Mental health is just as important as physical health

Mental health is physical health.

I preach that a lot on my social media because, simply put, it’s true.

At the risk of sounding educational and writing this like a school paper, I want to inform you of just a few things.

  1. Mental health is physical health. I said this already. Got it. But knowing this could help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. There are still so many people that believe depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, etc. are all made up and that people with those illnesses are crazy. And that’s another thing: stop calling people crazy that battle with mental illness. It’s not appropriate nor is it even remotely accurate.
  2. Mental illnesses are not only mental, they are physical as well. Ask anyone with an anxiety disorder. I’ll use myself as an example. I battle with pretty bad social anxiety. It keeps me from having a job like any other “normal” person. When I go out in public, I feel physical symptoms. It’s not just “Oh man I’m so nervous!” It’s also sweating, racing heart, and dizziness. That doesn’t even include the symptoms from a panic attack I may have.
  3. Depression can be fatal, just like any other physical illness. Yes for real. Suicide is not just something people do to “get out,” “get bailed out,” or do just for “attention.” I can promise you if someone dies by suicide, they suffered… bad. Suicide is the final symptom of depression, and some people never reach that final symptom, but that doesn’t mean they don’t suffer too. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen on social media, even on my friends list on Facebook, that people still believe that suicide is selfish and that the person that passed away “took the easy way out.” Come on. That’s not fair and it’s undermining the battle that the person fought literally on a daily basis.
  4. “You’re making it up to get out of doing (this) or (that). Just smile!” Okay… first, that’s just not that easy and you know it. Second… don’t you think if we could “just smile” and everything would be fine that we would have done it a long time ago? Depression takes away your energy. You have to make yourself do anything. So no… we’re not just “making it up” to get out of anything.

Think of it like this.

There are people in the hospital with cancer and they of course are getting the help they need. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not taking ANYTHING away from anyone and their battle with cancer and chemo. But just like you can see cancer on an MRI or PET scan, you can also see depression in an fMRI or PET scan. The scan can pick up abnormalities or different brain activity in someone with depression compared to someone without depression.

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People with cancer go to the hospital to get treated, and so do people with broken bones. It doesn’t matter what the problem is, to the person battling with it, it’s big to them (Again, I know cancer is a major problem compared to a broken bone, I’m just using a broken bone for the example). Just because depression is “invisible” to other people (because as we know, depression shows physical symptoms as well), does not mean you don’t deserve the help, whether it be with therapy, medication, or even ecotherapy. Broken bones heal and they’re good to go after a month or two. But unfortunately, mental illness is an ongoing disease.

Please stop thinking depression or any other mental illness is not as important as physical health, but it is physical health. The brain and the body should not be categorized into two totally separate types of healthcare. Mental health is physical health and physical health is healthcare. Healthcare is healthcare.

The World Health Organization defines health as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

There is no health without mental health.

 

Is This Our New Normal?

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Is this the new normal?

There’s no way to know that, but there is hope in knowing that this virus will die down. One thing that is important to remember: if we want to flatten the curve, we have to listen to the guidelines given to us. There are a lot of people out of work, so this causes a lot of anxiety for the future, but especially for the present. We are in a time when we do not know what tomorrow will be like; will it be better and the curve is flattened, or will it be bad with a lot more deaths?

These thoughts can definitely cause some anxiety. That’s normal. So if you’re experiencing some anxiety, stress, depression, etc., find some positive coping mechanisms to help you get through the days. For some, that might be tending to a garden and for others, it might be playing video games. There’s a lot of hobbies or things to do. Find something you have been wanting to try and do it and remember it’s okay if you’re not good at it in the beginning. Don’t let that stop you from trying. Do what it takes to keep your mental health as balanced as possible.

Some things I do are play video games, read books, watch movies/tv shows, go for walks with my dogs, write, go for rides with the dogs, sit outside and listen to music and/or natural nature sounds, and take pictures of blooming flowers. These are my regular hobbies, but especially while quarantined, they help keep my mind off of any negative thoughts that may be trying to develop.

Practicing meditation can be extremely beneficial as well. Meditation can be anything that puts your mind at ease: mindfulness meditation, prayer, even relaxing on your front porch.

It’s okay to admit that you might be experiencing anxiety. It makes you human. But making sure to distract yourself from those anxious thoughts, taking proper precautions to help flatten the curve, and even getting help from a professional are things you can do to help reduce those anxiety levels. Also, making sure to only share accurate information regarding the virus can help reduce anxiety levels.

The CDC has a lot of great information and list of resources to help you during this difficult time. Read it here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html

This way of living does not have to be our new normal. If we take those proper precautions to reducing the spread of this virus, we can get back to living our normal lives. Remember, we’re all in this together.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

I wrote about mindful meditation pretty recently (click here to read it), and to continue on with the topic, diaphragmatic breathing is essential in meditation. I’ve learned so many different techniques to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression in school so I feel it’s my duty to pass them on to you, too.

Diaphragmatic breathing can be done anywhere – in fact, this is the type of breathing the doctor suggests when a woman is in labor or in birthing classes. This technique only requires that wherever you do it, you’re comfortable, you can concentrate, and you can incorporate visualization. If you have all three of those things, you’re good to go.

I battle with panic attacks and sensory overload, and this breathing technique can help with them. I never realized that this is the type of breathing exercise I do when trying to come out of a panic attack, but it helps. It immediately calms me down; I can breathe again, my body gets less tense and numb, and my brain is thinking clearly again. That fight or flight response chills out a bit, too.

So I urge you to practice this type of breathing, especially if you battle with panic attacks. It helps so much. Here is a link describing it more in detail and guiding you through it so you can hopefully be more mindful of this breathing technique when you’re working through a panic attack.

Mindful Meditation

I’ve been taking a class in school on stress management and it’s honestly helped me realize a few things about myself: I’m more stressed than I ever realized, I need to practice self-care more, and I need to start meditating.

The first thing I used to think when I would see the word ‘meditation’ is monks and sitting down on a pillow and ‘om’. But it’s so much more than that. Meditation can be something like listening to music with no other distractions, or praying, or even a hobby, like gardening. These things help bring us down to a level where we can relax and feel less stress from the things going on around us.

There are different kinds of meditation, but mindfulness meditation is the one I feel the closest to. I am always trying to be mindful of what I’m doing in the moment, like when I’m writing; if I’m on my laptop, I try to be mindful of how my fingers are moving, and if I’m writing in my notebook, I am mindful of the way I write my f’s and g’s. I don’t know why I am mindful of those, but I guess it’s because I write them in an unconventional way compared to the other letters.

At the risk of teaching or treating this like a school paper, I want to explain how much mindfulness can help your mind, body, and soul.

Mindfulness helps relieve stress as we all know, but it also treats heart disease, lowers blood pressure, reduces chronic pain, improves sleep, and reduces anxiety levels. There’s a technique called mindful self-inquiry. It brings awareness to any of your stressed or anxious feelings and allows them to be. That doesn’t mean to let them control you. It means to let them happen. It makes you human. It’s how you react and how little control you let it have over your other emotions. The technique allows you to learn more about those feelings, and it helps you learn more about yourself too, basically gaining a new perspective of stressful or anxious situations.

I urge you to read more into mindful meditation and consider utilizing it into your daily life. Practicing this for even ten minutes can work, even if you’re busy throughout the day. It’s worth it to slow down, take a break, and meditate.