What is mental health and why is it just as important as physical health?
Mental health is our state of mind that impacts our emotional intelligence, psychological health and social welfare. It helps us to cope with our feelings, giving us a sense of security and comfort. A sound state of mind can affect the decisions we make, the social relations we maintain and our overall approach towards life.
Mental health is not a condition that can be treated based on our whims. Simply asking someone to lighten up and jumping in with our own diagnosis or solutions (even if you are trying to help with all the right intentions) can expose them to immediate danger! It is necessary to approach mental health in a pragmatic manner. Unlike physical conditions, it cannot be seen, however that does not mean it is unreal or non-existent. It occurs in the same areas of the brain as physical pain and can lead to more incapacitating results. Though the two types of pain cause the same amount of distress, they are not treated equally. Anyone in physical pain is rushed to medical care but the majority of those with mental conditions do not get the same treatment. Treatment for a broken bone is easier to avail than that for a troubled mind.
This leads us to understanding the importance of preserving our mental health:
1. Reduces Anxiety
We all face moments of anxiety at some point in our lives, common instances are before an exam, an interview or a key event. It is that feeling of unease at the pit of your stomach that can be caused by worry or fear. While feeling slightly anxious is completely normal, those suffering from anxiety will tend to be anxious constantly. Looking after your mental wellbeing will help to reduce panic attacks and stabilise your mind.
2. To be happy
Tiny moments of joy can bring us immense happiness. Happiness is a positive emotion that increases satisfaction, contentment and fulfillment making us feel safe and secure. A sound mental health promotes happiness.
3. To be physically fit
Troubled mental health may cause depression, anxiety and affect a person's ability to maintain a healthy lifestyle. This may further lead to other chronic physical conditions and slow down an individual’s recovery process.
4. Maintain healthy relations
Humans are social beings we rely on each other mentally and emotionally. Those with strong bonds have lower rates of anxiety, depression and higher life expectancy. Loneliness can lead to uneasy sleeping habits, high blood pressure and stress. A sound mind allows us to follow our socialistic human instinct and maintain bonds.
5. Work productively
Workplaces that promote mental well being are known to show better results. Flexible working conditions, high level of support and other policies largely impact the mental health of their employees. This is directly noticeable in their increased productivity as they feel safe and valued.
How has the pandemic affected our mental health?
There has been a rapid increase in the number of people suffering from mental health related issues in recent times, especially now, with Covid- 19 being one of the largest contributors. Other factors that influence a person’s state of mind can be subjectively drawn from their life experiences, stress levels, personality, genetics, family history of mental problems.
Let us understand how the pandemic has affected our mental health:
1. Mental development of children
With schools shutting down and restrictions on simple activities such as playing with friends, going to the park or joining classes, children are at risk of facing restrictive mental development in their early years. This impacts their learning, physical and mental development that will be reflected later in their lives.
2. Young Adults
Those graduating in a saturated job market are facing fierce competition leading to lower self esteem and morale. Young adults are experiencing loss of jobs, closure of university and other setbacks in their professional development. The build up of anxiety, depression and frustration has given rise to suicide rates.
3. Essential workers face work pressure
High demand and limited supply of essential workers such as health care staff, public officers, distributors in the food industry, transport workers are working tirelessly round the clock! The increased pressure has led to fatigue, burn out, and unhealthy behavior such as smoking that contribute to mental stressors.
4. Increase use of alcohol, drugs and other illegal activities
An idle mind is a devil's workshop. With work from home, colleges shut down and businesses working remotely Covid has left us with more time resulting in boredom, stress and idleness amongst others. To dive away the boredom theri has been an increased consumption of alcohol, drugs and other organised crimes.
5. Older generations feel isolated at home
Being at high risk, older people live in constant fear of contracting the virus thus locked up and isolated from everyone else. They are more vulnerable to depression due to contributing factors such as loss of a loved one during the pandemic, physical reliance, loneliness on others and other medical conditions.
Save yourself and your loved ones by identifying the signs of mental disorders early on. Look out for the following symptoms for some common mental health issues faced during Covid-19:
Lack of energy, constant fatigue, irregular sleep patterns, mood swings, loss of appetite.
B) Eating disorder
Obvious weight gain or loss, negative thoughts about one's body, obsessing over food calories and count, fear of eating in public.
Worrying about regular everyday activities such as grocery shopping, talking or video chats with friends and family, feeling nervousness, panic attacks, low self esteem
Difficulty falling asleep at night, feeling tired throughout the day, irritable mood, not feeling well rested, restlessness throughout the night.
How to get through the pandemic emotionally and mentally?
Exercise is an effective antidepressant that helps by reducing anxiety and negative mood. It improves self-esteem and cognitive functions. Those facing eating disorders during covid are vulnerable to obesity, anorexia and other severe medical conditions. Exercising is a great way to increase fitness levels and balance weight.
2. Maintaining a balanced diet
Our diet affects our moods and feelings. Some foods such as caffeine and chocolate can temporarily trick our brain into feeling happy. They can have a negative effect on our mind. Foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids, green leafy vegetables, fruits and other brain food can boost our mental health. Read more about how foods affect your skin here.
3. Sleep well
It is easy to get swayed into watching yet another Netflix show or chatting with our friends till late over text. However, you must try to reduce screen time as it may disrupt your sleep schedule. Lack of sleep can lead to many unfavorable health conditions such as depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder. Learn all the benefits of sleep by clicking on the link given here.
4. Nurture our relationships
During the pandemic it is easy to feel lonely and isolated. It is important to look out for each other. We must remember to check in on our friends, family and loved ones. Maintaining strong bonds can cultivate a feeling of security and greater empathy, making us feel loved and valued.
5. Allow natural light in, green plants at home
Being surrounded by plants can infuse a feeling of calmness and relation, thus decreasing anxiety and stress. A great way to introduce plants is by using them as decor pieces in your study or living space to improve concentration and memory leading to higher productivity .
6. Seek assistance
If you or your loved ones suffer from a mental health problem there are a number of different people who might be able to help. Reach out to medical professionals, therapists, support workers or volunteers who will know exactly how to help you.
7. Indulge into new hobbies
Keeping your mind busy and indulging into activities you love can make you feel happier and more relaxed.
Unwind yourself using:
1. Oil massage
Massage therapy is an ancient process used to promote calmness and relaxation, reducing anxiety. The Oleum Cottage Nourishing and Relaxing Massage Oil is infused with natural antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory essential oils to provide relief from rashes and assist in restful sleep.
This is the process of deep thinking to reach the ultimate goal of relaxation and inner peace. Mindfulness in our thoughts can help to relieve stress, improve thoughts and bring us closer to our souls. Learn all about mindfulness by clicking on the link here.
3. Foot massage
The foot has some key pressure points that lie in the hollows just above our toes. Use the Tvam Foot Cream- Hibiscus Chamomile after soaking your legs in warm water and whipping them dry by massaging the pressure point.
It is a healing treatment that uses natural extracts and aromatic scents to improve overall well being. Clay Pure Lavender Essential Oil is the mother of essential oils. Lavender can lessen anxiety by stimulating the nose to pass signals to the brain. It can be applied on the skin or be used by the sense of smell in diffuses, candles, bed linen, wardrobes, potpourri, bathtub.
5. Maintaining a consistent routine
Sticking to a daily routine is more than just checking things off your to-do list. It involves taking responsibilities of tasks and making time for things you love. Implementing a structure can ensure you keep up healthy habits and give you a sense of control and unpredictability at times.
6. Defining boundaries between personal and professional life
Working from home can make us feel like we have tons of time in hand. But it is important to define your routine and take breaks to avoid burnouts. Constantly working can result in emotional exhaustion and cognitive stress. It is also necessary to set up a workstation to avoid physical pain such as back aches and poor posture, as sitting up straight can improve symptoms of self esteem, anxiety, stress and depression.
It is completely normal to find yourself facing pressure, feeling isolated or even down at certain times! However, we live to appreciate the beautiful gift of life. Always remember if anything costs you your peace, it is too expensive! Let it go, seek help, speak to loved ones for there is light at the end of every tunnel!
- Howrah Lookmanji