In these uncertain times, getting through each day can be a challenge. It is not surprising that, at times, and more often than you would care to admit, you are feeling overwhelmed, confused, unprepared, frustrated, hopeless, and a score of other emotions. Even when you try not to feel this way, it can be difficult for you to pull yourselves out of these emotional states. If this sounds like you, it is likely that your daily life experiences are impacting your mental health.
Mental health encompasses a great deal. It includes your ability to feel, express and manage a range of emotion, form and maintain good relationships with others, and cope with and manage change and uncertainty. Because of the comprehensive nature of mental health, it is necessary that you see it as an area of importance in your lives and do your very best to prioritize it. It may be hard to figure out how to do that given all the other areas of responsibility and various tasks you have to deal with every day, so here are a few tips to help you.
1. Changes in your mental health status are normal. Everyone can experience periods of time during which they feel less like their normal selves, and the changes can be either positive or negative. It is usually when these changes begin to impact your ability to function that they may require intervention or assistance from a professional. Don’t be overly concerned about small shifts in your mental health, especially during your teen years. The physical changes that occur during adolescence have a significant impact on your mental health as well, so some of the things you may experience may seem odd or extreme but in reality, they are very common and temporary in nature.
2. Your own comfort level is important. Even though many of the mental health fluctuations you may experience are considered normal, if you are having difficulty dealing with them, please seek help. Not everyone has the same tolerance for change and for some people, intervention needs to take place earlier. Talking to a trusted support person or connecting with a mental health professional does not have to wait until your functioning is impaired and things are beginning to spiral out of control. When YOU determine that you are not managing things as well as you would like or when YOU decide that talking with someone would be helpful, do it. Mental health is fluid, and it manifests differently in each person, so do what feels right for you.
3. You can address some mental health concerns yourself. If you are able to pinpoint the things in your lives that are contributing to your discomfort and mental health issues, then do your best to decrease your involvement or investment in those things. If you notice that you aren’t taking time to do things that put you at ease or make you happy, try to find ways to put those things back into your lives as often as possible. Stress and time management, sufficient nutrition and sleep go a long way to help restore and maintain mental health. Make sure you are addressing these areas consistently.
4. In order to know when it is appropriate to seek help from others, you first have to be self-aware enough to recognize your own discomfort and/or changes in functioning. Please do not rely on others to tell you when something is going on with you. They may be well intentioned, but they could easily be wrong. The expert on you is you. Mental health professionals use the term baseline a lot, and I want to explain what that means. Your baseline is your personal average level of functioning. That means how you feel, think, and act most of the time. If you don’t know you own baseline, how can you accurately say when something is off? If you are not in the habit of taking a self-inventory to gage your overall wellbeing, I strongly recommend that you start doing so immediately.
5. Adolescence is a time when friends and relationships are paramount, but please don’t forget about yourself. If you can’t find motivation to pay attention to yourself and your mental health, then use your friends and family as motivation to do so. Protecting and addressing your mental health allows friendships and other relationships to start off and remain healthy. Not taking care of yourselves is going to impact those around you. Your wellbeing is important to those who care about you, so by taking care of yourselves, you are indirectly helping your loved ones.
Adolescence, as difficult as it may be at times, is only the beginning. As you transition into adulthood, life will continue to challenge you. Understanding and addressing your mental health needs will never stop being important. In fact, it becomes more critical as you get older, since you will be entirely responsible for your own health maintenance as an adult. Getting into the practice of self-awareness and advocacy early is one of the best things you will ever do for yourselves. Continue to harness and utilize the power of choice. Choose to take care of yourselves.
Until next time,