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With May being mental health month, I thought it would be a good time to discuss what exactly mental health refers to. It’s a term we use regularly, but it’s not always really understood. In this blog, I’ll share some definitions related to mental health plus tips for maintaining your mental health.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community;” the Mayo Clinic defines mental health as “the overall wellness of how you think, regulate your feelings and behave;” and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) defines mental health as “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 healthy choices.” Like our physical health, our mental health fluctuates due to many factors.

Mental health does not equate to a mental illness or mental disorder (although poor mental health certainly can negatively impact those living with them). The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) defines a mental illness as “a condition that affects a person’s thinking, feeling, behavior or mood. These conditions deeply impact day-to-day living and may also affect the ability to relate to others;” and the Mayo Clinic states that a “mental disorder may be present when patterns or changes in thinking, feeling or behaving cause distress or disrupt a person’s ability to function.” 

With both our mental and physical health, it’s critical we take care of ourselves (which is often referred to as self-care). Verywell Mind defines self-care as “a conscious act one takes in order to promote their own physical, mental and emotional health. Self-care is vital for building resilience toward those stressors in life that you can’t eliminate;” and the NIMH states that “self-care means taking the time to do things that help you live well and improve both your physical and mental health. Self-care can help manage your stress, lower your risk of illness, and increase your energy.”

Have you noticed that stress impacts both your physical and mental well-being? Stress cannot be eliminated, but self-care can reduce its negative impact. Per the NIMH, good self-care includes:

  •      Get regular exercise.
  •      Eat healthy, regular meals and stay hydrated.
  •      Make sleep a priority.
  •      Try a relaxing activity.
  •      Set goals and priorities.
  •      Practice gratitude.
  •      Focus on positivity.
  •      Stay connected.

When I don’t practice these habits, I feel sluggish mentally and not on the top of my game. When I was still working, I found that a short break from the daily stress of our industry was extremely helpful. This often included a brief walk around the company facility or just a few moments of reflection on the day. The short break released some of the stress and helped me refocus. When you feel overwhelmed, take a mental health break for your well-being and the well-being of those who depend on you functioning at a high level.

Sources for this blog include the following: World Health Organization (www.who.int), Mayo Clinic (www.mayoclinic.com), National Institute of Mental Health (www.nimh.gov), National Alliance on Mental Illness (www.nami.org), and Verywell Mind (www.verywellmind.com). 

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