We’re bombarded with messages about our physical health. Commercials hawk the latest diet programs or supplements; magazines boast the best workout routines; and subway ads remind you to see your doctor for a physical. These messages usually ignore a very important aspect of our overall health – our mental wellbeing.
The National Council for Mental Wellbeing defines mental wellbeing as “thriving regardless of a mental health or substance use challenge,” representing “resilience, strength and recovery.” Mental wellbeing is about understanding and caring for your thoughts, feelings and actions. This can look different for each person.
According to the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) curriculum, when someone faces a mental health challenge, like depression or anxiety, it can affect all areas of their life. They may have difficulty working or in their personal relationships. It can lead to the use of alcohol and other substances. It can even disrupt the lives of those close to them, despite being treated.
Mental health challenges can impact our physical health too. For example, anxiety can cause physical symptoms like headaches, stomachaches, insomnia and lack of concentration. Depression has been shown to increase the risk of long-lasting conditions like diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
Take care of your mental wellbeing.
Often, the ways we care for our body can overlap with the ways we care for our mind. Use these tips from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the National Institute of Mental Health to take care of your physical and mental wellbeing every day.
|Physical Health||Mental Health|
|Eat a balanced diet with various fruits and vegetables.||Connect with loved ones and those in your community for emotional support. Even a phone or video call can be beneficial!|
|Participate in 30 minutes of physical activity that you enjoy every day, such as walking or yoga.||Participate in 30 minutes of physical activity that you enjoy every day, such as walking or yoga.|
|Get the appropriate amount of sleep each night. For adults, seven to nine hours is recommended.||Get the appropriate amount of sleep each night. For adults, seven to nine hours is recommended.|
|Maintain proper hygiene, including brushing your teeth and showering regularly.||Practice gratitude by naming at least one small thing that you are grateful for each day.|
|Moderate use of substances such as tobacco and alcohol. Try reaching out to family or friends instead of using substances when you are going through a tough time.||Take 15-20 minutes a day to relax by meditating, journaling or doing breathing exercises.|
Mental health challenges are not uncommon.
Even if you aren’t facing a mental health challenge, it is likely that someone in your life is. According to a national survey administered by SAMHSA, about 18.9% of adults 18 years or older experience a mental health or substance use challenge each year. This translates to nearly one in five adults in the United States. It’s important to understand what mental wellbeing is and how to take care of it so you can support your loved ones when they might need it most.
Understanding how to have open and honest conversations about these topics can help those close to you feel more comfortable talking with you about the challenges they face. If you’re not sure where to begin, here are some conversation starters from MHFA to break the ice.
If you’re uncertain about how to broach these topics, check out this video from MHFA for some examples on navigating real-life awkward conversations.
To dive even deeper into better approaching these conversations, take a Mental Health First Aid Course to learn more about how you can support those in your life who may be experiencing a mental health challenge. Together, we can make conversations about mental health as common as talking about the weather, and create a space where mental health stigma is a thing of the past.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, June 28). About mental health. https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/learn/index.htm
Mental Health First Aid USA. (2020). Mental Health First Aid USA for adults assisting adults. National Council for Mental Wellbeing.
National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2022, February). Mental health by the numbers. https://www.nami.org/mhstats
National Institute of Mental Health. (2022, April). Anxiety disorders. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders
National Institute of Mental Health. (2021, April). Caring for your mental health. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/caring-for-your-mental-health
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2020). 2020 national survey of drug use and health (NSDUH) releases. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/release/2020-national-survey-drug-use-and-health-nsduh-releases.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2016). Creating a healthier life: a step-by-step guide to wellness. https://store.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/d7/priv/sma16-4958.pdf.