Some people can have good physical health their entire lives, while others could be plagued with chronic illness. Those with chronic illness would make changes in order to accommodate the diagnosis but continue to live a happy life. However, they could still have episodes where their disease brings with it challenges. Mental illness is no different. Being diagnosed with a mental illness does not mean that your life holds no value, or that you will not live a good, happy life like the next person, it simply means that you need to adjust your lifestyle to accommodate your illness. The first step to dealing and taking charge of mental illness starts with maintaining good mental health.
What’s The Difference?
There is a difference between mental health and mental illness, although, despite the differences, there are also intricate ways in which the two interact. “Mental health includes multiple aspects of our wellbeing; it affects our thinking, our behavior and how we feel.” according to Dina Alkhoury, PsyD.
Mental Health refers to the health or state of your mental well-being. It is possible that a person can have poor mental health but not have a mental illness, for example suffering anxiety or episodes of panic. Your mental well-being includes your emotions, thoughts, ability to make choices, solve problems and even how we interact socially. We all experience days where we feel a little stressed, run down or even feel overwhelmed. Good mental health is not about being happy all the time, or not feeling emotions like stress, it is about continuing to live your life, find solutions to your problems, and make realistic choices and decisions despite the emotions or stress you are experiencing.
Mental Illness is the general term used to refer to an illness that affects the state of your mental health, how you process emotions and your ability to make realistic decisions. “Mental illness is a combination of neurobiology and psychological influences, not a weakness in character,” says Deborah Serani, PsyD. There are a number of illnesses and disorders, each with their own set of symptoms and each impact a person’s life differently but the one thing they all have in common is that that would alter the state of your mental health.
The Intricate Interactions
It is important to remember that having a mental illness does not automatically mean you will have poor mental health. Someone with a mental illness such as Mood Disorder like Bipolar or Depression can still have good mental health, they can be productive and they can process emotions and make good choices, just being diagnosed with mental illness does not mean you are incapable of making good choices or decisions, it just means that you would need to find ways to maintain good mental health.
Finding and Maintaining Good Mental Health:
Find ways to balance and maintain control of how your illness will affect your life. Knowledge is power and knowing you can deal with your illness gives you power over how it affects your mental health. Here are a few tips to finding ways to support good mental health:
- Seek out support groups. Knowing you are not dealing alone, sharing feelings, experiences and learning coping skills through others is a good start to finding your balance.
- Find the value in your life. Take up a hobby, volunteer, give time to your community and participate in community projects.
- Keep physically active, walk, go to the gym or simply take a stroll. “A person’s mood changes from place to place. The best treatment for this problem (depression) is to increase the variety of places a person visits, and increase the frequency with which they get out of their usual spots.” according to R. Wolf Shipon, PhD, a licensed psychologist.
- Maintain good health, get enough sleep and eat regular meals.
- Maintain your medication schedule if you have one.
- Most importantly, live life, take charge and be happy, your illness is nothing more than an obstacle. It could take a few tries but eventually, you will beat the challenges the obstacle presents. Never give up, keep trying.