We already know the usual suspects regarding mental health factors: chemical imbalance, personal history, stress, trauma, and many others. But if we want our mental health to be at its healthiest, we need to see the big picture and everything that potentially contributes to it. Here are some surprising factors that affect our mental health and what you can do to improve your mental well-being.
Did you know that our physical health and mental health are intrinsically linked? There’s a reason why chronically ill people are prone to depression and vise versa. Physical pain or discomfort has a close connection to depression. This connection can create a vicious cycle wherein physical pain aggravates depression, and the depression makes the physical pain so much worse.
Do you suffer from specific pains in your body that you don’t know the cause of? If you find that you have chronic headaches or back pain and it’s already affecting your mood and functioning, it’s time to address these symptoms. Visit your primary care provider to finally get to the root cause of the pain. If tests finally rule out more serious physiological illnesses, your doctor will be able to provide you with ways to eliminate pain, like prescription medication, chiropractic care, or even psychotherapy.
Social media use
Another contributing factor to depression in the 21st century is our social media usage. Even though social media has provided us with countless gifts, such as connecting when we can’t gather together physically, those who use social media heavily (which experts say means about two hours per day) are more vulnerable to suffering from poor mental health.
While it’s understandable that we’ll be on our phones more during a pandemic, we also need to find ways to live our lives online. If you find that social media is causing you to compare yourself with others or is causing you to experience some major FOMO, it might be time to put your phone down and set some boundaries on yourself. You can start small: Cut down on your social media usage by reading one chapter of a physical book per day instead of going on Twitter or Instagram. The solution isn’t to completely cut off social media. After all, studies also show that when we use social media properly, it may even make us happy.
A study by the University of Sydney found that having your daily dose of vegetables can lower your mental stress. The 60,000 respondents were female and aged over 45. They answered a questionnaire made up of ten questions that determined their levels of depression and anxiety. The key findings were that moderate vegetable and fruit consumption has a close link to a lower incidence of stress. However, it’s important to note that fruit alone can’t do this.
We often don’t associate our diet with our moods, but it’s time that we did. There’s been enough body of research to conclude that our gastronomical habits can improve or worsen our mental health. So let 2021 be the year you finally incorporate vegetables and fruits into your daily diet.
While there’s nothing wrong with working hard and being encouraged by our bosses to perform well and be productive during the pandemic, studies also show that too much productivity rhetoric can be toxic and cause performance anxiety among workers. When company bosses set too many ambitious goals, it pushes employees to lie, and it can cause emotional and mental distress at a corporate level.
If you’re lucky enough to be still working during the COVID-19 crisis, remember that your value as a person is not based on the quality or quantity of your work. It may seem like something hard to know when you’re worried about putting food on the table during a pandemic and a recession but working yourself to the ground can be detrimental to your health—both mental and physical.
The answer is not trying harder but being kinder to yourself and learning to set boundaries and ask for help when you need it. Communicate openly with your boss and your workmates about the state of your mental health and be honest about how it affects your work.
At the end of the day, none of these lifestyle remedies will be 100 percent enough to take the place of medical and psychiatric care, although they might help significantly. So if you find that your mental health has taken a massive dip and that you need help, don’t hesitate to consult with your doctor so that they can provide you with a solid treatment plan.