Achieving mental balance is paramount to living full, happy lives. But with the world currently in chaos and crisis, this can feel harder than ever. Gen X women have so much on their plate these days. From making the mortgage or rent to caring for children and/or parents. From performing essential work safely to being out of work with or without pay. The global coronavirus pandemic has put even further strain on already exhausted and overworked Gen X women. Keeping our families together while being forced apart from our social support systems, like friends and family, would take a toll on anyone.
Caring for our mental well-being isn’t selfish or neglectful of others. It is an act of compassion for yourself and others. Because being in a state of mental balance is essential to being able to serve those we love the most. We can’t care for others if we’re not in optimal shape.
What is Mental Health?
Keeping our mental health in balance is important any day. But now today more than ever. The term “mental health” can be nebulous and feel foreign. What is mental health? And how do we know if we are on or off balance?
Mental health is an umbrella term that encompasses several parts of your life. Just as physical health includes physical fitness, healthy eating, and the absence or presence of illnesses, disorders and diseases, mental health is also multifaceted. The level of stress, self-esteem, life satisfaction, career achievement, social engagement, sense of well-being, and absence or presence of mental illnesses, disorders and diseases all contribute to mental health.
It may be hard to know if you are in a state of mental balance if you’ve been in poor mental health for a long time. When this becomes your normal or status quo, mental balance can appear unattainable or seem like a fantasy. Additionally, when living with chronic poor mental health we may not feel inspired to change our circumstances, or feel confused on how to do so.
Seeking out mental health resources can be daunting. The critical first step is getting a realistic look at yourself and understanding where you need help. But knowing where to go begins with knowing where you are. Familiarize yourself with these mental health signs and symptoms.
Symptoms of poor mental health include, but are not limited, to:
- Frequent or excessive feelings of anger, sadness, guilt, hopelessness or numbness
- Periodic or frequent hyper, manic or anxious moods or episodes
- Frequent or severe mood swings
- Being emotionally shut down or closed off
- Suicidal thoughts or ideation
- Engaging in impulsive or compulsive behaviors, such as addictions, OCD rituals, self-harm, etc.; aggressiveness toward others
- Outbursts and verbal abuse
- Violence and physical abuse
- Suicide attempts
- Being clingy, needy or codependent with friends, family or partners
- Excessive people-pleasing
- Disconnection or isolation from social groups or intimate relationships
- Being constantly in relationships, serial monogamy, or never staying single for very long
- Frequent sluggishness, fatigue or low energy
- Trouble concentrating
- Frequent headaches or migraines
- Frequent idiopathic (unknown cause) aches and pains
- Aches and pains with known causes that negatively affect your mood
Trauma, physical and emotional environment, genetics, dysfunctional relationships, dissatisfaction, stress, poor diet and more can contribute to mental health issues. The good news is since there are multiple factors, there are many solutions. With so many ways to care for your mental health, a varied approach typically yields the best results.
What Does Mental Balance Look Like?
Being in a state of mental balance usually means having healthy emotional and behavioral control, balanced, healthy relationships, and feeling mentally sharp and connected. Toxic relationships can wreak havoc on our lives and mental health. Ending these relationships or trying to transform them is often not easy. Toxic people will see us as the problem and will likely be unwilling to self-reflect and readjust.
This is easier said than done though. Learning to set boundaries is a great first step in working through difficult relationships.
Making healthier food and fitness decisions can have a strong impact on mental health. Nutrient dense whole foods high in vitamins, minerals and fiber fuel the body and brain without clogging your system with hormones, additives or empty calories. There is also a strong link between the gut and the brain. So improving gastrointestinal (GI) health with pre and probiotics may also help improve mental health.
Going further, understanding what foods, additives, and environmental hazards you have allergies, intolerances or sensitivities to can help alleviate some physical discomfort and mental health symptoms by calming inflammation. This can be done through skin and blood tests.
Exercise releases endorphins in the brain, temporarily elevating mood and relieving minor aches and pains. Acting as a natural anti-depressant chemically, and helping create a sense of control and commitment behaviorally, fitness is a natural way to increase both physical and mental health. Fitness can also increase your sense of community and foster connections with others who can broaden your horizons and help you see the world in a different way.
Sometimes more professional measures need to be taken to address acute and chronic mental health problems. Regular sessions with a therapist, counselor or clinical social worker and/or a medication regimen prescribed by a psychiatrist will help to alleviate severe symptoms or manage diagnosed disorders.
Once weak areas are identified, adjustments can be made individually or with professional assistance. It is important to have a strong support system when addressing mental health concerns. Fostering healthy relationships and removing unhealthy ones can do wonders for your state of mind. Attaining personal fulfillment and becoming comfortable within yourself will also help keep you on track.
Mental Balance is a Journey
Remember, just like physical health, mental health is ongoing. You don’t reach a goal so much as maintain a healthy balance and adjust as needed. With all the responsibilities Gen Xers have at home and at work, and with the added stress of a worldwide pandemic and social distancing, now more than ever we need to take care of our minds. Take mental health just as seriously as physical health and you’ll be better equipped to take on life’s challenges.