Ready for your mental health check in?
I’m taking a break from my regular programming to talk about your state of mental health. By the way, how is it? Mine fluctuates from day to day, hour to hour, and sometimes even minute to minute. But I’m naturally a moody person and you’ll get a different person every day.
Which Shane are you going to get today? At least being around me is not boring.
There’s always a lot of talk on all types of media on mental health, illness, etc., and how to take better care of yourself. But what about those of us who are living or being around people who are going through their private hell? How do you take care of yourself when you are worried about the health of someone else?
They are tough questions to answer, and one I will attempt to answer through personal experience.
Mental Health Challenges
Note: Being around mental illness is easier than suffering from it. I’m not trying to discount this obvious fact.
From my childhood years on, I’ve been within a stone’s throw of mental illness. Now this is not a woe is me list, but one that lets you know I’m not pulling your leg.
My brother and I suspect my dad both suffer(ed) from Bipolar disorder.
A friend of mine hid his depression and took his own life.
My brother has attempted suicide multiple times and once I talked him down from doing it.
Both of my sisters are having mental health challenges.
When my parents divorced, it was extremely tough for my mum.
My son is on the autism spectrum and is battling his mental demons.
Other people’s mental illness has played a significant role in my life and because of this my mental and physical health occasionally takes a beating. As selfish as this sounds, other people’s mental illness has taken a toll on my mental health. So, how do you take care of yourself when you’re worried about taking care of others?
Taking Care Of Your Mental Heath To Take Care Of Others
Self-care (taking care of yourself) is great especially when your tank is being emptied constantly, but for a moment let me tell you what self-care isn’t.
Doing stuff that isn’t good for you but feels good is something we all do at times. But there is a big difference between smashing down some ice cream because you feel you deserve it and getting smashed to forget about life for a while. Both will feel good temporarily but they’re not healthy and they’re not self-care.
Engaging in unhealthy behaviors that feel good is unavoidable sometimes and I get it because I do it. But they don’t fill your self-care tank and are a distraction more than anything else.
Various types of pampering like massage, therapy, and hanging out with friends all act as self-care but there is something else that often gets lost in the self-care shuffle. What is it? Exercise and any type of informal movement.
What type of exercise you do is immaterial. Whether it’s resistance training, running, yoga, martial arts, Zumba, or walking, it’s all good. Exercise helps to reduce the symptoms of mild to moderate depression, dementia, and anxiety.
Regular exercise increases the volume of certain brain regions particularly the hippocampus through better blood supply there. This improves overall brain health and therefore your mental health by increasing the delivery of oxygen and other nutrients.
The Hippocampus is involved in memory, emotion regulation, and learning and plays a crucial role in your mental health. There is evidence to suggest many mental health conditions are associated with reduced growth and development of nervous tissue in the hippocampus.
By exercising, you’re taking care of yourself, your brain, and your mental health all at the same time. It doesn’t taste as good as ice cream but it’s a good way to burn it off and fill your self-care tank.
So Next Time Your Mental Health…….
When feeling overwhelmed, angry, worried, or anxious because of other people’s mental health challenges, exercise is my go-to ticket. It temporarily gets me out of my head and helps me focus on something, anything not related to what’s smacking around in my head. Plus, it stops me from punching holes in the wall.
If you’re facing challenging times or are constantly looking after others and not yourself, strap some shoes on and engage in the best self-care there is exercise. If you say you haven’t the time, make the time. It’s that important.
If your mental health is taking a hit, the best thing you can do is exercise. What type is immaterial. Its effects are longer lasting than the dopamine hit you get from doing something that’s not healthy.
Afterward, you can have ice cream if you want to.