Growth. Stretching. Moving. Changing.
As I sit to write this, my mind is connecting the dots between National Mental Health Month and Growth, our theme for this month. In our society and our culture, the words “mental health” carry a stigma. Many think of people with mental health issues as being mentally challenged or mentally ill. They think of people in the news they see reported as mentally unstable. And while these are all very real and important parts of mental health, they are a part of the mental health spectrum. Mental health is a continuum and broadly defined. I would like to narrow this down by asking you to reflect on the Merriam-Webster (online) first definition of the word mental:
of or relating to the mind; specifically : of or relating to the total emotional and intellectual response of an individual to external reality mental health
Friends, when we look at this definition, we all experience mental issues. As humans we all are called to respond to external realities (job losses, death, divorce, family changes, medical diagnosis, pregnancies, work stress…) and we respond based on our total emotional and intellectual faculties. Mental health, therefore, is working toward assuring that our emotional and intellectual, or our mental, faculties are as healthy as possible to navigate the ups and downs of life.
As the owner of a wellness practice, I look at mental health and mental wellness as synonymous. Whether you have a medical condition that affects the biochemistry and neural pathways in your brain (mental illness) or whether your emotional and intellectual faculties are being taxed and not up to managing life stressors, the goal is the same: to work toward mental wellness. If you are fortunate enough to be at a time and place in life where you are not struggling with either, you, too, have a responsibility to continue to promote your mental wellness.
Let’s look at another wellness spectrum: cardiac wellness. There are acute (severe) cardiac events that require immediate attention and skilled treatments. There are less severe events that require skill and monitoring. And there is heart health in which we eat foods that are good for our body and exercise 150 minutes/week (current AHA recommendation) for good heart health. No matter what condition the heart is in, there is always room for growth in your heart health.
If you take these heart concepts and parallel them to mental health, you can see that no matter where you fall on the spectrum at this particular point in your life, everyone has room to grow. In line with “heart health” what kinds of things promote “mental health”? There are many subtle areas you can work to grow in to improve your mental wellness.
Get 7 hours of sleep per night.
Hydrate your bodies with water.
Getting fresh air.
Nourishing your body with healthy foods.
Say yes to things that are healthy, saying no to things that are not healthy for you.
Connect. Studies show that connecting with others on a deep level improves our mental wellness.
For deeper mental wellness, I recommend building team of wellness practitioners. My passion for helping others heal is what drove me to create a multidisciplinary team for healing and for growth. If you know me or have read my previous blogs, you know I strongly believe in the power of psychotherapy and honor my role as a psychotherapist. I also hold the truth that psychotherapy is one lens in facilitating growth. Our team offers a comprehensive wellness intake in which we listen for all the things that are working well in your life as well as areas that may help grow your wellness. After we meet as a team you are given a recommended integrative treatment plan aimed to improve your overall wellness. Every one of our disciplines (psychotherapy, yoga, acupuncture, qigong, mindfulness) is aimed at not only treating illness, but promoting physical and mental wellness. We believe in going deeper than surface healing. Surface healing is symptom management: addressing the presenting symptom with treatment to reduce or remove the symptom. Deep healing occurs when our team works in tandem with you and with each other to uncover the root of the symptom. We offer a multidisciplinary approach to strengthening the emotional and intellectual faculties skills that foster self-healing. This deeper healing facilitates not only reduction in symptoms and healing, but also true growth.
This month, National Mental Health Month, I encourage you to mindfully bring an awareness to your mental health and look for areas in which you can continue to stretch, to move, to change, and to grow.