Just like we focus on our physical and cognitive health, we must continually evaluate our mental health. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness. Stigma around the topic is still present, although I do see more people talking about their experiences. If you are a caregiver of any type, it’s going to be very important that you are aware of your mental health and the things that keep you well. You may even choose to make a list of those items, so that when you are not feeling yourself, you can look at that list and figure out what you need to do. At the same time, maybe you are a caregiver for someone with a mental illness; you may have to investigate at times what they may need to do to “feel better”. Look at the Pillars of Mental Wellness below. From @the.holistic.psychologist on Instagram, I think it’s a good list to work from. This is my own interpretation, from other sources, of what these pillars might represent for you.
The Pillars of Mental Wellness
Sleep – Are you getting proper sleep? The Mayo Clinic says that we need 7 hours and for some maybe up to 8 hours. They recommend going to bed and getting up at the same time. This is going to take some self-discipline. You will have to turn off Netflix! It will be there tomorrow.
Gut Health – Did you know gut health is tied to mental health? The Mayo Clinic explains that the things we eat affect the bacteria in our stomach as to whether it is good or bad bacteria. Nothing new here, eat your fruits and veggies, avoid sugar, fat and processed foods and replace animal protein with plant protein. I also love what Probiotics do, by adding healthy bacteria to your gut.
Purpose – I think this pillar could also be called Service. Whether it’s your work or your job, meaning the thing you are passionate about or the thing that makes you money each day, we all need to feel needed and wanted. I also firmly believe we all need to serve others in some way, regularly, that takes the focus off ourselves and on to someone else who needs our help. Volunteering will give you so much in return.
Silent Reflection – Do you meditate, have quiet time, prayer or do you journal? Anything like this can allow you time to slow down and reflect on your thoughts, as well as these pillars and how you are doing. Spiritual life may look different for us all, so whatever you feel connected to, give it time each day.
Community & Connection – We were all designed to live in community. It makes sense, right? We need each other. This life is tough. Even if you see yourself as someone that enjoys being alone, we all have a need for love and belonging. Whether it’s one person you spend time with or a larger group, your mental health needs someone outside of yourself to connect to. What are your hobbies, what represents fun for you? Figure this out and then join a group to have fun with others.
Play and Movement – Exercise and fun, this is what this pillar says to me. The Mayo Clinic says that physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that may leave you feeling happier, more relaxed and less anxious. No one said it would be easy to get to the gym or running track, but once you are there, there is no doubt you will feel better.
Discomfort & Adversity – We all know that suffering is either behind us, we are in it or it’s in front of us. We develop coping skills, character and strength when we experience life and its ups and downs. There is no avoiding it but knowing what healthy things you can do in times of distress will not only pull you through the times but give you stamina for what’s next.
Boundaries – Did you know kids like boundaries? They really like when parents place rules in their lives, though I doubt you will ever hear them say so. Boundaries make us feel safe, secure and loved. We, as adults, like boundaries too. We need boundaries around work and protecting our personal life. We need boundaries around unhealthy people. Finally, we need boundaries to define to others what we need to do for ourselves to keep us mentally healthy.
Lifelong Learning – Did you know the brain can continue to make new connections, enriching the cellular network and making the brain stronger as we learn new things? It’s never ever too late to invest in your brain. Is there a sport you always wanted to try or something in the arts that has sparked your interest? No one ever said learning had to end after high school or college. When we learn we grow and when we grow, we are more confident with stronger self-esteem.
Mental health, unfortunately, is not automatic, and sometimes it does involve illness that is out of our control, but there are things we can do and frankly must do on our end to maintain health overall. Please also hear me say, whatever pillar of your mental health needs some attention, start small with your action plan. It will take consistent perseverance to see ongoing positive results. Care Managers assess not just the person physically or cognitively, but emotionally as well. Your spirit is precious and holy, and something that should be cared for well. If you know someone who needs someone to walk alongside them in their mental wellness journey, call LifeLinks today. If you are a caregiver who needs some assistance with your loved one, so that you can regain mental wellness, call us today. You matter, she matters, he matters, we all matter, in spirit, mind and body, when it comes to feeling well!