May is Mental Health Month.
Before you stop reading because this is not a topic you want to read about, or are scared to understand, I encourage you to continue.
So often we view mental health with stigma or fear, but taking care of our mental health is no different than taking care of our physical health. We need to own it, participate in it and continue to be honest with ourselves.
What does it mean to own our mental health? It means owning our emotions and taking care of them in ourselves and others.
There are certain things we can do to ensure ourselves of good mental health. We do know these, but often lose sight of their importance.
Here is my list of key elements for good mental health: Connect with others, give back to your community, eat well, stay positive, be grateful, get enough sleep, take care of yourself, learn new things, be physically active, have things in your life that bring joy, have healthy boundaries, know when you need help.
This last one is important.
Studies are showing that our mental health can cause illness. In fact, the World Health Organization’s data shows that depression is the main cause of disability. It also appears that our rates of mental health has decreased by 18 percent.
Just like we may break an arm or get an infection sometime in our life, there is also a chance we may struggle with mental health. There still seems to be a lot of shame around having depression, seeing a therapist, or needing medication, yet most people have no hesitation to get help for a physical condition.
What I find interesting is that many times people will come in to my practice and see me, and when they work on their emotional health, their physical health improves. We are seeing more and more research done on how many issues people go to the emergency room for were created from stress and poor mental health.
We live in a country where most of us have enough food on the table, comfortable surroundings, and good health care, so why is depression and mental health becoming more of an issue?
In my opinion, there are a number of reasons. We are losing connection with ourselves, and each other. Our focus is more on the eternal. What I know is that studies show that we are happiest when we are connecting, and I mean truly connecting, not just talking but feeling supported by others, understanding who we are, and when we are making a difference in our families, our communities and the world.
We all have a need to feel safe in the world. It seems the world is becoming less safe, which in turn is affecting our mental health.
Lastly, we have become more externally focused on money and rewarded for our education rather than who we are in the world.
Working on the inside first will help the outside to be better.
Taking time daily to nurture ourselves is key for our mental health. I am finding more and more people come into my practice with high anxiety and depressive symptoms, not because they have clinical depression but because they have lost track of who they truly are at their core.
Being mentally healthy means honoring and respecting your needs.
As Plutarch said, “What we achieve inwardly will change our outer reality.”
Contact Dr. Shelly Zavala at DrZavala.com or [email protected].