The Effects Of Mental Illness
Mental health has a ripple effect on our emotions, thoughts and behaviours in our workplace and strongly influences our interactions with those closest to us. It is always advisable to turn to professionals who can help compartmentalize these distressing feelings- and with the rise in modes of therapy and medication, it is getting easier to manage daily stresses. But for those without the financial means or those who do not respond to the current methodologies, there are effective recourses. Our minds are so unique, owing to the specific experiences we have gone through, so the treatments to heal our minds can be just as personalized. After all, we know our minds best, right? If we allow ourselves space and time to take the edge off in a healthy way, we create an environment conducive to growth and ultimately, better mental wellness.
There is no one-stop solution to treating mental illnesses. But mitigating the powerful effects is within your reach when you inculcate the good habit to make sense of these emotions. Here are some healthy coping mechanisms you can give a shot:
1. Get Your Heart Rate Up
Yes, we have all heard it before- but getting your heart rate up is truly one of the best ways to take care of your mental health. The spike in natural endorphins is more satisfying (and better for you) than any substance that gives you the same 'high'. There are so many wholesome forms of movement that we can explore. With swimming, aerobics, running, going to the gym, yoga, dance, etc. no matter how slow or how fast-paced you prefer, there is something for everyone. Even a 10-minute stretch or walk can help elevate your mood and bring calm into your day. It is a chance to get your mind into your body so you can slow down and focus on the present moment. There is plenty of research that studies how exercise lowers stress levels, depression, anxiety and raises self-esteem and overall mood (1)!
2. Cultivate Hobbies
No one is exempted from having a bad day. After a day filled with traffic, problematic people or taking care of children, the best coping mechanism may be something that takes your mind off it. Learning a new skill can expand the mind and allow any reactionary emotions to subside so you can face life's challenges with a clear mentality. Try your hand at art, music, baking, reading, stand-up comedy and more. These creative hobbies separate us from our hardships and keep us mindful of our emotions. You can use such outlets to get into a state of flow, where you are mentally energized by the end of the activity!
3. Watch What You Put Into Your Body
On days that we find ourselves with a packed to-do list, it can be difficult to pay attention to the food we consume. However, it is of the utmost importance. Comfort food is a common source of unhealthy coping mechanisms like binge-eating and overeating. When left unchecked, it can have negative impacts on our self-esteem, energy levels and mood. To have a healthy relationship with food, we must be careful with how we approach it. Something that may help is taking small steps to include nourishing foods that provide vitamin C, iron, omega-3s and hormones like dopamine. These nutrients in leafy greens like spinach will not magically cure mental imbalances but they sustain cognitive function.
Besides food, there is also a distinct link between the amount of water you drink and the decrease in stress and anxiety. Set an intention with these means of sustenance, express gratitude for what is on your plate and the outcomes might be a more rewarding experience!
4. Mindful Practices
Mindfulness can be practiced in whatever we do. It is the art of bringing our attention to the present moment. All the previous habits can be done mindfully, and this is true for anything- when you are walking, how fast are you walking? What parts of your feet are in contact with the ground? Attending these questions takes us away from the past and future so we can focus on the beauty of the now. Think of mindfulness as a muscle. The more you exercise it, the stronger (and easier to use) it gets. A few ways to do that are through journaling, meditation, breathwork and yoga. They are known to decrease the concentration of stress hormones in the body and improve mental health.
5. Phone A Friend
We all need a friend sometimes, don't we? Mental illness can be extremely isolating, and this can turn into an unhealthy coping mechanism if we let it be. Remember that there is always someone out there that cares about you. Connect with your family and friends. Often, sharing our feelings with someone else can put things into a refreshing perspective. Other times, we just need a hug.
Mental illness can manifest in various forms – from substance abuse to depression and psychosis, there is a whole spectrum of disorders that affect one's quality of life. In India, 1 in 7 people is estimated to combat some mental illness. Yet, most people shy away from their emotions, largely due to the societal stigmas that surround this topic. This can have serious implications not just for each person, but also for the wellbeing of the entire community. Change starts with each one of us – by having conversations and leading by example. Slowly adding healthy habits to our lifestyle puts us one step closer to a healthier world.