World Mental Health Day happens annually on October 10th. It is a day aimed at raising awareness of mental health issues to try and end the stigma, discrimination and misinformation that surrounds psychological illnesses and those that live with them daily. A chance for communities to unite behind a theme, this year it was ‘mental health is a universal human right’.
Never more so than now has the importance of our emotional welfare been at the forefront of so many people’s thoughts. With the huge rise in mood disorders – such as anxiety and depression – and substance abuse problems, both during and following the pandemic. This combined with the repeated slashing of mental health treatment budgets over the last two decades, means many individuals are not getting the care they desperately need.
The ongoing cost of living crisis is impacting many homes – increasing numbers of families are facing poverty. Tired parents working more than one job to provide for their partners and children. Financial insecurity causing sleepless nights, and frequent persistent stress leading to feeling completely strung out and overwhelmed.
Disturbing world events, the war in Ukraine, terrorist attacks and conflict in the Middle East. Daily we are assaulted by the horror and fear of what is happening around us, this can lead to anxiety and feelings of not being in control.
All these issues, and many more besides, can have a negative impact on our mental well-being, which is damaging for both our psychological and physical health. We are seeing huge increases in the number of people presenting with anxiety and depressive disorders (including generalised anxiety, clinical depression, obsessive-compulsive, post-traumatic stress), and burnout.
Mental health refers to our intellectual, developmental, and emotional well-being. A mental health illness, sometimes referred to as a disorder, can disrupt our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours.
The state of our psychological health has an impact on every part of how we live. It colours our emotional outlook; affects how we look after our physical health and needs; and has an influence on all relationships – with loved ones, friends, and the people that we mix with daily.
Some of the most common illnesses include:
All of them can range from being occasionally or mildly disruptive to a person’s life, through to having a serious daily impact; and can cause individuals to self-harm, abuse substances and attempt suicide.
Establish a network or community: Studies have shown that isolation and loneliness are two of the highest risk factors associated with declining mental health and well-being. Humans are sociable creatures, and we are born with an innate capacity to form connections, and we need these to thrive and survive. We get a sense of belonging and our self-worth from interacting with others.
Spending time with other people also gives us a sense of reality, can help us put difficult or disturbing situations and events into perspective, and can be a measure for when our emotions are taking control of us in a negative way.
Building a community around us, be it family members or friends, is vital to keeping ourselves grounded, lending us support when needed. It is also important for us to be available to help others when required, this gives us purpose and self-worth.
Reaching out: Talking to others is invaluable when we are struggling. It can be overwhelming and destructive to lock ourselves down emotionally, which we frequently do, simply because of fear, embarrassment, or shame. It is often difficult to admit that there is something wrong in the first place, and then it takes courage to speak up. Sharing with a trusted friend can give us a sense of relief, and potentially opens the way to resolving any issues.
Others may need a little outside help, whether that is a therapist, a counsellor, or a support group – making time to talk about your feelings is central to keeping a good emotional balance. For those in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, regular attendance at fellowship meetings (Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous) is an essential part of the process and one of the foundations of the 12-step program.
Exercise: Research has shown that people who exercise regularly, generally have better mental health, emotional well-being, and lower rates of mental illness. Regular exercise can go some way towards reducing the risk of developing a mental illness; and exercise has been proven to help in the treatment of certain mental health conditions, like depression and anxiety.
An exercise class, a trip to the gym, swimming a few lengths – all of these are a great way to take your mind off life and relax for a bit. And if these all sound a bit strenuous for you, it doesn’t need to be torturous, a little gentle exercise – a walk in the park or some stretching – can work just as well. Exercise naturally raises the body’s endorphins, making things feel better, and it also helps with sleep.
Good sleep: If you have babies and young children, getting a full night of unbroken sleep may be something you currently only dream about. However, it is not just parents that are struggling, a global sleep study done by Philips in 2019 claimed that 62% of the world’s (adult) population don’t sleep as well as they’d like, and 67% experience sleep disturbances.
The average adult needs 7-9 hours of good sleep a night to function well. If you are regularly not getting enough sleep, having trouble dropping off or staying asleep, then you might want to look at your sleep conditions and routines. Is the room too hot, or cold? Is it too light? Are you drinking caffeine late in the day? Are you on your phone, laptop, or tablet, right before trying to get to sleep?
Any of the above could be affecting your sleep, if your body is overheating, or getting cold, it will wake you up. Light can really disturb the body’s rhythms, making it believe it is time to get up, when really you want to be sleeping. Caffeine and sugary foods are good to give the body a boost of energy, so eating and drinking these close to bedtime can have a negative impact on dropping off. The same goes for technology, the blue light from these devices stimulates the brain – waking it up, rather than helping you drop off.
Eating well: Food shouldn’t be classed as a luxury. However, for some people, taking the time to cook and eat a proper meal can feel like an indulgence. Eating processed, packaged foods whilst on the go may seem like the easier option, but in the long run it is not going to do anything for your waistline or your vitality.
Eating healthy foods is better for your overall physical well-being. It can boost your immune system and protect against colds, flu, and other viruses. It gives you more energy and increases your ability to focus. It helps with mood swings and generally gives you a happier outlook on life.
Cutting back/stopping the use of recreational drugs, alcohol, or addictive behaviours: People use alcohol and drugs for a variety of reasons, to celebrate and to commiserate. Alcohol is a habitual part of many people’s lives. Drinking occasionally and in moderation can add to the enjoyment of an event; or take the edge off a difficult situation. Drugs have wide ranging health benefits and when used correctly in the manner prescribed by a doctor are a miracle of modern medicine. However, both substances are open to abuse.
For some individuals the use of substances or the participation in an addictive or compulsive behaviour, such as gambling, will be about wanting to change the way they feel. To make themselves feel better; to boost their confidence; or to dull loneliness and boredom.
Unfortunately, the use of a substance or behaviour, whatever it may be, is just a temporary fix which can leave the user struggling with additional complications – poor health, depleted finances, and damaged relationships – and in some cases a problem with dependency.
If your use of substances, or your participation in a compulsive activity –
Then you may have a problem and it is worth seeking some professional advice.
The use of substances and the compulsive participation in addictive behaviours will only complicate or exacerbate any underlying mental health condition, and frequently increases the symptoms of mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression.
Here at our luxury residential rehab centre, set on the idyllic Balearic Island of Ibiza, we treat clients struggling with alcoholism, drug and process addiction, substance abuse, as well as other underlying and co-occurring mental health conditions such as burnout, codependency, trauma, anxiety, and depression.
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