Our understanding of “mental health” is changing. On days when I am rushing between commitments and feeling frazzled, or when I overreact in a hurtful way to something someone does or says (usually someone I care about, too!), or when I find myself forgetting what intent took me from one room to another, then I don’t feel very mentally healthy.
A friend of mine is experiencing depression, yet with the supports she has put in place and her resolve to make healthy decisions daily, she is enjoying mental health in the midst of mental illness.
Mental health involves how much we can enjoy life, bounce back from disappointments or frustrations with a sense of hopefulness, recognize and build on our strengths, and have flexibility in experiencing all kinds of emotions and expressing them in healthy ways. When we have a high level of mental health we are able to balance our time and energy amid the physical, social, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of our lives while also recognizing and acting on any need to make changes. Such changes might include taking a daily walk, arranging a weekly game night with family or friends, reading a self-help book, getting counselling on how to handle stress or relationships, or spending time in meditation, prayer, or nature.
Just like the focus on physical health is shifting—from just an “absence of disease,” to striving for an overall “state of wellness —the same is true of mental health: rather than just considering whether or not individuals may be experiencing a mental illness, we now focus on how they can best approach the everyday challenges of balancing tasks and coping productively with our thoughts and feelings along the way. So take your mental health pulse: assess how much you are able to enjoy life, be resilient with challenges, build on your potential, be flexible emotionally, and balance the different parts of your life. What can you choose to do today towards improving your mental health?
Michelle A. Bentley, MA, RMFT
Copyright© 2015 Crisis and Trauma Resource Institute Inc., all rights reserved. To reproduce or distribute with CTRI’s consent, contact infoATctrinstitute.com