Health, in all areas, is a continuum. Nobody is perfectly healthy in every aspect. However, finding health in the four main dimensions of your life – biophysical, psychological, social, and spiritual – is the best way to maintain wellness and stop problems before they begin.
The brain is the control center of the body. In order for it to grow and develop the way it needs to, it has to have the right nutrients provided by a balanced and healthy diet. The brain is also a muscle, thus to be truly healthy it needs to be exercised.
According to MyPlate.gov, here is how to build a healthy eating style:
Get Moving! Exercising is essential for total-body wellness, including mental wellness. We’ve all heard the fact that exercising pumps us full of endorphins, which literally make us happy and fights off problems such as Depression, so it should not come as a surprise that moving your body improves a multitude of brain functions.
The golden duo of exercise is to work both your body and your mind.
When we sleep, it is our body’s time to recharge. In the same way that an electronic toy does not work properly when it is not powered up, we don’t work properly when we are missing out on sleep, or suffering from restless sleep.
Here are 10 signs that you may be sleep deprived:
- You’re always hungry. Because your body is not getting the energy it needs from sleep, it will try to get that energy in other places, such as extra calories.
- You’ve gained weight. With increased appetite comes increased weight gain.
- You’re more impulsive. When sleep deprived, you’re exhausted, and the added effort of saying “no” becomes too hard.
- Your memory is shot. When you’re tired, you’re usually not paying attention to what is going on, and you tend to forget things.
- You’re having trouble making decisions. Again, when you’re tired, the ability to decide can seem too difficult.
- Your motor skills are off. When tired, there is a lapse in how you neurologically function.
- Your emotions are all over the place. Emotional regulation is difficult when you’re lacking sleep.
- You get sick often. Sleep is vital to our immune system. When our sleep suffers, our ability to fight off infections suffer.
- You’re having trouble seeing. When fatigued, you can’t control your eye muscles as well as when you are well rested.
- Your skin isn’t looking good. They call it “beauty sleep” for a reason.
Illegal drugs – and even some legal ones – can have terrible consequences on mental wellness. Alcohol, for example, is an addictive depressant.
If you are relying on any substances, or experience withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop, reach out to a local substance abuse help group. It is impossible to experience mental wellness while struggling with addiction.
Self-Care, Mindfulness, and Grounding
Self Care in health refers to the activities individuals, families, and communities undertake with the intention of enhancing health, preventing disease, limiting illness, and restoring health. Self-Care exercises are also known as Mindfulness or Grounding Techniques, and are usually used to de-stress, relax, or otherwise make yourself feel good.
Self-Care is individualistic, meaning it is different for everyone. It is suggested that everyone spend a minimum of a half hour a day engaging in self-care.
Self-Care is divided into seven different types of exercises. Here are some examples:
When you feel stressed, calm down by focusing on the sensations around you – sights, smells, sounds, tastes, and touch. This will help you focus on the present moment.
Engaging in an activity that you enjoy
Give yourself a boost by doing a task that you’ve been avoiding, or by challenging your brain in a new way.
Getting in touch with your values – what really matters – is a sure way to cope with stress and foster a calm mind.
Dealing with our emotions can be challenging when we’re coping with stress. We tend to label feelings as “good” or “bad” but this isn’t helpful. Instead:
Cope with stress by getting your body moving.
Connecting with others is an important step of self-care.
Recognizing and Avoiding Burnout
Burnout is defined as “physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress.” Burnout is particularly common in people who work in a “helping” or “caregiving” field – such as first responders, medical staff, social workers, teachers, parents, or just about anyone who has high standards and idealistic dedication to their jobs or roles.
Burnout can strike at any time – even if someone is very good at what they do. Some common causes of burnout include:
Burnout can be a preliminary stage to a mental health problem. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms of burnout, it is important to seek mental health attention, such as visiting your family doctor, right away to take care of these symptoms before they worsen:
- Physical Symptoms
- Sleep Problems
- Gastrointestinal Problems
- Chronic Fatigue
- Muscle Aches
- High Blood Pressure
- Frequent Colds
- Sudden Weight Loss or Gain
- Emotional Symptoms
- Negative or Cynical Attitude
- Being Unexcited About Life
- Inclinations to High Risk Behavior
- High Emotional Volatility
- High Irritability
Recognizing and Avoiding Perfectionism
Perfectionism is the refusal to accept any standard short of perfection. Perfectionism is often a driving force towards burnout, and is a bigger problem than most people realize.
Perfectionism is also a driving force in problems like Depression and Anxiety, and can lead to very serious consequences if not recognized and taken care of right away. Here are some signs that you may have fallen into the trap of perfectionism:
A support system is a network of people whom you can trust and confide in. They are people that build you up, edify you, encourage you, and offer wise advice when you ask of it. They support you in various areas of your life.
A support system is also known as a safety net. The bigger the net, the easier it is to catch yourself when you fall. By building a strong support system now, when things get rocky in life, you’ll have a stable foundation to keep you from hitting rock bottom.
Support systems are made up of friends, family, peers, coworkers, faith leaders, sports coaches, teachers, or any other person that can be there for you when you need them. “Being there” for you can be as simple as going out for coffee after a rough day, someone to chat with on the phone to distract you from an argument, or someone who will spend the afternoon watching movies with you.
Here are some tips for creating a support system:
This is one of the most difficult areas of life to find health and balance in, because often our environments are beyond our control. A positive environment is also paradoxically one of the most important aspects of being well, because oftentimes the way we react and respond is tied to the environment that we find ourselves in.
Stressful environments will lead to added stress in our lives. Living in that state of stress will cause significant damage to our bodies and brains. Conversely, living in environments that are relaxing, productive, and positive will create lives that mirror those qualities.
Environmental Risk Factors
Healthy Dreams and Aspirations
Having a vision for your life helps to propel you forward. Oftentimes when we begin to struggle, we are faced with thoughts such as “What is the point” and “things will never get better”. These thoughts indicate that future dreams, plans, and aspirations may be hurting or non-existent.
While it is important to focus on the now, it is also important to take a look ahead so that we are prepared for what comes our way. By creating goals in our lives and making realistic steps to get there, we can ensure that we are living lives that are constantly growing and achieving.
Here are some questions to get you started on defining a healthy vision for your life:
- If your life was perfect in every sense of the word, what would it look like?
- What kind of person do you want your friends/family to remember you as?
- What talents/skills are you inherently good at?
- If you knew that you could not fail, what would you do?
Good Set of Morals
What are morals? Morals are defined as a person’s standards of behavior or beliefs concerning what is and is not acceptable for them to do. Morals come from a variety of places, most often being influenced by values taught to us by our parents and religious establishments.
While some morals vary across cultures, there are several universal rules that help to guide our behavior. These rules cross cultural boundaries, and we all generally understand and follow them regardless of our upbringing:
- DO NOT…
- Falsely accuse others
- Verbally or Physically abuse others
- Destroy the natural environment
- Treat others the way you would like to be treated
- Be honest and fair
- Be generous
- Be faithful to friends and family
- Take care of your children when they are young
- Take care of your parents when they are old
- Take care of those who cannot take care of themselves
- Be kind to strangers
- Respect all life
- Protect the natural environment
When we act contrary to our set of morals, it creates cognitive dissonance, which is a sort of friction within ourselves. Living your life as a good person – and having a standard to call “good” – puts us in a mentally healthier place than when we are struggling with cognitive dissonance.
By having a code in which to live your life, and by following that code, you create consistency between who you are and who you would like to be.
Belief in a Higher Being
Believing in a higher being or higher meaning has shown to reduce stress, increase strength, and assist in coping and comforting measures. Many of us have heard it said that “believing is half the battle”, a phrase attributed to how much our minds and beliefs affect the outcome of a situation. This is often shown in hospitals; a patient that believes he or she will make it through is much more likely to succeed than a patient that has lost their hope.
Generally speaking, those that believe in a higher being or meaning can always count on a light at the end of their tunnel. There is an intrinsic hope and peace that can be brought from inside. Additionally, those that hold on to such beliefs are often tied with churches, community centers, synagogues, or mosques – communities of like-minded individuals to provide support during tough times.