Checklist: How To Improve Your Mental Health
how to improve mental health

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What is Mental Health? 

Are you curious about mental health? Contrary to popular belief, a person’s mental health is far more than the absence of a mental disorder. Our mental health generally includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. In other words, our mental health is a big deal—at every stage of life.

Why is Mental Health Important?

Mental health is vital because it impacts every area of our life. Research suggests that maintaining a positive state of mental health allows people to:

  • Develop resilience
  • Realize our full potential
  • Improve our mood
  • Improve our self-esteem
  • Reduce our anxiety
  • Think more clearly
  • Increase our inner peace
  • Increase work productively
  • Make meaningful contributions to our communities

In recent years, mental health has become an enormous issue in the United States. When we consider that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 5 adults experience at least one mental health condition every year, it’s hard to deny that mental health awareness needs to rank atop our list of priorities.

Since the onset of COVID-19, the World Health Organization reported a sharp rise in the number of people experiencing mental health challenges worldwide. This global wake-up call started ringing in the young adult population before the pandemic. For example, in 2019, the National College Health Assessment (NCHA) noted that many students reported feeling exhausted, lonely, and overwhelmed, among other symptoms and difficulties (NCHA PDF Source). Of the surveyed students, 20.2% reported experiencing depression, and 27.8% reported experiencing anxiety that affected their studies in the preceding year.

Today, more than ever, our mental health is a big deal.

What Causes Mental Health Problems?

If we experience mental health problems throughout life, our thinking, mood, and behavior could be affected. Although numerous factors contribute to mental health problems, they are rooted in three specific areas:

  1. Biological factors:  Individual genes, brain structure, and chemistry
  2. Psychological factors: Stress, trauma, learned behaviors, our perception of life
  3. Social factors:  Life experience, our roles, expectations, and culture

What Are The Early Warning Signs Of Mental Health Problems?

If you are reading this article, you are curious if you or someone you know is living with mental health problems. If you are seriously interested in mental health, the first step is estimating the degree to which mental health symptoms can interfere with your daily life. For example, if you are experiencing one or more of the following feelings or behaviors, they can serve as an early warning sign of a growing problem:

  • Eating or sleeping too much or too little
  • Pulling away from people and usual activities
  • Having low or no energy
  • Feeling numb or like nothing matters
  • Having unexplained aches and pains
  • Feeling helpless or hopeless
  • Smoking, drinking or using drugs more than usual
  • Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, edgy, angry, upset, worried, or scared
  • Fighting with family and friends or yelling at them
  • Experiencing severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships
  • Having persistent thoughts and memories, you can’t get out of your head
  • Hearing voices or believing things that are not true
  • Thinking of harming yourself or others
  • Inability to perform daily tasks like taking care of your kids or getting to work or school

What Are Examples of Mental Health Problems?

Many people have mental health concerns from time to time. But a mental health concern becomes a problem when ongoing signs and symptoms cause frequent stress and affect your ability to function. Here are a few themes to consider:

Anxiety Disorders:  Unfortunately, they are a leading mental health issue globally. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) suggests that almost 1 in 3 people will experience an anxiety disorder in their lifetime. Anxiety symptoms can range from feeling uptight or nervous to panic attacks and getting physically ill. The variety of anxiety disorders includes generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, separation anxiety, specific phobias, and other anxiety-based disorders.

Depression:  Another common disorder with the capacity to severely impact a person’s life, according to NIMH. Depressive symptoms can include persistent sadness, emptiness, irritability, impaired motivation, guilt, or feelings of low self-worth. People with depression also may have difficulties focusing, aches, pains, digestive issues, or changes in their sleep or eating habits.

Trauma:  Unfortunately, the impact of a traumatic event or experience can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). According to NIMH, symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks, unwanted memories, nightmares, and panic attacks. Although the disorder is often associated with war veterans, a wide variety of traumatic experiences can lead to PTSD, like assault, abuse, serious accidents, and loss.

Addiction:  Sadly, this mental health concern has steadily increased in recent years. Alcohol is the most abused substance, with 5.3% of deaths worldwide attributed to alcohol consumption, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Hot TipDo Something Different About Your Mental Health!

Don’t wait until your symptoms cause frequent stress and affect your ability to function.   Talk about your concerns with your support systems: the people you love and trust. If that doesn’t help, it’s time to seek professional help. If you don’t know where to start, keep reading.

What Is The Best Way To Maintain Positive Mental Health? 

If you want to maintain positive mental health, engage in self-care because self-care and mental health go hand-in-hand for people. Without self-care, it is challenging to maintain a healthy mindset and not let stress affect your ability to function.

Here’s what I mean. Imagine that you have just boarded an airplane and are listening to the flight attendant’s safety speech. They always, without a doubt, mention that you must put on your oxygen mask first before assisting others. Yes, listening to that same speech every time you fly might seem boring. However, when turbulence shows up, it is tempting to overreact and take care of others first—especially if you have young children. My point? When we care for others at the expense of our personal needs, it impacts our mental health. Hence, oxygen-starved parents are not a good resource to anyone—especially during turbulence. So remember, engage in self-care because self-care and mental health go hand-in-hand.

What Are Some Self-care Activities To Improve Mental Health?

Although self-care looks different for everyone, it involves taking the time you need to do things that help you live well and enjoy life. Put another way, self-care helps you get—and keep—your batteries charged each day. Self-care can help you manage stress, lower your risk of illness, and increase your energy. Even small acts of self-care in your daily life can have a significant impact. Here is a short list of self-care activities to improve your mental health, including:

  • Seeing a licensed therapist
  • Mental health counseling
  • Getting (and staying) connected with others
  • Staying positive
  • Getting physically active
  • Eating healthier
  • Staying hydrated
  • Practicing gratitude
  • Helping others
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Developing healthy coping skills

What If I Want Professional Help To Learn How To Improve My Mental Health?

Do yourself a favor. Don’t wait until your symptoms cause frequent stress and affect your ability to handle stress, relate to others, or make good choices. Your mental health is a big deal, and I want to help! I love encouraging individuals to promote their mental health needs, pursue their dreams, and live without shame, guilt, or worry!

I use evidence-based techniques to help my clients overcome difficulties, improve their mental health and achieve personal growth. Depending on your situation, we may explore early relationships. I may challenge you to adopt new ways of thinking or coach you in replacing negative coping skills with positive ones. If you are wondering, negative coping skills may include alcohol, drugs, overeating, and other risky or aggressive behaviors to cope with stress or anxiety. Often, positive coping involves shifting your perspective or reframing a stressful event as an opportunity to grow instead of a problem to avoid.

Feel free to contact me today and schedule a clarity call. I would love to be your guide to better mental health.

About the Author

Steve Cuffari

Steve Cuffari

For over 20 years, Steve Cuffari has been an ordained minister, assistant college professor of psychology at vanguard university, and a therapist committed to helping individuals, couples, and educators learn how to put an end to destructive conversations so they can build secure and lasting relationships... More about Steve →


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