Prioritize (and De-stigmatize) Mental Health

The simple phrase, “it’s OK to not be OK” is more than just a catchy phrase written on a billboard. It’s about embracing those moments when life isn’t all rainbows and butterflies, allowing yourself to feel your feelings and to thrive in the ups and downs.  
In recent years our culture has shifted. Conversations around mental health and wellness are becoming a norm throughout society. From talks of incorporating mindfulness into our daily routines to starting the day with yoga to calm anxiety, it seems like mental health and self-care have become normal for a lot of people.  
So, what’s the big deal about mental health anyway? 

Good mental health and why it’s important

Think about a car; there are tons of parts, big and small, that all play a role in making sure the car runs at optimal levels. When we think of mental health, we can think of it as a major part of our bodies that helps to keep everything else running smoothly.  
Mental health is an important part of our overall wellness. But there are even smaller aspects of mental health, like emotional, psychological and social wellbeing.   
These parts of our mental health impact the way we interact with ourselves and the world – from how we cope with stress, relationships with others to how we function throughout the day (family dynamics, workplace environment, etc.) 

Factors that impact our mental health include:  

  • Trauma and stress  
  • Physical health like chronic conditions 
  • Adversity (poverty, health, societal disparities)  
  • Major life events like a new child, death, marriage 
  • Sudden changes in financial situations or poverty   

Good mental health happens when our emotional, psychological and social wellbeing is in a state where we are thriving, not just surviving. Living our life to its fullest and healthiest, along with reaching our potential in all areas that are important to us 
It also allows us to have that foundation to have healthy relationships with ourselves and others. 

What happens when our mental health is suffering?

Achieving good mental health involves identification and acceptance. Although some stigma around mental illness still exists, 1 in 5 U.S. adults live with some form of mental illness today. By removing the shame around mental health, it makes it easier for those suffering to get the help they need.  
It’s normal and natural to respond to life experiences with a range of emotions like sadness or worry.  It’s even important to recognize that not all sadness is linked to depression and not all nervous energy is caused by anxiety. 
Mental health exists within a spectrum. Some people might have symptoms that are manageable, while others are not able to reasonably manage their symptoms on their own. 

When to Get Help

As individuals move on that spectrum, they may sometimes have symptoms that get in the way of thriving. If those psychological or emotional symptoms hang around longer than normally expected, support may be needed.  
This usually starts as an inclination that something is off. Like when you have a slight pain in your body that you ignore or brush off. Then it gets worse. What once was a slight irritation quickly turns into something else.  
With mental health, it’s important to pay attention to those signs early on and not be afraid to check in with a therapist. (Anxious about contacting a therapist? Start by talking to a trusted friend about your fears.)  

Ways to improve and prioritize your mental health

As we mentioned earlier, it’s totally OK to not be OK. There are small steps you can take — that feel comfortable for you — to help improve your mental wellness.  

  • Trying different self-care practices. Learn what works for you. Not everyone loves meditation, but some people really enjoy yoga. It’s all about remembering that what you eat, how you move your body and your sleep quality all impact your mood and emotions. Prioritize healthy habits are all key to improving your overall well-being. 
  • Stay connected. But it’s important to talk about what you’re experiencing with someone you trust. Finding a friend, family member, a friendly co-worker or reaching out to your Level2 coach are all simple ways to stay connected.  
    • When other people are involved that care about you it makes it easier to navigate tough emotions, you feel less alone in the process, and you might speak to someone who can relate to what you’re going through.  
  • Put names to the feelings. It’s normal to have feelings. It’s also completely normal to discuss what you’re feeling once you’ve identified the emotions. An easy way to do this is to sit quietly and journal about what you’re feeling. List out all the thoughts, emotions and experiences showing up for you. 
    • By naming what you’re experiencing it makes it easier to process the emotions or identify a solution (therapy, open communication, boundaries, change of setting, etc.).  
  • Seek help. If those feelings interfere with your daily life and prevent you from attaining your best quality of life, more help may be needed.  

The trick is to get ahead of it, if possible, by paying attention to your triggers — like what’s causing you to feel the emotions, you are feeling. A therapist or counselor can help you work through these experiences.