TWENTY SEVEN: Mental Health is still Health

What do you call a bear with a mental disorder? A bi-polar bear

I’m back! Apologies for my absence last week. Actually, not really. I needed it. But I’m here now, with an important public service announcement:

Mental health is as important as physical health.

Ya’ll need to remember that your brain runs the show, stop ignoring it! Mental health is still health.

What do you do when you cut your finger while making dinner? Do you ignore it, or do you get that bad boy covered up? What about if you broke your leg? Would you walk it off, or would you get it plastered, and keep your weight off of it until it healed?

When we injure ourselves, we get it treated. Why? Because that’s what we need to do to recover. If we left an injury untreated, it would get infected and the outcome could be far more disastrous than it should be. We wouldn’t let our pride turn a cut into a lost limb now, would we?

Why is mental health any different? Why do we dismiss the thoughts of our friends, our family or ourselves when we say we’re hurting on the inside?

The nature of mental health is in the term itself, it’s still health, and I think it gets lost on all of us that keeping a healthy brain is just as important as a healthy limb. At the end of the day, without a healthy brain you might just stop having a healthy limb. Your brain is the control centre of basically everything you do, so if that’s compromised than you can wind up compromised, my friend. Just because a mental injury isn’t necessarily visible in the way we think about it, doesn’t mean it’s any less legitimate. So this week, let’s give credit to our mental health, and stop trying to “walk it off” when our mindset is a little wounded. Mental health is still health.

From my experience, when I haven’t felt A1, I generally start to neglect some aspects of my lifestyle that promote good physical health, which is why it’s so important to look after your mental health. They’re like cheese and biscuits; you can’t have one without the other. Primarily, I find that a lapse in good mental health will affect 3 main parts of my day-to-day; my diet, exercise routine and sleep patterns. Feeling low/depressed/anxious can really sap the energy from you, which in turn affects your ability and willingness to maintain a routine with these things. Let’s look at my examples;

  1. Diet – the last thing I want to do when I’m couch potatoeing + feeling sorry for myself is spend my evening cooking. So I often will compliment my freshly-shaken depresso martini with a pizza on Monday, burger on Tuesday, Chinese on Wednesday, taco on Thursday and leftovers on Friday because I’m broke til the next pay cheque. Whoops.
  2. Exercise – depressed Tim has been working hard on building his growing waistline, so the last thing he wants to do is undo all of that hard work by burning calories. But really, feeling low can often go hand in hand with a lapse in positive self-image, which will drain you of any motivation to go for a run or a workout.
  3. Sleep patterns – because depressed Tim is eating foods that are loaded with sugar and saturated fats, which means he has energy for about 10 minutes then crashes. So he naps…a lot. And what happens when you nap during the day? Well, you’re wide awake during the night. So your body clock is ready to start the day at 1am. Not ideal.

It can vary for all of us, we’re all different people, but I think if we had a little time to reflect on our own routines and behaviours, we would be able to pick up on the things that change when we lose that motivation and drive to keep on adulting. Let’s be real though, adulting is shit anyway. 0/10 would not recommend.

So back to the matter at hand, mental health is still health. So we need to treat it as such, and that sometimes involves doing things we can’t be arsed doing. If we get the flu or we hurt ourselves, we reluctantly spend the afternoon at the doctor’s getting the appropriate treatment. Sometimes a physical injury involves some rehabilitation, which will involve some extra efforts from us to make things better. Mental health is no different. Once we recognise that something requires a little extra effort, we make it. So, when I consider my examples, these are the sort of “treatments” I prescribe myself;

  1. Diet – find some recipes that you can look forward to eating, and plan ahead. All I need is a 10 minute window where I’m not feeling completely unmotivated to make a shopping list and get in the  car. Better yet, ordering online and having my food delivered. Perfect. Now that I have all of the ingredients,  it would be better I use them so they don’t go to waste. If I make a big batch, less cooking later, less take-out this week.
  2. Exercise – ANYTHING IS BETTER THAN NOTHING. I don’t need to go and smash out a huge weights session at the gym, but any movement is good movement. Maybe I opt to go for a walk/run along the water if the weather’s nice, maybe I grab a football and have a kick around with a mate. Or, if all else fails, I get a personal trainer to run me through a 30 minute session. You’ll be surprised how much more you’ll do when someone else encourages you to do it.
  3. Sleep pattern – if I keep my day busy, I don’t nap. So I’ll write myself a checklist of things to do. The two above take up a good couple of hours of my day, combine that with a work/study schedule and I’ll get through to night time without a nap like a big boy. Then, I’ll cap the night off with a book to help shut the brain down and it’s ni night everyone.

So, my honourary doctors, take a moment to diagnose your symptoms, and prescribe yourself a treatment plan accordingly. You know yourself best, trust your gut. But the important thing is, don’t put so much pressure on yourself to snap your fingers and be a world beater again. If you need a week, a day or an hour to be a little dramatic, god knows I do it alllllllllll the time. And above all else, have the happiest of Mental Health Mondays!

Never underestimate the power you have to take your life in a new direction.

Germany Kent

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