Earlier today, celebrated YA Author Maureen Johnson published a post about her experience with anxiety to her Tumblr. In that post, she talks about how common anxiety really is and–this is important–just how separate from the sufferer it can be. Just like depression, anxiety can lie to the person who suffers from it. Unfortunately for many people who suffer from anxiety, depression and other mental health issues, knowing that the disorder is lying doesn't help make it any easier to deal with. This is why, for so many, mental health issues can be so debilitating.
And that is why, even if you think your mental health is fine, it is just as important to take care of your mental health as it is to take care of your physical health. Here are some of the ways that you can do that.
See to Your Person
Believe it or not, mental health and physical health are intrinsically linked and caring for one will help you care for the other. For example, making sure to eat a healthy diet will nourish your body as well as your brain. In fact, one of the first questions someone is usually asked (or asks themselves) when they are suffering through a particularly rough spell, is "when was the last time you ate?"
Obviously, simply chowing down on a quick snack isn't going to cure a flare up of depression or cure your bipolar disorder. However, taking time out to eat a healthy and brain friendly snack–think berries, nuts, and oranges, not chips or candy–can offer some relief.
Another good example of this is making sure to fit in some physical activity every day. Even if you loathe the idea of going to the gym or committing to a regular workout, getting up and moving is very important to maintaining your mental health. Exercising tells your brain to release hormones like endorphins that help you feel better. Even though you might not get the "runner's high" everybody talks about, taking a quick moving break can help you feel better in just a few minutes.
Get Inside Your Head
One of the most common pieces of advice people hear when they suffer from a mental health condition–especially when that condition flares up–is to "get out of your head." Really, one of the better things you can do to help keep your mental health healthy is to get into your head. Namely, developing a mindfulness and meditation practice is incredibly important for maintaining your mental health.
It sounds more "fluffy" than fact-based but studies prove that meditation and mindfulness are incredibly helpful for maintaining a mental health balance. It will take time to develop a meditation and mindfulness practice, but even if you can only spend a few minutes on it each day, those few minutes will be well spent.
It is vitally important that you not try to handle your mental health yourself. Just like you see a physician for your body when something gets messed up, seeing a qualified therapist is important when your brain starts to work against you. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in particular has proven helpful for people who suffer from depression, anxiety, etc.
While you're at it, it's a good idea to schedule a physical checkup with your general physician. Sometimes mental health issues have physical health causes. Your physician can check out your body to see if there is something physical contributing to your condition.
You can even pair up your physician and therapist to figure out whether or not you would benefit from medication. In fact, a qualified therapist should require that you get a physical before prescribing even mild anti-depressants or anti-anxiety meds.
Beware Self Medication
A lot of people who suffer from mental health issues will self medicate in an attempt to alleviate their symptoms and flare ups. The problem with this is that the substances with which people choose to self medicate are drug or alcohol related. In fact, according to a blog post from Hotel California by the Sea, addiction and mental health disorders are often considered "co-occurring disorders." This means that addiction can lead to mental health issues or vice versa. Experts say that in order to truly overcome an addiction, the underlying mental issue that caused it must be treated as well. Some people will even check themselves in to a rehabilitation center for their mental health issues, just like they would for an addiction.
Obviously taking proper care of your mental health will mean developing some healthy habits. This can be difficult but if you work at it slowly and diligently, you can change your habits to be healthier. You do not have to simply suffer or hope that your brain behaves.