What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think mental health? Depression? Stress? Emotional wellbeing? All the above? Mental health is a key component of overall health, and it encompasses all these ideas and more. Mental health includes our emotional, social, and psychological well-being. It impacts our daily thoughts, feelings and actions, and it has the capacity to significantly influence our relationship with ourselves and those around us. If we are to attempt living a somewhat balanced life, taking care of our mental health is crucial.
Why should we care?
The importance of mental wellbeing cannot be overstated, especially as humankind continues to navigate a pandemic that has brought the world to its knees in a myriad of ways—most of them devastating. All around the world, many people are faced with realities of working remotely (or unemployment), home-schooling children, restricted physical contact, and increased isolation.
A KFF tracking poll carried out in mid-July last year revealed that 53% of Americans report that their mental health has been negatively impacted because of anxiety and stress from the pandemic. Additional research associates isolation and loneliness with poor mental health, and links job loss to anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and occasionally, increased substance use and suicide.
It is largely accepted that when we feel physically unwell, we take a trip to the doctor. For several reasons, however, we have not collectively embraced the importance of caring for our mental wellbeing in the same way. There is social stigma surrounding mental illness and therapy, and they are still taboo topics in many cultures that do not “believe” in illnesses like depression and anxiety or even qualify them as illnesses.
This ongoing pandemic has brought several things to the forefront of society’s consciousness, not the least of which is the insidious anti-Black racism that plagues the United States and the world at large—a public health crisis in itself. Mental health is another such issue. Burnout, stress, and anxiety are some of the major contributors to poor mental health, and these have all been heightened due to the pandemic and its multisectoral impact. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health today, and its implications for the future, are quite difficult to ignore.
There is social stigma surrounding mental illness and therapy, and there are many cultures that do not “believe” in illnesses like depression and anxiety or even qualify them as illnesses.
What can we do?
Thankfully, all hope is not lost. There is an abundance of resources available for mental wellbeing and many of them are online, which is convenient in today’s world. We all have a part to play in improving our collective mental health by learning, conversing, and actually taking steps to care for our own mental soundness, including asking for help when we need it.
Therapy is one—not the only—way to do this, and it has the potential to help improve physical health, overcome past trauma, cultivate better personal and professional relationships, get rid of bad habits and develop good ones. Personally, therapy has helped me find a sounding board and manage anxiety.
Sometimes, we feel unwell and visit a doctor with some diagnosis in mind, usually based on something we just read on WebMD. The doctor asks some questions, runs some tests, and comes back with a finding that is different than we imagined. When this happens, we often feel confident in their expertise. The same is possible for mental health. Mental health professionals—and there are legion—often know the right questions to ask and the right methods to employ to help us navigate our mental wellness.
Personally, therapy has helped me find a sounding board and manage anxiety.
Just like you don’t need to be physically sick to go to the doctor, you don’t need to have a mental illness to try therapy. I can confidently say that I am better off because I incorporated therapy into my wellness routine, and I am not alone. Nonetheless, I am not always able to afford consistent therapy sessions, and I know several people cannot afford it at all.
Daily practices like keeping a regular sleep schedule or relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises are some cost-effective ways to care for your mental health. Some days, I look up reflective prompts online and journal to my heart’s content, and this practice helps my mind feel reinvigorated. The point is—caring for your mental wellbeing can be as simple or as detailed as you want it to be. So, educate yourself (betterhelp is a good starting point), normalize talking about mental health with the people closest to you, and take advantage of any resources available to you.
It is just as important to be mentally sound as it is to be physically sound
What steps are you taking towards caring for your mental health today?
If you’re interested to learn more about Hult can support your mental health and wellbeing, check out our blog post on how the Health and Wellbeing teams across Hult’s campuses can help.