Most of us are aware of how important it is to maintain good physical health. However, we often forget the importance of good mental health.
There are still many people suffering in silence as mental health is ‘not visible’ or harder to identify. Although mental illness is not something that is as visible as a broken arm, we should not ignore it. Furthermore, those who appear the happiest sometimes are struggling too!
I think we should openly discuss mental illness without any embarrassment or awkwardness attached to it. By talking about how you feel and discussing what is troubling you can actually make a difference. Sharing with someone is usually a good way to get support.
There are many things that happen in our life can affect our mental health. These can lead to depression, stress or anxiety, for example:
- experiencing repeated mistreatment of an employee – a toxic workplace
- being judged by others – unrealistic expectations from the society
- comparing yourself to others on social media
- having money problem
- losing somebody you love
..and the list goes on!
Do you know that our mental health actually influences our physical health?
It is becoming well known that poor mental health can have a huge negative impact on a person’s outcomes in life. Most shockingly, having a serious mental illness can reduce life expectancy by 10-20 years.
There are four studies which show the fundamental link between our mental health affects physical health.
I spent many years of my life disliking myself because I wasn’t the ‘ideal’ person my family expected me to be. Additionally, I suffered from an unhealthy workplace, I too compared myself to others and even faked my happiness on social media for a period of time.
The social expectations had certainly caused depression, and comparing myself to others led me to feel bad about myself. It has taken me a few years to realise to get better and change the way I thought. Here are a few tips that came from personal experience on how I overcame and keep things in perspective.
Improve mental health at work
A toxic workplace can have an impact on your health, for example, communication problems, bullying, having to deal with a psychopathic colleague or a boss who doesn’t know how to manage their employees.
There are ways to not let work affect your mental health.
- Speak up about any problem you have at work is really important.
- Although it is good to speak up, don’t bring work issues to home with you – overly venting the negative work situations at home can make the problem worse.
- Try not to engage in the office gossip. Beware the office snake, keep in mind that those who gossip to you will gossip about you.
- Take short breaks throughout the day. A change in atmosphere can make a huge difference.
- Hanging out with positive people at work. Associate and spend your time socialising with them.
- Find inspiration elsewhere. If your workplace isn’t inspiring you anymore, start to look elsewhere.
Balance your expectation and happiness
Back to the environment I grew up in, and up until now, there is no parent who wants their child to grow up to be a failure, so they set unrealistic expectations on their children, for example: striking all A grades in schools, having endless tuition classes during their free time, a must-get married with children and own a property rule at certain age. Although it comes with good intentions, expectations like these can actually do more harm than good.
“Stress, anxiety and depression are caused when we are living to please others.” – Paulo Coelho
Expectation can be beneficial, but only when there are balance and flexibility. At the end of the day, you are living your life, not the life you have been told to live. Don’t let people make you feel bad or guilty for living your life.
The good and the bad of social media
I love social media. It keeps me and my friends connected across great distances, increases my motivation to exercise more as well as makes my day with the funny memes.
There are some positive aspects to social media, for example: build stronger relationships with our closest friends, help LGBT teens find support and friendship through the use of social media.
After all, it is down to who we are following on social media as it might be bad for our mental health. The downside of social media use includes: comparing our lives with others, inducing envy, developing FOMO (fear of missing out) behaviour, hiding in the smiling posts, cyber-bullying, arguing or expressing anger on political preferences and more.
But, how can social media use improve our mental health? You can change the way you use social media and make your social network a better place.
- Turn your social media into a source of joy, like choose not only inspiring figures but also comedians to follow.
- Stop following people who make you feel bad about your life.
- Be honest and don’t put on an act on your social media.
Self-care for mental health
In conclusion, general lifestyle changes and self-care techniques can help manage or prevent mental health problems. Here are some tips that you might find helpful:
- Physical self-care: Keep physically active, eat healthily, avoid drugs and alcohol and get enough sleep.
- Emotion self-care: Avoid negative self-talk and let your friends and family know how they can help you. Think about what is affecting your self-esteem, set yourself a challenge and focus on your positives.
- Psychological self-care: Say “no” to the BS and to the things that you really do not want to do.
- Spiritual self-care: Meditating and getting out into nature. (get inspired?)
- Professional self-care: Taking time to chat with your peers and balancing your workload.