Wellness: There Is A Way Out: Mental Health Spotlight | Community
“I felt like I was at the bottom of a deep well without coming out.” This is how a patient described his symptoms of depression to me. Another panic attack patient said, “All of a sudden I was scared and thought I was going to die, but I didn’t know why.”
Our mental health is just as important as our physical, and the two are closely related. After all, our brain is part of our body. Over 20 years ago I experienced depression that required medical treatment. I also felt like I was at the bottom of a well. I couldn’t understand why the people around me were enjoying life when I couldn’t find joy in my own life. I sought medical help and successfully got through and came out the other side.
From this episode I learned that self-care is vital to both our physical and mental health.
Many of the lifestyle choices that improve our physical health can also improve our mental health. Mental health problems can sometimes be as serious as physical health problems. So don’t hesitate to contact your doctor if you have any concerns.
The National Institute of Mental Health says it well, “Mental health is more than the absence of any mental illness – it is critical to your overall health and quality of life.”
What steps can we take to be sane?
Move! – No, I don’t mean packing your suitcase and moving. I mean move your body! Walking 30 minutes a day can do wonders. It can even be broken up into 10-minute walks three times a day. If you can only run for 20 minutes or 10 minutes at a time, go for it. Join a hiking group for group support and fun interaction Or check the TBCC catalog in your mailbox each quarter for the latest group fitness programs from partners like Tillamook YMCA and NCRD.
Spend time outdoors – science tells us we get additional benefits from being outside. Being outside can be a chance to take a break and enjoy some quiet.
Making healthy food choices – including plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in your diet will help reduce inflammation, aid digestion, and make you feel better overall. The Mediterranean diet is a good place to start.
Sleep – Try to get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep as often as possible. Avoid using your cell phone, computer, or television just before bed, as blue screens can make a good night’s sleep difficult.
Stay connected with positive people – spend time with supportive friends and family. Healthy relationships help us feel better.
Relax – Try to take time to sit and relax every day without using your computer, TV, or cell phone (unless you are using a relaxation app). Try meditation, prayer, yoga, tai chi, qi gong, or other calming activities. This is time for YOU. Check the Tillamook YMCA’s schedule for free community classes like Tai Chi and Qi Gong.
Practice gratitude – make a list of things you are grateful for and think of 3 positive things that happened during the day before you go to bed.
If you’re already feeling stressed or overwhelmed, this list might be too long to do all at once. Select an activity from the list that you want to focus on and give it a try. I’ve been working on getting consistent sleep and it made a huge difference in how I felt.
What can we do to help a friend or loved one who is struggling with mental health problems? Best to be present. Be with them. Listen. They don’t have to give advice or try to solve their problems. As someone who has been in this situation, I can tell you that only having someone by your side can make all the difference in the world.
And when you feel you need professional help, you know your options are available. Talk to your doctor. Many primary care practices have mental health professionals as part of their patient care team to help you get the care you need.
Like physical health, mental health is not just a condition. Just as our physical health can be affected by a variety of problems such as asthma, diabetes, or high blood pressure, our mental health can be affected by a variety of problems such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, bipolar disorder, and others. The National Institute of Mental Health website has a list of health topics designed to help us learn more about and understand our mental health.
Knowledge is power. Understanding mental health helps us deal with it better. And self-care is the only thing we can do ourselves, often at no additional cost.
Visit the Tillamook County Wellness Page for more articles on staying sane.
Dr. Ben Douglas has been in the healthcare industry for more than 35 years. He is a specialist in family medicine and lifestyle medicine. His focus is on keeping people healthy from birth through the golden years. In his spare time, Dr. Douglas likes the guitar.
For more local health and wellness information, visit www.tillamookcountywellness.org or follow Tillamook County Wellness on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.