By Georgiana Baileh
The signs and symptoms of poor mental health are often so subtle that they’re hard to spot without a deeper understanding of self. Being in good mental health should be a top priority in everyone’s life. Mental health includes your emotional, psychological, and social well-being. When you struggle with your mental health, your mood, thinking, and behavior are affected.
Most likely, you have an annual checkup to keep track of your physical health. But what about your mental health? When was your last checkup? Or, when was the last time you asked yourself how your mental health was? According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five adults in the United States lives with a mental illness. That is 46.6 million people affected by a mental health disorder, and less than half of them see a doctor for their condition. And the younger you are, the less likely you are to seek help for poor mental health.
The domino effect of poor mental health
Living with an unaddressed mental health condition creates a domino effect. You are the first piece to be knocked down by your inner struggles, then the rest of the pieces in your life begin to fall too. Your relationships, children and career bear the consequences of your poor mental health. Then, you reach that moment of despair where you find yourself gasping for air, and wish that someone, or something, will come to your rescue. But the only person that can save you is YOU.
You have to know yourself, love yourself and value yourself enough to understand how your mental health impacts your life. And you must learn to spot the signs of poor mental health. The best way to reach this point of deep self-awareness and self-compassion is to evaluate your mental health on a regular basis. Read on to find out how to get to know yourself on a deeper level and track your mental health.
Reflect on your triggers
What are the areas where you struggle most in life? Can you find a recurring event or situation that makes you nervous or unhappy? Would you describe your childhood as stable and happy? If your answer to the last question is “no” try to determine why not. Most mental health problems begin to form in childhood. So knowing how your upbringing has affected the adult you are today is a crucial step for self-discovery.
Bring your fears and worries to light
What are your three biggest fears in life? On the aspect of self (mind, body and spirit), what do you find yourself worrying about the most? You may be surprised to learn how the answers to these two questions correlate with your past history. Do your best to learn where your fears and worries are rooted. Based on that, you’ll find out how to address them.
Self-compassion is the antidote to self-criticism and shame. No one is more deserving of your kindness than yourself, and this is not being selfish. Actually, the way you treat and see yourself is the way others will treat and see you, because these are the expectations you set. To find the sources that feed the criticism and negative thoughts you have toward yourself, and make peace with your inner critic. Learn to forgive yourself and others. Mistakes are inevitable, yet they teach us valuable life lessons. Remember, you have the power to choose who you want to be. You can turn those mistakes into a journey of personal growth, or let them weigh heavily on your shoulders. Be kind to yourself and choose wisely.
Analyze the five closest people in your life
You may have heard the quote “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” (Jim Rohn), and it’s true. We unconsciously surround ourselves with people who share our traumas, pains and struggles. But doing so prevents us from seeing the alternatives. When you go through a difficult time in life you need hope, and the people who share the same negative mindset are unable to provide it.
Therefore, take a close look at how the people in your life enable your negative behavior, or how they impact your thoughts. Sometimes, distancing yourself for a period of time from the people who keep you stuck, or drag you down, is the only way to grow. If you need to do that, do it. Afterward, you may be able to help them see the light at the end of the tunnel too.
Track your mood and practice gratitude
Tracking your mood on paper everyday is a very effective way of staying in touch with your emotions. But you can also do it on your phone, computer or whatever way you find easiest. The best mood tracking method I found is adding an emoji to my daily planner to describe the overall mood for the day. It may sound shallow, but to be able to fill that emoji with the most frequent emotion you felt that day forces you to reflect on your day. Which acts as a moment to meditate, so you reap the benefits of meditation as well.
According to science, being grateful makes you happier. Gratitude is about appreciating what you have instead of thinking of what you’re missing. For example, one day you can be grateful for your good health, the next day you can be grateful for completing a task. The key to sticking with gratitude practice is to keep it simple. And for this, I have created my own daily planner. You can download it for free on my website. It includes a place to be grateful and an emoji mood tracker.
Learn when to get help
The above tips are meant to help you discover the subtle signs of mental illness, and bring self-awareness into your life. But if you find yourself in a dark place where you feel like there’s no escape, it’s time to get qualified help. Please don’t underestimate the power of therapy, it can change your life. There are also many free resources online that can help you figure out what you’re struggling with. One of them is The Self-Assessment Kiosk where you can learn about your mental health through different surveys.
Most importantly, it’s time for the stigma of mental health illness to disappear. When people say they suffer from a mental disorder, let’s not label them as broken, but tell them they’re strong. Talking openly about mental illness takes courage, strength, and a great amount of self-awareness. A mental health disorder can only break the people who never face it.
Previously published on Inspoplace.com.
Have you read the original anthology that was the catalyst for The Good Men Project? Buy here: The Good Men Project: Real Stories from the Front Lines of Modern Manhood
If you believe in the work we are doing here at The Good Men Project and want to join our calls, please join us as a Premium Member, today.
All Premium Members get to view The Good Men Project with NO ADS.
Need more info? A complete list of benefits is here.
Photo credit: istockphoto.com