Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Let's Talk....Mental Wellness

Bell Let’s Talk Day….

No matter what you think of the corporation personally, no other organization has done more to lift the veil on mental illness and to get people talking than Bell with its Let’s Talk initiative. You have to give them a standing ovation for that.

So Let’s Talk.

What do I want to say this year about mental health? I want to say Let’s Talk about Mental Wellness. Mental health is an invisible equivalent of physical health, in varies in degrees, prognosis and outcome. And just like physical health, benefits from Wellness and prevention.

To keep mental illness simple in my own mind I have it broken down into 3 types, knowing full well that it really over simplifies the issue. Really most people with mental illness are a cocktail. That’s not mean, it’s honest. I’ve earned that liberty through my own struggles with mental illness to state it. I think that most everyone I know with mental illness would say the same thing.

My Type 1

Some people are crippled with the mental equivalent of a physical cancer. Their own mind destroys itself through chemical imbalances or hardwiring. Sometimes there are miracles of modern medicine that can help, medications, treatments, therapies but the truth is mental illness in this category is managed but never eradicated for those who suffer. When you have this type of mental illness people talk about how well you are doing.

My Type 2

Mental Illness that is self-inflicted; triggered and fed by personal choices and behaviour. Alcohol and drug addictions as an example fall under this category. Much the same way a person mistreats their body with poor diet, smoking and lack of exercise and acquires heart disease, diabetes or emphysema; this is mental illness that results from personal choice. And yes, I understand there are guaranteed underlying circumstance; including type 1 suffering, conditioning, environment, upbringing, unexplored personal issues. But….I also believe that like heart decease, a person can, if they are willing to make the sacrifices, put in the work and reinvent the way they approach life, reverse and repair the damage of this type of mental disease. When you have this type of mental illness people talk about how bad you’re doing.

My Type 3

Type 3 is the kind of mental illness you catch. Just like the flu or a cold, if you hang out long enough in the wrong places, breath in enough bad air, ingest enough germs you will come down with it and you will be contagious. Type 3 mental illness is a bad mood that turns into a bad day that, left untreated, turns into a bad life or worse morphs itself into type 2 illness or even a type 3 illness. When you have this type of mental illness, eventually people stop listening.

Nobody wants type 1 or 2 or 3 ……nobody. So we have to be diligent practicing prevention and management. In the same way we eat right, exercise, fill our bodies with probiotics, antioxidants and take vitamins and supplements in the name of preventive physical health and wellness our mental health benefits from the same kind of attention.  There are things we can do every day to boost and maintain our mental wellness.

Here are some of my favourites:

·         Eat for good brain chemistry: limit sugar, artificial ingredients, caffeine and preservatives and yes even alcohol (yes, red wine is alcohol—I’m sorry). Fill up on nutrient rich foods.

·         Get moving: exercise releases stress and tension and produces amazing mood boosting chemicals. You don’t have to train for a marathon if that’s not your thing. Think yoga, go for a walk, join a team, go swimming, ride your bike…Do something you enjoy, it makes it easier to stick with.

·         Unplug: This is maybe one of the most amazing things you can do. We are plugged in and accessible 24/7 and it messes with our mood in ways we can’t even comprehend. Beyond the constant tug of artificial stimulation there is the constant submersion in the emotional world of personal (and not to personal) relationships…good ones and not so good ones. Give yourself a break. Give yourself a curfew; turn off your phone, your computer, your tablet and let go. Spend a weekend out of reach – could you do it?

·         Go out…..side: Something amazing happens when you spend time in nature. That peace and quiet you feel…your whole body feels it. Some people think it is the negative ions given off by nature that sooth the spirit – I think that is very true. Go outside, your body needs fresh air and sunshine and the sound of birds chirping and streams flowing.

·         Sleep: I love sleep. If you aren’t getting any do something about it.

·         Keep good company: the only thing more contagious than a good mood is a bad one. Maintain relationships with people who are positive, who want the best for you and for themselves and who strive to live drama free.

·         Feed your passion: everyone should have a hobby to escape to and recharge their passion batteries—at least weekly if not daily! Especially if your job leaves you unfilled and your family is young and needy (did I just say that?). Read, craft, ride your motorcycle, sing, play music, paint, sew, garden, play cards, write, draw, do marital arts, collect, coach….do something you love.

·         Be quiet: This is one of my favourites… Meditation…so worth learning. Reduces stress, improves sleep, lowers blood pressure, boosts your mood and immunity and provides some great one on one time with yourself to really explore how you feel about life and pull some problems by the roots – (if you want some leads on some great books and how to people and info – just let me know…I’m always happy to share!) Did I mention I LOVE meditation?

·         Have a Bad Day: Everybody has them, if you’re having one embrace, finish it and go to bed.  Wake up to a brand new day in the morning

·         Find somebody to talk to: Talking really is a huge key to mental wellness; we need people to bounce our trouble off of. We need people who will be honest and compassionate and not judgemental. We need people who are willing to listen to our problems not solve them. Find a go to person who always makes you feel better and connect with them often.

·         Find somebody to listen to: When people you love express a concern for you, for your mental health, your stress level your wellbeing------listen! Some things are so much easier to see from the outside in.

·         Get help: If you feel like you should get help—you need to seek help.

Happy Let's Talk Day. Here's to Mental Wellness!