Over the past year, we have constantly heard about the potentially harmful effects of Covid-19 and how to protect ourselves from contracting the virus. What would happen if we were as diligent about protecting our mental health?
Mental health prevention is an essential approach to improving our psychological well-being. It simply means stopping mental health problems from developing, worsening, or returning. Many factors influence our mental health, such as personal history (our family, relationships, and how we see ourselves) and social circumstances (including our housing, employment, and education). While it may not be possible to stop all mental health challenges from developing, many mental health problems can be prevented.
There are different prevention strategies, but primary prevention focuses on stopping mental health problems before they start and promotes good mental health. There are things we can all do to take care of ourselves. If you currently have good mental health, here are some ways that people have found to stay mentally well:
Talk about your feelings. Just being listened to can help you feel supported and less along with any problems you’re going through.
Keep in touch and ask for help. We aren’t superhumans. We all get tired and overwhelmed at times. Supportive friends can help you deal with the stresses of life, make you feel cared for, and offer a different perspective.
Care for others. Help the people you care for, whether that’s working on relationships with friends and family, letting go of grudges, or volunteering.
Get a good night’s sleep. Sleep and mental health are closely linked. Poor mental health can affect our sleep quality, which further affects our mental well-being. Practicing good sleep hygiene is an essential preventative measure.
Stay active. Physical activity is good for your body and mood. Exercise boosts our confidence, self-esteem, and energy.
Eat well. A balanced diet improves our sense of well-being and our mood. Our brains need a mixture of nutrients to stay healthy and function well, just like the other organs in our bodies.
Take a break. A change of scene or a change of pace is good for your mental health. A simple five-minute pause can be enough to de-stress and give you some ‘me time.’
Do something you enjoy. What do you love doing? What activities did you love doing in the past? Enjoying yourself can help beat stress. Doing an activity you enjoy, whether you’re good at it or not, helps to boost positive emotions. It is also true that working toward and achieving goals boosts your self-esteem.
Several factors contribute to our risk of developing mental health problems. Increasing our self-awareness of these factors can help us prevent mental health challenges. Our mental health is complex, but it is typically shaped by our:
Biology: our genes play a small role in our mental health.
Environment: the places we live and work and our relationships.
Experiences: the things that happen to us, especially in early life.
If you believe you’re at higher risk of developing a mental health problem, staying well may look like following the tips above, or it may mean getting help through therapy or counseling. The right support for you will depend on your individual needs and circumstances. In addition to the tips provided above, you may want to increase your peer support, try talk therapy, or get a medication consultation.