Matter of the Mind: Why Your Mental Health Matters and How You Can Care for It

by Dr. Kaitlyn Werner, Internal Medicine

When you think about your health, what first comes to mind? For many – if not most – of us, it’s probably our physical health. Are we eating healthy? Are we exercising regularly? Are we feeling tired? Or ill? Do our joints ache? Have we scheduled our annual check-up?

All these questions are, of course, important ones to answer, but there’s another question we should be asking – another part of our health that deserves attention: How is our mental health?

Our mental health has a tremendous impact on our overall health and well-being. Our mental health includes our thoughts, emotions, feelings and moods. It influences our choices, actions and how we relate to others. Good mental health can help us cope with stress, succeed in our professional lives, more effectively recover from difficult situations and add value to our community and be our best self.

It’s important to understand that maintaining good mental health can often be a challenge. Mental health conditions are quite common. According to statistics published by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five U.S. adults experience mental illness, and one in 20 adults experience serious mental illness. So, if you are struggling to maintain good mental health, you are definitely not alone. Remember that it is ok to speak up and ask for help if you’re suffering from a mental health condition. The benefits of seeking professional help and treatment can make a positive difference in your overall health and quality of life. Anxiety and depression are not only treatable but curable. A common misconception is that the only way to manage these challenges is a lifelong commitment to prescription medication; with the right treatment, you don’t have to feel like this forever and you don’t necessarily have to rely on medication forever, either.

In addition to professional care, there are some steps you can take at home and in life to improve mental wellness:

  • Take care of your body. Exercise can help burn anxious energy, prevent muscle tension, release endorphins that help you feel relaxed, and build strength and endurance which can boost your confidence.
  • Eat healthy. Avoiding processed and high-fat foods can help prevent lethargic feelings and a lack of motivation, concentration and energy.
  • Learn a new skill or engage in a new activity. Challenging your brain can result in positive and healthy stimulation and promote mental wellness.
  • Make time for family and friends. Building and maintaining healthy relationships can go a long way toward long-term mental well-being.
  • Ensuring that you’re getting the sleep your mind and body needs can help prevent fatigue and ensure you have the energy and mindset to navigate tomorrow.
  • Meditation can help relax your mind and body. Even one minute of quiet meditation during your workday can make a difference.
  • Practice deep breathing. Deep breathing gives your brain and muscles necessary oxygen and can help keep your mind and body healthy.

Of course, the most important step, as mentioned before, is to talk to a mental health professional or your primary care provider if you are struggling with maintaining good mental health. They can help you with tips and treatment individualized to your unique needs and circumstances. It’s important to remember that going to your first appointment with a psychologist or counselor is like a first date – it’s nerve-wracking and the first person you “date” might not be the one you “marry.” That’s OK! Don’t give up if the first person you talk with isn’t the best fit for you. Keep searching. These relationships take time to build and can be incredibly helpful when given a chance to succeed.

Your mental health is a valuable and vital part of your well-being. This National Mental Health Month and all year long, make sure you’re giving it the care and attention it needs so you can be your best self and enjoy all that life has to offer.

If you think that you or someone you know may be suffering from a mental health condition, Paris Regional Medical Center can help. Visit ParisRegionalMedical.com for more information, or call 903.737.3232 to get connected with the right care that can improve your mental health and enhance your overall well-being. Additionally, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers free and confidential support at 800.273.8255 for anyone experiencing suicidal crisis or emotional distress.

For more on the importance of mental health, visit www.mentalhealth.gov and www.nami.org.