Colors of The Mind #1
MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS
Make Life Worth Living (MLWL) is a project by Zaluso Arts whose goal is to explore and spark conversations about issues concerning mental health, through art.
MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS
Everyone is talking about it, but what does it really mean? I thought it appropriate to begin with an investigative approach on the subject of mental health by looking at what it is, why it matters, who it affects, when it counts, where it applies and how it can be addressed.
Australian Health Ministers (2003, p 5) states that mental health describes the capacity of individuals to interact, inclusively and equitably with others and their environment. Dictonary.com defines mental health as a person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being. This means anything affecting our emotions and state of mind is tied to our mental health. As with most things, the problems that affect our mental well-being fall on a spectrum. These can range from stress, anxiety, eating disorders and depression to phobias, personality disorders and various psychoses, among other mental illnesses. We are prone to different ailments of the mind as well as differences in how they affect us as individuals. This should therefore help us be more aware and sensitive in the way we treat not only ourselves, but everyone around us – because we never know what anyone might be going through and just how deeply it may be affecting them.
Now that we know what it is, why is it so important? Our mental and emotional well-being affect the way we feel, how we see ourselves and the way we interact with the people around us. This effectively affects everything we involve ourselves in. Whether it’s school, work, family life, relationships, friendships or anything else you can think of – the state of our mental health will determine how we navigate these spaces. While some (or arguably all) of these situations may be the cause of our mental and/or emotional unrest at different points in time, the rest will nevertheless suffer the effects. It is therefore important to take care of our mental health with the knowledge that even though we may not escape the stresses of everyday life, we should at least be able to manage it in a way that ensures we can still function and thrive in society without letting the pressure weigh us down.
This is simple: everyone should be concerned about their mental health. It doesn’t matter if you’re Superman or Wonder Woman (shout out team DC). Take some time out to truly assess how you are coping and to acknowledge when you aren’t. We all need a little saving, even if it is from ourselves.
Don’t wait for it to get bad, as it undoubtedly will from time to time. Taking care of your mental health should be a priority at any given point in your life, not only when you hit rock bottom or finally burn yourself out. Incorporating mental health activities (covered under ‘how’) can go a long way in ensuring this doesn’t happen or will at least minimise the damage and help you find your way back to a healthy state of being.
As stated before, mental health affects every area of your life in every way. We need to continually assess how we are dealing with these different aspects of life in order to maintain a healthy balance. Think about your education, professional life, relationships, social commitments etc. and how much better you can function within these areas when you give yourself a chance to be better by being a little kinder to yourself.
The following are five suggestions regarding how to get started on the journey to better mental health, but this list is in no way exhaustive.
- Talk to someone: when you can no longer bear the brunt of going at it alone, or just need to let off some steam – reach out to someone, preferably a trained professional. Therapy is recommended for everyone. There are some things we can’t work though on our own and ranting to a friend over a glass of wine might not always cut it. Take the time to find out what therapy or counselling services are offered in the health centers near you and you may be surprised to find out what is accessible.
- Know your limits: learn to say no, to stop when you’re in over your head, to take breaks when you need them. This doesn’t have to happen on a grand scale, small measures count. Sometimes, taking the time to press pause and breathe is all it might take to keep it together.
- Find your slice of joy: discover the things that make you happy and be deliberate about making time for them- whether it’s hanging out with friends, reading or committing yourself to a cause that you are passionate about. Dedicate time to a hobby or a cause.These will be the things you can hold on to when it starts feeling like everything else is falling apart.
- Practice prudent self-care: do small things regularly that make you feel good, but within reason. Some habits, for example impulse spending, could actually be self-sabotage masking itself as self-care. I am all for team #TreatYoSelf, but not at the risk of indebting yourself in some way. Instant gratification is not always the answer. Work self-care into your budget, or explore options that won’t cost you anything (meditation, yoga, exercise, doing your nails, going for walks, convening with nature, taking long hot baths, etc) that way you can enjoy the practice without compromise.
- Educate yourself: demystify mental health and find out more about the topic beyond what you think you already know. The people in your life may inadvertently benefit from it but most importantly, you definitely will. So do yourself a favour and use all the resources at your disposal in this golden age of the internet to get informed.
Author: Singalilwe Chilemba is a book enthusiast, aspiring wine connoisseur and part-time writer. You can follow her on social media under the handle @mwanaduwa and read more of her work on mwanaduwa.com