An apple a day keeps the doctor away! The health advice heard around the world. Many people hear common tips for maintaining good physical health but what about mental health? This month began with World Teen Mental Wellness Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness of mental health issues among teens. According to the American Psychological Association, Gen Z is least likely to report very good or excellent mental health when compared with other generations.
What is mental health?
Defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mental health includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel and act.
Is mental health different from mental illness?
Mental health and mental illness are terms often used interchangeably; however, they are not the same thing. Mental illness refers to a wide range of health conditions and disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behavior. These conditions can be occasional or chronic and affect one’s ability to function each day.
Especially since the start of the pandemic in 2020, mental health is a must focus on part of our overall health and wellness.
The importance of taking care of your mental well-being
Whether you are diagnosed with a mental illness or not, mental health is still important at every stage of your life. The state of your mental health can change over time based on a number of factors. Similar to physical health, mental health requires intentional practices to maintain and improve it. Neglecting your mental health can create difficulty completing daily tasks and social activities due to decreased self-esteem, energy levels and desire to engage.
The relationship between mental and physical health
Your mental and physical health are not mutually exclusive. Think of them as a balanced cycle. The symptoms of poor mental health can present in physical ways such as difficulty sleeping, fatigue and increased feelings of stress. Unacknowledged, symptoms of poor mental health cause your physical health to suffer as well.
However, your mental and physical health can be connected in positive ways too. Practices to improve your mental health include physical activity, nutritious food and a balanced sleep schedule. When you exercise your body releases endorphins, the chemical that interacts with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. This chemical reaction combined with the physical outlet of exercising can help improve your whole well-being. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule is also important because it allows both your mind and body to rest and reset after a long day. Teens are recommended to get approximately eight to 10 hours of sleep per night. Consuming nutritious foods provides your body and mind the fuel it needs to perform better during exercise, school and social activities.
The close connection between your mental and physical health means that doing something beneficial for one can positively impact the other. Neither type of health is more important than the other. A healthy mind and body are equally essential.
Tips for improving your mental health
Take a mental break. Continuous engagement can lead to mental burnout and feeling overwhelmed. Dedicate time out of your week to turn off your phone, get off social media channels and take a break from schoolwork. Pause, take a few moments to focus on your breathing and recenter yourself.
Get your sweat on. Running, cycling, swimming, jumping or any other type of physical movement counts. Get your body moving! Even if you have a full schedule, find time for yourself and take a quick five-minute walk. Releasing endorphins regularly can help your whole health.
Make sleep a priority. Your body and mind are constantly working during waking hours. Proper rest is required to re-energize so that you can continue to learn and grow. Whether you are an early riser or a night owl, make sure to get your eight to 10 hours in every night.
Seek out mood-boosters. What makes you happy? Is it spending time with friends, reading a book, arts or cooking? Intentionally include activities in your day that produce joy. The impacts of joy go a long way with your mental and physical health.
Let others help. Maintaining good mental health can be difficult to do alone. It’s okay to seek out help to improve your mental health. At Southdale ObGyn, our providers are committed to providing comprehensive care to women of all ages. For any troubles or changes you are experiencing, we are here to listen and support you in a personalized way that works for your mental and physical health.