From the beginning of our lives, our parents gradually teach us how to care for ourselves. Self-care, and asking for help are integral to our lives. However, self-care is equivalent to physical wellbeing in a layman’s language. We’re rarely told to express our emotions, to understand our emotional and mental well-being; Because mental health cannot be seen or easily accounted for, we have largely failed to take care of it as well. In fact, it is considered as an attention-seeking act by many and has been turned into a taboo. It’s hard to imagine how society’s stereotypes and unconcerns themselves instead of helping.
According to a WHO statistic, one in four people will suffer from a mental health condition at some point in their lives. According to the Mental Health Foundation, 20% of adolescents suffer from a mental health condition in any given year. The issue and risk of suffering is so grave that the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Federation for Mental Health recognizes October 10th as World Mental Health Day, since 1992. Yet, we are still struggling with awareness and interventions.
What Causes Mental Health Concerns?
We live in a world that is rapidly changing, faster than we can adapt. There is an influx of news and knowledge. The pressure to perform, the ongoing and never-ending comparison, the inexplicable amount of political, social, environmental events around has fuelled the stress and fatigue further. It is not always easy and feasible to be on your toes. We may feel vulnerable due to different life conditions or life stages of our lives. This can cause stress, anxiety, depression which leads to further ripple effects. Mental Health Awareness is the need of the hour, the world over.
The digital world is a big part of our society. Social media makes others’ lives increasingly accessible. Yet, we don’t see the entirety of other people’s lives, but only the parts they want to show. We see more successes, and we tend to compare our lives to others. We automatically calculate where we stand. The more we compare, the more dissatisfied we become. The continuous churning of these emotions, and feeling of not there yet, not like others, causes tremendous pressure on your mental and emotional wellbeing. The concepts of beauty, successes, balance, all are defined by digital mediums today.
Our personal history includes our past relationships with friends, families, teachers, and others. Trauma, abuse or neglect in our lives, can put us at risk of developing a mental health problem. Not just the environment, but our biological histories can also make us resilient and vulnerable to certain life afflictions. Genetic factors also play a part in mental health problems.
There can be sudden accidents and losses which cause us distress and are hard to grapple with. Natural calamities can drive us into shock as well. This can trigger breakdowns and have an impact on our emotional and mental wellness.
When Should You Pay Attention?
If you’re looking for some signs that would help you figure out whether you should seek professional help, below are some behavioral or emotional changes you could look out for.
Fearing and an Internal Alarm
When you feel worried or scared about your internal shifts, you should consider paying attention. (Our body reacts to fear by a fight or flight response. How do you imagine your mind to react when a threatful situation is coming from inside, rather than outside? Mr. B was feeling low, yet being able to function at work. He sensed something is amiss yet couldn’t point a finger to it. When someone asked him what was his difficulty, he answered, “I don’t know. Everything seems the same, but I am feeling unusually low, and not in control.”. This is Mr. B’s internal alarm.) Since this is your own intuitive internal alarm, telling you something is not right. Don’t try to ignore these feelings. Rather, seek mental health help at this point.
Unmotivated at Work
Another marker would be observing how you are functioning at work. Work is a social situation, and also a necessity to life. Therefore, constantly feeling like you don’t want to go to work, or not being able to perform tasks you could easily before, should be a point where you can ask yourself the question, is something wrong? Am I feeling alright? Even if the concerns might seem trivial like bad bosses, work pressure, you can seek help and consider using self-help wellness tools and techniques as well. There are many meditations, exercises, relaxation sounds, cbt techniques available for free that can help you regain your energy and help cope with such situations.
Irritability can arise out of excessive worrying and stress. Sometimes when we are overworked and don’t have a sufficient breather, we may feel irritable. Prolonged stress can cause further reactions in our wellbeing and on our bodies. You may observe yourself to see if you are feeling distressed by small irritants. If this lasts for more than two weeks, it is a good indicator to see if you want to seek help.
Withdrawal from Social Life
Sometimes we may keep our tasks at work in check, but other areas of our life will see a change. If you are feeling alone, unmotivated to enjoy an evening out, try to be curious about what might the reason be? Is it a particular day which has been rough, or have you been pulling away from social commitments, or socializing with friends and family? Spending too much time alone, and not seeking social contact is unusual. However, everyone has their own preference for how much time they need for themselves and how much social contact they need. This is always a personal balance. So to check this, you can refer to any differences in your personal preference and social activities.
Changes in Sleep and Diet
Human beings have an approximately constant pattern of eating in terms of time and appetite. There is a similar pattern to our sleeping cycle as well. You must pay attention to any changes in these areas, that last more than a few weeks. This is an indicator of your mental health needs because the mind and body are not always separate. The body functions with the mind. Our body is our home, and our stress and challenges arise and are faced with in this home itself. Therefore, paying attention to your body is necessary even when we talk about our mental health!
Sudden Life Changes
We can’t always be prepared for what’s coming. Sometimes, even when we see something coming beforehand, dealing with it in real-time can be really hard. There can be sudden breakups, financial losses, sudden losses of friends, partner, family, pets that can really bring us down. Mourning and grief are some of the toughest predicaments human beings have to deal with. It is not always possible to get through these life changes alone. And it is completely alright to ask for help at such times when we are vulnerable.
Contemporary challenges also include increased work and relationship stress, thereby increasing dependency on substances like alcohol and drugs. People are not only susceptible to substance addictions but also an addiction to social media, dating apps, pornography, among other digital media. These addictions are tough to battle on your own. Therefore, if you feel you can’t go without one or more of the things mentioned above, it is a good idea to seek professional help.
Abuse or Trauma
Some of us go through circumstances, accidents, and/or relationships that are traumatic and have a deep and long-lasting impact on us. This can be draining and can feel never-ending. You may feel that after going through an experience, you have felt heavy or stressed and the feeling never left. In such times, it is a good idea to go to a therapist, who can help you heal and come out of the emotional pain you are going through.
Can I Seek Therapy Even if I Feel Normal?
The answer is YES. Therapy is not only for the times when life gets rough. Therapy is sometimes for maintenance. You might have taken help from therapy before during a rough phase, and now you feel like checking in on yourself periodically even though the crisis has passed? This is totally normal, and healthy. Go for it!
Therapy is not always for crisis and a route when overwhelmed. You may get the sense that you don’t know yourself very well. You may feel confused about what you like, what you dislike, what stresses you and what are your boundaries. Not knowing is also a good reason to go, even if you are not feeling visibly disturbed, therapy can help you unearth and understand yourself better.
Also, there are times when we don’t know exactly what we are seeking therapy for because we feel normal on the surface, but deep down we feel there is a challenge. With the help of your therapist, you may be able to better understand what are the areas of your life where you might need help. There is nothing wrong in not knowing why you’re going, and only knowing this much – that you want to go. That is enough. Whatever your reason may be, it is okay, and it is enough.
Even if you are second-guessing yourself about making that appointment with a therapist, because you feel normal, it is alright to go and see what happens.
Don’t ignore the power of Self Help
It is always good to have a library of self-help activities you can do. You may be on the Waitlist for an appointment with a therapist or you may not feel ready as yet; You may feel you want to stay back and see if you can work on it on your own. For such times, there are some self-help tips to get you through.
Read something light, and breezy. Choose your booklist according to your idea of fun and what you want to read, rather than feeling pressured to read something to fit in.
Engage in activities that involves mind and body
Getting your hands dirty is always a good idea. It gets your body involved and gives you a sense of activity and also togetherness. Doing these in groups, and participating in workshops can be a bonus too! Like pottery
Moving your body to a rhythm can be really cathartic and energizing. Physical activity also releases the feel-good hormone, which is not just good for the body but also your mental health.
This is one way of self-care, through which you can nurture yourself, in the most basic and important ways. You can whip up something that you’re really fond of and treat yourself. Sharing could be really fun too!
Leaving the house
There are days when leaving the bed, or leaving the house can feel really strenuous. However, on such days, taking a walk, or just getting out of the house for a little while can be a breath of fresh air. Literally! While it may feel impossible at first, 20 minutes of fresh air on a bad day can do wonders.
Immersing yourself in music
There is a lot of value for mental health in music. Groove and rhythm are basic to biology and human life. Even our heart has its own beat. Therefore, playing, and instrument or listening to music can be really helpful. It soothes the mind.
Support from Others:
Reach out to people. Trust is an important component of this. It may be really difficult to open up and show your vulnerabilities. This is not only self-help but also forming support for others. This also means appreciating the context others come from and being able to listen to them. In all, this increases empathy in and around you.
Research has shown that helping others improves our own mindset and wellbeing. Try to spend some time out of your week to volunteer for a cause that you feel close to.