A Beginner’s Guide to Mental Health

Stormtrooper Mental Health

This is an article from NF Rebel Family Correspondent and Mental Health Professional Dan. 

A quick note from Steve: Today we’re going to be discussing some issues that may be difficult for some going through a tough time. If you (or someone you know) aren’t coping so well, PLEASE see the links at the bottom of this article with some resources from all around the world.

Obviously, we recommend discussing this information with your health professional – none of this is a diagnosis, but rather a starting point for discussion. Here’s Dan!

Most of us have been impacted by mental health problems.

We’ve been so anxious sometimes that we make up excuses not to see friends, we know our neighbor just stayed in bed for weeks after her divorce, our niece stopped eating for days at a time, our grandfather still lies awake at night thinking about the war, or our friend could barely cope after having her second child.

These are common issues which likely apply to many of us right now. But what’s not so common, is talking about them.

When we don’t talk about things, we all run around with a wrong ideas of how things are. Myth and stigmas develop. People may start to feel isolated and ashamed. All because we don’t talk about this stuff! Just like some people don’t like asking for directions when they’re lost, or ashamed to ask for help in the gym if they are struggling with a move, others can be afraid or feel embarrassed that they are having not-great thoughts.

In my work within the mental health sector, I’ve seen the huge benefits people gain by simply talking about their problems, and also, a whole lot of misconceptions people still have.

So today we’re going to bust some myths (without blowing up a cement truck, sorry) surrounding our mental health and make sure we’re all taking care of ourselves!

WHERE’S YOUR HEAD AT?

Lego Upgrade

It’s normal to be concerned with the health of your body – so why are we so weird about talking about the health of our minds?

Good mental health is about being able to live your life in a satisfying way to your full potential. A person who has “good mental health” has good emotional and social wellbeing, plus the capacity to cope with life’s challenges. But just like injury happens in the body, it can happen in the mind in varying degrees.

If you break an ankle, would you have it seen by a professional as quickly as you could, or would you think: “Ouch! It hurts, but telling someone about this would be way too embarrassing, plus it’ll probably fix itself?”

Now imagine at some point this year, at random, 1 in every 4 people you know breaks their ankle. Your best friend broke their ankle, a few colleagues have their foot elevated at their desks, your nephew asks you to sign his cast, and the Rio Olympics have to be postponed because a quarter of athletes can’t compete.

What would happen?

There’d probably be a worldwide campaign on avoiding ankle injury. Those with broken ankles would get together with those who’d just recovered and discuss strategies on how to manage this period. We’d repost this article on the blog five times, there’d be an ankle specialist on every street corner, and you’d help those close to you however you could, because at this rate, you may be next.

We’d certainly at least all be talking about the ankle epidemic, right?

Then why the hell aren’t we doing the same thing with mental health? In any given year, around 1 in 4 people will have some sort of mental health issue. That may very well be your best friend, your colleagues, your nephew, an Olympian, or maybe you, too.

It’s treatable, common, and people recover from it. But unlike a broken ankle, left untreated, the consequences of mental health problems can be much more devastating.

It doesn’t make you a bad person or broken: it makes you normal if you are dealing with some mental challenges. Just like a healthy person goes to a gym to stay in shape or get in shape, a healthy person should speak with somebody about their mental health to stay mentally healthy or get mentally healthier.

So now that we know a bit more, what do some mental health problems look like?

Mental Health Problems and their causes

Sad_Stormtrooper

“Why do we fall? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.” -Alfred to Bruce Wayne, Batman Begins

Feeling down, angry, stressed or anxious are all normal human emotions. We all feel sad when a loved one unexpectedly dies, when we miss out on that promotion, or after watching that episode of Futurama.

(Note from Steve: Have you seen the amazing movie, Inside Out? If you haven’t, you should leave work right now and watch it. #TeamBingBong)

Being sad (or anxious, nervous, panicked, angry, confused, distressed, etc.) happens to all of us from time to time (who doesn’t love a good rage-quit?). But it’s when these feelings persist for long periods of time (more than a few weeks) they may be part of a mental health problem.

Mental health problems can influence how you think and your ability to function in your everyday activities. Here are some general signs you can look for:

  • Not enjoying, or not wanting to be involved in things that you would normally enjoy
  • Becoming easily irritated or having problems with friends and family for no reason
  • Feeling sad, ‘down’, or crying for no apparent reason
  • Consistently having trouble concentrating or remembering things
  • Feeling too nervous and stressed, a lot of the time, or for no good reason
  • Having intrusive negative, distressing or unusual thoughts

Two of the most common mental health issues are:

  • Anxiety disorders – Super common (affects around 18% of the U.S. population) and also super treatable (usually without any medication), but only a third of those suffering seek help.
  • Depression – Not as common as anxiety (affecting around 5%), but also treatable, and comes in many forms. For example, many women experience post-natal depression, experiencing full-blown feelings of extreme sadness after giving birth, making it difficult for these new mothers to complete daily care activities for themselves and/or for their babies. Depression is very serious (it’s not just a fancy expression for feeling “bummed out”) and left ignored or untreated it can have a severe impact on someone’s health, and even put their life at risk. But, those who do seek treatment often see improvements in symptoms in just a few weeks.

The exact cause of mental health problems is not known, but it is becoming clear through research that many of these conditions are caused by a combination of factors, not one single issue.

A number of factors may increase someone’s risk of developing a mental health problem:

  • early life experiences (trauma, loss of a loved one)
  • biological makeup (a family history of mental health problems)
  • individual factors (self-esteem levels, coping skills)
  • current life circumstances (work stress, relationship issues, poor nutrition, money problems)

Mental health problems do not discriminate. It doesn’t matter if you’re a DC fan or Marvel fan, a Scout or a Warrior, PC or Console, you too can develop a mental health problem. There’s no embarrassment or shame in having a mental health problem, just like there isn’t when you get injured.

First and foremost, take care of yourself!

Even if you’re not currently experiencing any mental health problems, you too can keep your mind healthy by putting some simple measures into action.

Looking after your mental health

YODA_GRASS

“Take care of yourself, you must.” 

Like our physical health, the state of our mental health isn’t fixed. We Rebels love to put time into our learning about and improving physical health. We work on cleaning up our diet, aim to run further, lift more and level up, but when was the last time you put some effort into taking care of your mental health?

Well, you may actually be looking after your mental health without even knowing it. Although everyone should seek help for their own specific situation, there are a number of things we all can do to look after our mental health and wellbeing (Spoiler: Diet and exercise to the rescue once again).

Research shows that coping with stress by getting involved with sports, exercising, meditating, or yoga is highly effective in improving your mental health, and can be even more effective than medication for those currently experiencing a mild to moderate mental health problem.

I understand this is much easier said than done to someone experiencing depression or social anxiety, but setting small, achievable goals (say a 15 minute walk a few times a week) can really help in getting you started, motivated and feeling better.

Surprise, surprise: it’s also been shown that what you eat may also affect your mood. A well-balanced diet will help keep you both physically and mentally healthy. (Win, win, win.)

Sleeping well, challenging yourself, socializing, and expressing yourself through art, writing, or music are also key factors in keeping your mental gear solid. (I can’t believe I made it this far with only one dad joke.)

Getting Help and helping others

MargeLisa

Gaining support is so important when it comes to recovering from a mental health issues.

So speak up and seek help when you need it. On a daily basis I see the positive effect this has on so many, and unfortunately, I also see the devastating impact it can have on people and their families when they don’t seek help.

We will all know (or be) someone experiencing mental health issues at some point in our life. If someone you know tells you they’re not OK:

Don’t:

  • Tell them to just cheer up or get over it.
  • Rush to judgement.
  • Encourage them to have a night out involving drugs or alcohol. Substance use may help them cope with their concerns temporarily, but is likely to make things worse in the long run.
  • Ignore their issues – you may be the only one they can talk to at the moment.

Do:

  • Listen! Listening can be helpful, and even without taking any action, might be just what they need.
  • Encourage activities that promote mental health, such as exercise, good eating, regular sleep, and doing things the person enjoys.
  • Support and reassure that you will be there for them, and ask what they need from you.
  • Provide them with information about where they can get some professional help.

For anyone who may be thinking your problem isn’t that big and may just go away, it’s never too early to speak to someone, be that a friend, family member, GP or mental health professional. I can not stress that enough! Small issues can become extreme issues in a very short period of time under certain circumstances.

When it comes to mental health, there’s no need for this silly stigma anymore — it’s only continuing to harm the people we know and love. I want to live in a world where my kids are just as comfortable discussing their mental health as a broken ankle.

And if anyone can make it happen, I’m damn sure it’s us! This is the Rebellion – for years we’ve been railing against how the mainstream treats health and fitness. We push real solutions that take hard work and dedication over a lifetime.

Help me challenge the conventional wisdom once again. I urge you all to talk openly about your experiences with mental health issues and help out anyone who may be going through a rough patch. By just being a little more aware and supportive to those around you, you may be doing a hell of a lot more than what you think.

Rebels, take care of yourselves, and each other.

-Dan

If you, or someone you know, would like further support, here are some excellent links and services that will get you started in the right direction:

North America – Suicide Prevention LifelineList of Mental Health hotlines

Canada – Mental Health Helpline, List of Mental Health services

Great Britain & Ireland – Samaritans, List of services via Mental Health Foundation

Australia – National helplines and websites, Lifeline

New Zealand – Lifeline, Mental Health helplines

India – SNEHA

Worldwide – Worldwide mental health hotlinesWorldwide suicide hotlines, Befrienders Worldwide

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141 thoughts on “A Beginner’s Guide to Mental Health

  1. (My post got messed up … editing to original as best I can.)

    I know my annual wellness visits would not include a mental evaluation unless I were to instigate it. Is this something that as The Rebellion we should address with our PCPs to raise their awareness and suggest that they include it as part of their general practice? Are their any studies that show the small intervention on the PCPs part would even provide any benefit? I worry that an annual mental checkup would have the same efficacy as a physical checkup — i.e. minimal returns for individuals that are in, and maintain, generally good health.

    Last note: listening to others does not mean forcing them to talk. I remember seeing a study (sorry for the vague lack of citation) that basically said: ‘Different people deal with things differently; someone that suppresses their emotions can be just as mentally and emotionally healthy as someone that doesn’t.’ If you know someone is having a difficult time, don’t try and force them to talk about it because (you think) it will make them feel better if they let it out. That may not be true. Instead, put yourself on “Receive” mode and simply be ready at any time to listen if/when they are ready to talk about it.

  2. To add to those links I would like to throw in:

    NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness – https://www.nami.org/
    – An organization about Mental Health Awareness that hosts many 5k walks to raise awareness around the United States.

    Take This – http://www.takethis.org/
    – A mental health awareness charity(U.S.) focusing on gamer culture. Started by two former leads at the Escapist Magazine after the suicide of a friend/colleague.

  3. Thank you! ^_^ When my daughter was born, about nine years ago (!!!), I got SLAMMED with postpartum depression and anxiety. The depression was life-threatening, and it’s the reason I’m never having any other kids. My depression and anxiety have never “gone away,” and I’m not sure they ever will; I keep them at bay with medication, therapy when needed, and regular exercise.

    Side note about meds: I am a huge fan of antidepressants, as well as therapy. Therapy helps break depressed and anxious thought patterns, but antidepressants take depression away. The opposite of depression is not happiness, it’s VITALITY. Antidepressants remove depression, that oppressive cloud of fatigue and suck that makes everything seem too hard. Also. If one medication doesn’t remove the oppressive cloud of suck, try a different one (with a doctor’s help, of course).

  4. This came in my cell mail just in time… Are you guys sending me a message over the globe? I appreciate it. Even seeing someone, even compeletely unrelated one care for such things help a little. So thank you.

  5. This email couldn’t have come at a better time so I’ve posted the link to my FB page. Earlier today I explained on my timeline what happened this weekend.. I have a diagnoses of bipolar.

    Depression, anxiety, bipolar, schizophrenia and all other mental health diagnoses are words to most people. To those who have them and to those who live with them they are not just words, they are life.

    On Friday I was in crisis, proper poorly, sent home from work, couldn’t stop crying and
    very confused. I was doing everything right, eating, exercising, socialising but not too much, going out into the big wide world, working part time and getting paid for it to prove my self worth and I got hit by a full on explosion of fear, confusion and tears. Depression and anxiety don’t give warnings.

    I had no crisis plan, I tried calling different professionals but couldn’t get through or they couldn’t talk to me. I was so bad that by the end I pressed the call button to the Samaritans but my phone signal cut out and I didn’t have the strength to reach for the landline and talk all over again. I took yet another diazepam and crawled up the stairs to bed to sleep it off.

    This is mental health in its crappiness.

    Turns out that working three full weeks of work to cover for someone threw me out of my delicate balance. I’m taking the week off work to get my balance back and when I try and put myself down for not working full time I will remember this weekend.

    I’m seeing my psychiatrist next week sometime to sort out a crisis plan.

    The hardest thing for me was calling the Samaritans. Asking for help from them when you know they deal with people who are feeling suicidal was one of the hardest things I have ever done. 20 seconds of courage? that was mine.

  6. Thank you for this post. It’s timely as I’ve been dealing with the loss of a job, the loss of my dad and anxiety and now depression have become a reality in my life. Hugs.

  7. As a mental health professional my opinion is that if you believe you need to tell your PCP about any concerns you’re having about your state of mental health, then by all means do so. However, your PCP may subscribe some drug or, more likely, give you a referral to a counselor. Talk therapy is a very powerful way to address many mental health issues without psychotropic medications. Keep in mind the differences between the types of mental health professionals: psychiatrist is a medical doctor and can prescribe medication, a psychologist has a doctorate in philosophy and has a vast knowledge of psychological disorders. Psychologists also administer testing to differentiate between one disorder from another. Psychologists and psychiatrists usually work in conjunction with each other because talk therapy may not be enough and psychotropic medications are an assist not a cure.

    Clinical Social Workers are licensed just like psychologists and psychiatrists, but their education is a graduate degree. They have a knowledge of psychotropic medications, but they would need to refer you to a psychiatrist. Social Workers can bill insurance, but mental health counselors cannot.

    So, psychiatrist is an MD. Psychologists are PsyD. Social Workers are LCSW ( Licensed Clinical Social Worker) Mental Health Counselors are LMHC.

    If you decide to seek help by engaging in talk therapy and you decide you don’t like the counselor, don’t worry about it and let your counselor know that it isn’t a good fit. Any professional has your best interest in mind and will help you find a better fit. For example, I like working with ADHD clients and I’m a bull in a China shop if my client has anxiety issues. So, I would find a better fit for the anxious person if it seemed to be in the best interest of the client.

    After what happened in Orlando this week, the conversation should be about access to mental health services and the normality that sometimes life gets hard and we need help and assistance from someone. After all, we don’t live in this world by ourselves.

    P.S. Kudos to you Nerd Fitness for making mental health as important as physical health. Just like sometimes people are born with heart defects, the brain is an organ that may need help to work better.

  8. I’m really glad you’ve written this.

    I’ve undergone a lot of body transformation over the last several years and I always thought it would make me feel better to get rid of that self-consciousness. While it did to some extent, I suffered for a solid year with a worsening depression that caused me to drop out of grad school, reduce my one true passion of practicing music from 3 hours/day to once per month, and have more days than not where I just didn’t want to live anymore.

    Despite exercising every day and having a very supportive spouse, it wasn’t until I talked about it and sought out an actual mental health professional that my issues slowly got better. Now, I’m healthier, more confident, and more passionate than I have been for years. I now openly bring up my struggles with depression with any new friends , and casually mention my therapy, as an effort to make it seem less like a topic to be avoided. I can’t imagine how it would have gone without the few healthy supports I had, but I can’t agree enough with the need to talk about it and seek help! Go rebels, go!

  9. Regarding my own struggles with mental health. I’ve had problems with anxiety and depression since primary school, it was brushed off as me being a ‘chronic worrier’. I didn’t tell anyone how torn and empty I was inside till after college, my PCP prescribed a low dose of anti-anxiety meds. I’ve never spoken to a therapist. But this week I am finally buckling down and working out the insurance paperwork to see someone.

    I can’t describe how embarrassing it is to ask my manager if I can work from home because I’m sitting here at my desk crying for no determinable reason.

  10. We’re fortunate here in Denver to have a program through the University of Denver that offers an extremely affordable program that connects people looking for therapists with supervised graduate students. I’ve been going once a week for over a year now, and have found it helpful to approach it as my “emotional gym time,” with a personal trainer and all.

    Anyone interested in checking it out in the Denver area can find more information here: http://www.du.edu/gspp/services/ppc.html

    I’m not sure if similar programs exist at other universities, but I recommend DU’s program to everyone I know, regardless of how mentally fit they feel.

    I felt like there was something wrong with me when I first started going, but in the time I’ve been there, I’ve seen that it’s not so much about fixing things that are broken as it is about learning skills to cope with situations better. My mood has improved, I feel less anxious, and I approach everything I do, from work to the gym, with more enthusiasm.

  11. Talking to your PCP about mental health issues = GOOD. Allowing your PCP to prescribe SSRIs or other drugs for mental health = BAD. If your condition is bad enough to warrant medication, please get a referral to a qualified psychiatrist. Don’t let your primary care doc prescribe them.

  12. Thanks for reading and discussing. Postnatal depression can be really severe so I’m glad to hear you’re managing it all well. Absolutely on point regarding the medication too, different things work for different people, but seeking a docs help is a must. Keep fighting the good fight!

  13. I’m so happy to hear you’re sorting out a crisis plan, top job on that 20 secs of courage. Glad this came at the right time for you and our message is being shared to those who may not have an understanding of what mental health issues are all about. Keep it up, we’re all here for you.

  14. Big hugs. So sorry to hear things are really terrible for you at the moment, no doubt you’re going to have some sucky times ahead. Keep powering through, just be aware of any warning signs and the help available when you need it.

  15. Hey Dan, great post, just wanted to point out in this link you said “rog” when you meant to type “org”

  16. Thanks for this, spot on. Good to see other mental health pro rebels here. The regulations around practice are a little different around the world (but Australia is pretty much the same as USA).Great point on finding ‘the right fit’ with workers. Thanks for the kudos, and mad props to you for fighting the good fight.

  17. I’m a social worker who works primarily with adults in an outpatient setting. Yes to everything thing you said, Justin. PCPs don’t often think to ask about mental health and that’s a damn shame because a lotta folks are more likely to stop at a regular doc then to head straight to a therapist. The word “therapy” intimidates people. Not to mention the fact that many folks don’t really know the symptoms of mental illness. If PCPs were able to catch a person slipping into depression or anxiety or mania or suicidal ideations or WHATEVER before their mental health got to the red alert stage, a lot of unnecessary suffering could probably be averted. Educate your PCP, yo! Help us normalize mental illness! 🙂

  18. This was an awesome article that came at just the right time. I’ve had friends (even a person I thought was my best friend) leave because of my major depression and anxiety recently. It’s a huge blow when I already don’t feel like I’m good enough to have people that I cared about, and thought they cared about me, just up and leave. I’m in one of the darkest times in my life and it helps to know that there are others that have been through bad times make it through. I’ve had to call the Veterans crisis line numerous times in the past few weeks, even as recently as today. I’ve thought about suicide and have hurt myself on occasion. But any glimmer of hope helps me get through the day. Thanks!

  19. I’m sorry, but life is not a fairytale with “good” things and “bad” things. Yes, someone with a moderate to severe psychological/psychiatric condition most likely would benefit from getting an opinion from a psychiatrist. Unfortunately, an appointment with a psychiatrist that accepts insurance might be a month or three away. If a psychiatric nurse practitioner is also not available soon enough, then a PCP might be the only option to start getting someone on an appropriate medication for mood/behavioral conditions. Alternate options (e.g. self-harm, suicide attempts, hospitalization) do not seem as healthy as at least starting the conversation and getting on the right path with a PCP.

  20. It upsets me that you have hurt yourself. As someone who has gone through a similar mental state as yours, I can relate to the feelings of suicidal thoughts and to suicide attempts. I am still struggling with moderate-to-severe depression and anxiety, but fortunately have not had to go to the hospital in several months. Please talk face-to-face about your struggles as often as you feel able to do so, call whatever crisis resources are available to you where you live, and go to the nearest ER if you do not think you are safe. You deserve to live without self harm.

  21. It seems wise to have a crisis plan, especially to think about what to do *before* you are in a state where you might not be able to think clearly. When I told my mom that she was part of my crisis plan, she laughed and wished me the best — of course, she loves/supports me. I can relate to trying to call for help from people, but not getting any. So frustrating and infuriating, made worse by your already frustrating and infuriating situation!! I’m glad that you had Valium nearby to relax you when your acute episode happened. I think you have planned in advance more than you are giving yourself credit for — calling your professionals, moving onto the Samaritans, taking Valium. That’s a lot of work you did and you should be pleased with yourself for getting through that very difficult time.

  22. Exercise is tantamount to good mental health, so Nerd Fitness is an excellent place to start if one is feeling less than happy or content. Keep on doing what you can to normalize good mental health. Nerd Fitness is actually a really great way to get folks started with fitness who wouldn’t otherwise consider it and I use it in my practice. ?

  23. Excellent post Dan. Mental health is a vital issue, and at least as important as physical health. I’ve come to know my potential issues over the years, and take steps to minimise those risks, which include:

    Work life balance and ensuring a healthy working environment
    Exercise (duh!)
    A selection of hobby/community/volunteer activities for wellbeing and meaning.
    Opportunities to express myself (often in one or more of the above)

    And I’ve recently taken up yoga, specifically for the mental health benefits it brings, but I’m finding it has some nice physical side benefits too.

  24. Thanks Marc, that makes me feel a lot better and I’m seeing the psychiatrist next week sometime so will worth something out with him then.

  25. Thank you for talking about this – many health and fitness websites do not, which is too bad, since health, fitness, and diet directly affect our mental health and as the article points out, diet and exercise are some of the best tools to deal with mental health issues.

  26. It’s so sad to hear people have abandoned you for something that you never asked for, but I’m glad to hear you’re currently speaking to someone about it. Suicidal thoughts and self harm is more common than you may think, particularly when we’ve got bad things going on in our lives on top of mental health issues, but when this ideation becomes too consuming, it’s vital to get immediate professional help. An ER will be able to provide an assessment and options if it comes to that. Glad this article came at the right time and could bring some sort of glimmer into your day, we all care about you here. Stay in touch and be sure to reach out for further assistance if you need it.

  27. Hi Dan! Thanks for the article, its a great message. I have a question though regarding diet/mental health. I followed your link on diet and mental health, and I saw that it correlated positive mental health with consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, etc, and poorer mental health with junk foods. But could that be just correlation, not causation? Fresh and healthier foods tend to be more expensive than fast foods, and therefore probably there’s a bias where more affluent people eat disproportionately more fresh and organic foods as compared with poorer people. The affluent people probably also live in safer neighborhoods (less environmental stress) and have better medical care (better physical health), etc. Now, intuitively I agree that a healthy diet is probably beneficial for mental health, but is there evidence that takes into account things like economic disparity or does more to prove causation? Thanks in advance!

  28. The brain and the body are a forged link, there is no separate physical and mental health levels in an individual. Anything you do physically will affect you mentally and anything you do mentally will effect you physically. Depression and Anxiety are expressed physically and well as cognitively. A broken ankle will cause changes in neurological pathways. Any kind of physical activity will boost mood, decrease anxiety and increase self-esteem.
    The stigma of mental health issues causes people to not want to seek help. Thank you for bringing this to the forefront, we all need to start talking about this on a regular basis.

  29. While I also believe this to be true, my response was to encourage people to tell anyone about how they might be feeling or thinking. If a person feels comfortable telling only their PCP, then, by all means, tell your PCP. Saying something to someone is better than saying nothing because of a belief that ALL PCPs are uninformed. It simply isn’t true. Many PCPs are caring individuals who want to help. A patient will know their PCP the best and it’s a good place to start. People, generally, don’t pick up a phone to call a social worker; people are often referred to counselors by other professionals.

    Also, please forgive my American-centric viewpoint in my original post.

  30. I wanted to comment on one of the symptoms of mental trouble that I didn’t understand at first: “Having intrusive negative, distressing or unusual thoughts.” I always thought that was like, creepy voices in your head telling you to do bad things. But it doesn’t have to be. I’ve got that symptom, I’ve had it for years, and I only recently figured out that the nasty memory that mentally pokes me and says, “Hey, remember when you wore the stupid shoes and everyone laughed at you?” counts as negative and intrusive thoughts. It’s much easier to feel good now that I realize that I’m not just “a worrier” but I’ve actually got anxiety symptoms.

  31. It’s very courageous of you to take the next step and I am sending you boatloads of encouragement. Do what you have to to make yourself happy. It might take longer than you’d like it to take, but it is soo worth the effort, I promise. ?Be strong.

  32. Great point, I’m sure there’s definitely some correlation there. However studies and assessments have been undertaken on those currently on a poor diet regarding their mental state, then the same person is assessed again 6 or so months later after a full diet change, and the results have shown the benefits. I’m on my phone at the moment, but I will edit this comment with some study links when I can. Thanks for bringing it up though, even though mental health issues can affect anyone, those from a lower socioeconomic tend to have a higher prevalence due to environmental issues and health access/education options.

  33. Great point, the phrase I used was meant to be quite broad, and definitely covers everything from full blown psychosis right down to laying in bed and painfully analysing a conversation you had years ago. These thoughts are common, but can be a symptom of anxiety. It’s nice to hear you’ve recognised and accepted this and can now move on with it, there’s no point letting these things hold us down any more than they need to.

  34. Thought this site could fit in with the other resources.

    https://heimo.co

    It’s a startup working with providing a platform for people to work out their challenges and problems together with others in the same situation and with professionals.

  35. Dan – thank you for discussing mental health/illness. I have bi-polar depression and anxiety and I was put on disability in 2011 because too many bad things happened to me and my love ones and I fell apart. I see a psychotherapist every two weeks and she is an MSW. I see a psychiatrist once a month. I am trying to re-enter the work force after having been injured on the job (I was working part-time). Because of the stigmas of mental illness, I feel the need to hide a part of myself from people I’ve just met…like if I had diabetes it would be no big deal. It’s especially difficult in the dating world….like when do you tell the guy that you have mental illness? Obviously not on the first date. But after a month, two months? It’s exhausting. And God forbid I mention it in the workplace! Mental illness scares people and there are so many preconceived notions about it. I’ve had a broken ankle before and that was a piece of cake. Luckily, my family and friends are there to help me when I’m extremely depressed or anxiety ridden. So I’m not sure what my point is here other than there are a lot of us with mental illness, and most of us are nice people. Thanks for listening.

  36. I’m so happy about this article, because while physical health and fitness has become kinda trendy, mental health issues still have terrible stigma. It’s a shame we don’t have, like, a mental fitness culture where people would blog about mental gainz.

    But can I just say – even though food and exercise are obviously important to everyone, including mentally ill people, sometimes medication is also very useful, or necessary? Because I’ve seen a lot of posts in some fitness blog circles (Tumblr & co.) with a picture of vegetables and the text “these are my prescription medications” and it’s just… ugh. I have major depressive disorder and anxiety that my shrink doesn’t want to label chronic, but which I have had literally all my life, and recently got diagnosed with ADD. And nothing has ever helped me as much as medication. Both times starting the meds was like a huge realization of, “omg I can NOT feel miserable all the time??? this was an option?” My point is, sometimes it is partially or largely an issue of chemical imbalance, and meds can help tremendously or be necessary.

    I know this is a weighted issue, especially with all the big pharma company pushing in the States, but anti-medication attitudes are harmful too. I’m not saying this article was anti-meds, but quite a few people are weird about psychotropics, including my psychiatrist who prescribes my medication. Every time I suggest or even mention trying a higher/different dose it’s like pulling teeth. Then again, she was also really concerned about all my “weird fitness stimulants” (= creatine and very legal, very usual pre-workout), so maybe it’s a thing with her.

  37. Laughed more than I should with the “Mental Gear Solid” hehe
    I’m completely speechless from how increibly well written this post is…
    Coming from someone who struggled with mental health issues for a loong time I can tell you that every single thing here is spot on.
    What first helped me get out of depression was exercising and socializing with people whose company I enjoy.
    I’d also like to add that something that has been huge for me, not only for getting out of mi issue but long afterwards has been reading nonfiction books.
    I’ve read tons and tons and you find out a lot about life and yourself this way…just by learning a small new detail you can completely change your whole outlook on life. 😀
    Loved the post, congratulations
    And a hug for all of you who are working on yourselves 😀

  38. This is such an important topic, and you have written about it in such an engaging way. Thank you.

  39. After my daughter was born, PPD hit me like a freight train. I tried talking to my mother about it, and was told that because I had the luxury of staying home with my baby, I had no right to be depressed. I didn’t open up to anyone else and was in a fog for the first year of her life. I’m so grateful that I didn’t harm her, myself or my husband during that time, and I’m even more grateful that I didn’t have any mental issues after my son was born three years later. The stigma surrounding mental health is awful, and needs to stop.

  40. Absolutely. Glad to hear you came out ok and it didn’t impact you when your done was born. Postnatal depression is really stigmatised, because it’s supposed to be ‘the happiest time of your life’, but for at least 1 in 6 women, and some fathers too, it can be an absolute nightmare, particularly with so many hormonal changes going on post birth. Keep an eye on the site for more info regarding this topic in the future. Thanks for sharing, all the best.

  41. This is a great post. For me, mental health is the most important piece of my fitness puzzle. I recently took a week off work just due to my anxiety over the amount of work I had to manage. I’ve taken to writing down everything I do in the day so I can see the record of what I’m accomplishing.

    I kind of wish we had a section for this on the forums!

  42. The behavioral aspects of mental health identified here (i.e. exercising, eating and sleeping well, setting achievable goals, socializing, creative expression) are wonderful places to start! However, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the cognitive and emotional skills one can develop in order to look after your mental health.

    Your thoughts and feelings play a crucial role in your mental health. Meta-cognition (awareness and understanding of one’s own thought processes) works just like becoming aware of unhealthy eating and exercise habits. What are your unhealthy thinking habits? Do you blame others, excessively worry, rehash the past, criticize yourself, beat yourself up, or live in denial? You can learn to become more aware of these destructive thought patterns (btw, having these thoughts are not your fault and likely developed from the factors listed above like previous experiences, current life events, biological factors, etc.) and then take action to challenge them and replace them with more rational thoughts. This is a technique called Cognitive Reframing and a major technique within Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

    As I said before, being physically and socially healthy is hugely important but it isn’t the whole picture. You can still experience anxiety and depression even if you are in incredible shape and have wonderfully supportive relationships. This has happened to me many times in my life. I have stayed physically healthy and have incredible friends and family but will slip into depression from time to time. During those experiences I have to become more aware of my thoughts and how they impact my life, then use cognitive reframing in order to overcome the rough patches.

  43. You guys are so awesome, and this is an amazing article. Dealing with a hubby and PTSD and my own Secondary form…yeah, emotional rollercoaster city. Inside Out IS such a good movie, not only for kids to understand themselves, but a darn good way to eek into the brain of adults that “I” am not the only one feeling this way.

    Unfortunately, in a lot of mental health arenas, I’m seeing so much turnover with professionals. Once you get a whole story out and down to the nitty gritty – insurance changes, VA transfers the provider, you move, they move, or it’s just not affordable. You work so you can afford the care but because you work you can’t take the time for care. Vicious vicious circle – but I’m preaching to the choir here.

    The best continuity I’ve found has been my closest friends. A great no judgement zone – and of course my horse. Finding something that you know you can depend on and that won’t disappear on you like a phantom mist.

    Regaining trust in a relationship after your favorite counselor/therapist leaves is rough. You feel betrayed in the most intimate of ways. Rebuilding is emotionally expensive, and exhausting. Not to mention it takes twice as long…

    I’ve found trying to get back into exercise has helped the most. No. Of course I couldn’t start off running 12 miles and packing on 40 lbs in a back pack. It started with moments – not minutes – of meditation. Quiet moments with me and only me. Now it’s simple Yoga moves again…and occasionally taking my horse for a walk. Some people walk their dogs, I walk my horse. If I’m out of shape, he is too. And hey, we make a cute pair walking down the road. He looks better in spandex than I do anyway 😉

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE that you put in resources world wide. Shows our little community has grown quite a bit since I started with ya’ll and since I’ve been on here last. I need to let my nerd hang out a lot more.

    Love ya’ll and may the Force be with you!

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