Mental Health Month
by Dan Gleason, DC
A healthy mental state may consist of the absence of symptoms like depression, anxiety, mood swings, or paranoia. Perhaps it is being happy, fulfilled or content. Everyone falls on a spectrum of mental health. At one end of the spectrum are those who are chronically unhappy, unproductive, lonely and dysfunctional. At the other end are those who are energetic, productive and happy. Most people fall somewhere in the middle, but move up and down the spectrum depending on circumstances and the actions that they take.
Everyone has stress to a greater or lesser degree. It’s the response to life’s stresses that determines the level of mental health. Some people are presented with many challenges and yet create and retain a healthy mental state. Others seem to have few challenges and yet are unhappy or unfulfilled. There is a quote misattributed to Abraham Lincoln: “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” While this holds some truth, there is the risk of blaming the sufferer. Those near the negative end of the mental health spectrum may require outside help. If you are struggling, reach out—there are many resources to help. One of the best ways to improve mood is the act of reaching out to someone who is down or compromised. A smile, kind word, note, email or hug can do wonders for both parties.
Stress can be divided into two basic areas: eustress and distress. Eustress (eu means good, as in euphoria) makes us happier, stronger and healthier. Good stressors can be thought of as challenges rather than obstacles. Life often presents a challenge that can be viewed either as an opportunity to become healthier and stronger or as an unfair and insurmountable obstacle. Choosing to challenge ourselves in ways that improve our mental health could include committing to an exercise program or a dietary change. Distress includes things that bring us down or are destructive. To a degree we can decide whether an event produces eustress or distress.
Here is one definition: Stress can be defined as any type of change that causes physical, emotional, or psychological strain. Stress is your body’s response to anything that requires attention or action…. Sometimes, the best way to manage your stress involves changing your situation.”
Changing your situation involves assessing and addressing three basic categories:
Destructive physical stressors are things like poor posture, a bad mattress and pillows, bad shoes, a poor lifting technique or inactivity.
Positive physical measures include dancing, exercise, stretching, yoga, Tai Chi, massage, chiropractic, osteopathic manipulation or physical contact such as shaking hands and hugging.
Destructive chemical stressors include poor diet, toxic exposures (in water, food, skincare products or household chemicals), excessive alcohol and recreational drug use or overuse of pharmaceuticals.
Chemicals that heal and improve mental health are things like healthy diet, individualized nutritional plan based on testing, natural skin care products and herbs, essential oils and neutraceuticals.
Mental stressors include excessive screen time, poor sleep hygiene, negative social media engagement, media induced fear and destructive interpersonal relationships.
To counteract mental stress, we can turn off computers and television, make bedrooms quiet and dark, use breathing techniques and meditate, join like-minded support groups, volunteer to help others, seek group or individual counseling or use self-help and motivational books and tapes.
Fear is one of the primary contributors to poor mental health and much fear is induced by trying to avoid the fact of our mortality. Becoming comfortable with the inevitability of death can be key to improved mental health. The book Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande, explores issues around aging, death and dying. Two books by Martin Seligman have revealing titles: Authentic Happiness and Flourish. Both authors have inspiring YouTube videos that suggest ways to improve one’s mental health. The RelaxLite app uses breathing and guided imagery to improve mental state.
Take as much responsibility for your mental health as possible. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help and to help others. Both approaches will help improve your overall wellbeing.
Dr. Dan Gleason is the owner of The Gleason Center located at 19084 North Fruitport Road in Spring Lake. For more info: go to TheGleasonCenter.com or call 616-846-5410. See ad this page & page 2.