In honor of National Mental Health Month, I’d like to kick my blog off with an overview of mental health, mental illness, and how it may affect you as a student and a mother. These roles are very demanding, and when combined can lead to a lot of stress. Stress, in my opinion, can make a mental illness seem much worse. Tackling mental health and raising awareness for mental illness is a major goal of mine. Please join me in a discussion in the comments, ladies you are not alone.
In honor of the 2017 National Mental Health Month, I’d like to open up with some information about risky behaviors that can increase your risk of developing a mental illness, further worsen a mental illness, or could be a sign itself of mental illness.
Risky Business: Risky Behaviors
- Marijuana Use
- Compulsive Sex
- RX Misuse
- Internet Addiction
- Compulsive Shopping
- Compulsive Exercise
This list, provided by Mental Health America, outlines behaviors that are considered risky. For this year’s Mental Health Month, Mental Health America chose to outline and go over risky behaviors to watch for. I urge you to take their quiz to see how much you know about risky behaviors. Go here to give it a shot.
My Experience with Mental Illness
While I think my mental health, currently, is fairly stable, I want to share my experience with you so that hopefully you can feel more comfortable opening up about yours if you have any. I grew up in an environment with domestic violence and chemical dependency. I’ve always thought of myself as someone who was strong enough to survive this upbringing with no “scars.” But I was wrong. I had not received help for my symptoms until a couple months ago. After suffering from extreme irritability, lack of sleep, sleeping too much, and an extreme lack of energy for months I decided to get help. I had the hardest time just getting up to shower. Something so simple, and refreshing, and I could not get the strength to do it. It felt like more effort than it was worth.
I also struggled with suicidal ideations, not that I would ever act on those thoughts. They were there, and they were common. I wanted to feel normal, I wanted my kids to know that I was okay. I wanted my mental health back, and I just didn’t know how to do it on my own. Mental health is something I have always taken seriously, but I wasn’t aware of my own symptoms! Being open about mental health with our family and friends will help raise awareness. We should all work towards ending the stigma around mental illness.
Mental Health & Self-Care
Mental health should be a priority, as part of your self-care routine, whether you have a mental illness or not. Applying self-care techniques that will boost and support your mental health will help defend you against mental illness and can battle the common symptoms faced by those who do have a mental illness.
Caring for your mental health does not have to be a time-consuming activity, although if left to worsen it can take more time to get well again. I understand that it can be hard to make time for you when you’re busy keeping your grades up and caring for your littles. But if you spend a small amount of time each day on an activity that you enjoy, or that allows you to unwind, you will benefit so much.
Personally, I have found that exercise is amazing and relieving stress and also easing the symptoms of my own mental illness. I get it, when you’re down and feeling bad about yourself getting up to go to the gym or put energy into a workout is difficult. If you do it once, you’ll feel the benefits and you’ll want to do it again.
My suggestion for you ladies is to create a self-care plan. Take 20+ minutes each and every day to do something that makes you feel happy, confident, loved, excited, and relaxed. (No, you don’t have to cover all of those for each activity, haha.) I have many hobbies, therefore I am never bored for long.
Some things I enjoy doing include reading, knitting, crocheting, writing, and running. Yes, I said running. I attempt to go to the gym regularly, even though there are times I don’t go for days. Going just once gives me days of benefits. Exercise is such a great way to practice self-care because it’s good for your mind and your body. If you don’t believe me, check out this article The Exercise Effect, from the American Psychological Association.
On top of enjoyable activities, going to the doctor and the dentist regularly will keep your body in proper working order. Your mind will be healthier when your body is healthy. Keeping yourself healthy and sane will boost the rest of your life.
Being A Student & A Mom: Your Mental Health
The stress of being a college student is enough to risk your mental health. Adding in the role of mother can make it very hard to keep up with your health. As I noted before, self-care is important for your physical and mental health. I want everyone to know that having a mental illness does not make you a bad student, or a bad mother. Sometimes you will need to take a day off, you may need to find a sitter and take a rest. The rest not spent studying will leave you feeling replenished and can give you the energy to step back into your roles on the right foot.
If you hadn’t known, women are at a higher risk of developing mental illnesses. If you look at the following infographic, you can see how common mental illness is for us ladies.
Women’s mental health is a concern, especially for those who do have multiple stressors in their life. Staying aware of the risks and warning signs can keep you on top of your mental health. Take it from me, you don’t want to go down the steep hill that is depression or anxiety. I’ve gone down that hill and it is a rocky climb back up. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and know that while we don’t know each other personally, I am here for you also. You are always welcome to reach out to me, I’ll do everything I can to help you as much as possible.
If you or a loved one are suffering, there is always help available. Reach out to your local crisis center or call the help hotline at 1-800-273-8255. If you feel you may be showing signs of mental illness, you can take a screening tool to find out more. These tools should not substitute a medical diagnosis, and if you feel you may have an illness you should reach out to your primary care physician as soon as possible.
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