I studied psychology while an undergraduate, followed by a master’s degree in psychology along with my first doctorate program before earning Ph.D. in pharmaceutical science and humanities. I find psychology fascinating, plus my studies and work in and around the field have also provided a continual learning experience for my own personal mental health and well-being.
With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, I want to discuss the importance of good mental health and the potential signs and symptoms which could lead to problematic mental health anomalies.
Naturally, mental health includes a person’s emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Our ‘frame of mind’ affects how we think, feel and act. That mindset also determines how we manage stress, relate to others, and make choices.
I believe it’s important to think of mental health symptoms in terms of a ‘chronic nature.’ As an example, clinical symptoms for mental disorders could include chronic sadness, isolation, and irritability, along with extreme changes in eating/sleeping, weight loss or gain, low energy levels, suicidal ideation, and/or attempts. Other important signs of anxiety and depression can include chronic, excessive fear or worry, consistent alcohol or substance abuse, coupled with extremely high versus despairingly low moods.
Sadly, mental illness is quite common, so it is important to understand the physical, social, and monetary impact, while also understanding that no person is alone in this arena.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in five adults in the United States experiences mental illness each year.
I find it quite concerning, as a mother of four, statistics also show one in six children, ages six to 17, experience mental health disorders. Further, fifty percent of all mental illnesses begin, on average, by age 14, and 75 percent by the age of 24. An astounding statistic produced by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth, ages 10-14.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one in four women (25.6 percent) have received mental health treatment over the past twelve months, compared to 14.6 percent of men. With that, statistics widely vary between men and women. But why?
The quick answer is brain chemistry and hormonal fluctuations. Women experience hormone fluctuations regularly, and while evolving through intense changes in life, the risk of anxiety and depression is biologically higher. Additionally, mental disorders unique to women involving hormones are perinatal depression, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, perimenopause-related depression, and of course, post-partum depression which approximately 1 in 7 women experience after giving birth.
From a biological standpoint, there are three primary neurotransmitters involved in clinical depression: serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Individuals with clinical depression often have increased levels of monoamine oxidase A (MAO-A), an enzyme that breaks down these neurotransmitters, resulting in symptoms of depressed mood.
So, what should one do if you (or your child) are dealing with any type of mental malady? First, consider clinical treatment. Simply speaking to a professional about what you are experiencing is an important first step. General practitioners can assess symptoms and develop treatment plans (such as medication and/or therapy). It is important to note that therapy can be helpful in supporting the development of healthy coping skills.
According to Healthline, one of the keys to navigating depression is to be open, accepting, and loving towards oneself. Know that today is not indicative of tomorrow and emotions and thoughts can change daily. Journaling your thoughts can also help express hidden feelings. Other positive steps can include:
- Exercise: Consider walking. Physical activity can help ease symptoms, boost energy levels, and stimulate new brain cell growth, including increased levels of neurotransmitters.
- Do Activities You Enjoy: Play an instrument, paint, listen to music, hike, bike, garden, and/or spend time in nature among the trees. The byproduct of engaging in meaningful activities can lift your mood, and further motivate you.
- Spend Time with Loves Ones: Depression can create isolation with tendencies to withdraw from people. Make sure to create time together with trusted individuals.
- Set Attainable Goals: Setting and accomplishing daily goals can provide a sense of control and accomplishment and help with overall motivation.
- Volunteering: Volunteering has a way of making people feel good about themselves while helping others in need.
- Incorporate Meditation: Finding relaxation techniques can help lower stress and create more balance. Research shows meditation, yoga, and deep breathing help improve a sense of well-being.
- Assess Diet: Avoiding sugar, preservatives and processed food makes a person feel less lethargic. Eating a diet rich in lean meats, vegetables and grains is a great starting point while limiting stimulants such as coffee and soft drinks.
- Avoid Alcohol: Alcohol can contribute to feelings of sadness. Consider limiting or avoiding the use of alcohol altogether.
- Get Sleep: Sleep disturbances are common with depression. You may not sleep well or sleep too much. Both can make symptoms worse. Go to bed and wake up at the same time while aiming for 8 hours of sleep each night.
- Accept your Emotions: If you are having a down day, acknowledge it. Suppressing and compartmentalizing emotions may seem like a strategic way to cope; however, it is best to ‘own it’ and immediately engage in activities that help negate those feelings.
The bottom line is this. Your mental health matters as it affects your everyday life, your work, and your relationships. Whether it be through treatment, therapy, medication, or self-care, it is important to take the first step toward a more positive, mental mindset if in fact, you are experiencing signs or symptoms of a mental health disorder. To learn more, go to NAMI.org.
I will be at the Nashville Wellness Fest on May 6. I am excited to be the ‘opening speaker’ for this year’s event. My presentation starts at 10 am. Please come by, say HI!, and try free ROOT Brand nutraceutical samples.
As a reminder, I have created a special link for Pure Living Nashville followers of The ROOT Brands, check us out at www.therootbrands.com/
I hope to see you there.