empathy and kindness. After getting comfortable with this, on the inhale, add “thank you” or “I love you,” and then say your name on the exhale. Repeat a few times and try this regularly to experience a reduction in your chronic stress.
Social support can be beneficial in healing chronic stress. Social support can help mitigate symptoms of chronic stress in several ways:
Social support can provide emotional comfort and validation during times of stress. Having someone to talk to and share your feelings with can help alleviate chronic stress.
Social integration: Having a social support network can help reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness, which are common in people who experience chronic stress. Social integration can also provide opportunities for positive social interaction, which can help counteract chronic stress’s adverse effects on mood and well-being.
Healing from chronic stress doesn’t happen overnight, especially if you’ve been struggling with it for a while. But, if you need deeper, more personalized support to heal from your chronic stress, I can help. Reach out to learn how.