Mountain Family column: May is Mental Health Awareness Month
Mountain Family Health Centers
Mental health is essential to everyone’s overall health and well-being, and mental illnesses are common and treatable. So much of what we do physically impacts us mentally. It’s important to pay attention to both your physical health and your mental health, also called behavioral health, which can help you achieve overall wellness and set you on a path to recovery.
Mental Health Awareness Month was started by back in 1949 by Mental Health America. That means this year marks MHA’s 70th year celebrating Mental Health Month.
In May 2019, Mountain Family Health Center is expanding our focus and raising awareness about the connection between physical health and mental health. We are exploring the topics of animal companionship, spirituality and religion, humor, work-life balance, recreation and social connections as ways to boost mental health and general wellness.
A healthy lifestyle can help to prevent the onset or deteriorating mental health conditions, as well as chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes and obesity. It can also help people recover from these conditions. For those dealing with a chronic health condition and the people who care for them, it can be especially important to focus on mental health. When dealing with dueling maladies, focusing on both physical and mental health concerns can be daunting — but critically important in achieving overall wellness.
There are things you can do that may help. Finding a reason to laugh, going for a walk with a friend, meditating, playing with a pet, or working from home once a week can go a long way in making you both physically and mentally healthy.
Being around pets
The company of animals — whether as pets or service animals — can have a profound impact on a person’s quality of life and ability to recover from illnesses. A pet can be a source of comfort and can help us to live mentally healthier lives.
Spirituality and religion
Whether you go to church, meditate daily or simply find time to enjoy that cup of tea each morning while checking in with yourself, it can be important to connect with your spiritual side in order to find that mind-body connection.
Spend some time outside, and look on the upside
We live in an area that offers great opportunities to be more aware and mindful, by taking in the views, breathing in clean and fresh mountain air, and engaging in any form of activity — from walking, hiking, bike riding, to river sports and so on.
These all are good ways to take better care of yourself. Remembering that an attitude of gratitude can help us recover from mental and physical illnesses, and there are always reasons to be grateful.
Substance Use Disorders
Substance use disorders are both a medical and mental illness. Slowing the frequency, cutting down the amount, or simply stopping alcohol or drug use altogether will surely make you feel better. Limiting or quitting tobacco use, vaping, computer gaming, and social media will increase energy, enhance mood, and create more opportunities to get outside and be more social.
A lack of relationships has the same health consequences as smoking a pack of cigarettes per day. So get out there and be with, or around, people.
Taking time off work and going “off grid” from texts and emails are excellent forms of self-care also. If you find that these are too difficult, then ask for help. Asking for help is tough … so it takes courage.
Mountain Family Health Centers wants everyone to know that mental illnesses are real, and recovery is always the goal. Living a healthy lifestyle may not be easy but can be achieved by gradually making small changes and building on those successes.
Finding the balance between work and play, the ups and downs of life, physical health and mental health, can help you on the path towards focusing both mind and body.
Oyen Hoffman is a clinical specialist & substance abuse supervisor with Mountain Family Health Centers.
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