In honor of National Mental Health Month, I’d like to start a discussion about mental health and mental illness. Specifically about risky behaviors and how they may affect your mental health. These behaviors can not only affect your mental health, but these effects can also leak into other areas of your life. Such as parenting, education responsibilities, and career or job responsibilities.
These roles are very demanding, and when combined can lead to a lot of additional stress in your life. Stress, in my opinion, can extend the symptoms of your mental illness beyond their normal range.
Tackling mental health and raising awareness for mental illness is a major tenet of this blog and it is a major portion of my life and career goals. Please feel free to join in with a discussion in the comments. No one is battling alone.
For National Mental Health Month 2017, I’d like to open up with some information about risky behaviors that can increase your risk of developing mental illness, further worsen a mental illness, and can be a sign itself of mental illness.
A risky behavior is a behavior that may seem harmless but can exacerbate symptoms of mental illness and cause symptoms. Risky behaviors, gathered from Mental Health America, fall under six categories.
Risky Business: Risky Behaviors Explored
I’m going to stir the pot here a little bit. I’m well aware that people have very differing views on marijuana use and the medical benefits of medical marijuana. But the marijuana use that I am referring to is recreational marijuana use.
Recreational marijuana can lead to addiction. Do I believe it is a “gateway” drug, no. But I do know that marijuana has psychological effects that are addictive. There is no physiological addiction to marijuana. But mentally, you are setting yourself up for behaviors that can worsen mental illness.
Your body becomes addicted to the mental effects of marijuana. The calmness, the relaxing effects, and the carelessness that occurs while in use. I’m not judging anyone, only making factual statements.
Sex addiction is real. Individuals with certain mental illnesses tend to use physical intimacy as a replacement for emotional intimacy.
Compulsive sex can be a sign of mental illness, but can also lead to worsening symptoms such as depression and anxiety around these behaviors.
Given the current status of opioid addiction and overdose in this country, I don’t think this topic needs further discussion. But this problem has been happening longer than just recently.
Individuals self-medicating physical ailments with Rx medications are putting their mental health at risk and this behavior should be closely monitored.
Yep, this day and age we are all connected to devices. It is so, so important to shut down once in a while. Take a break from the phone, the computer, the tablet and do something physical, read a book, anything really.
I feel it is also important to note that the internet can be beneficial to those with social anxiety as well though. Internet chat rooms provide relief and support to those who are psychologically incapable of venturing out into the world and making new friends. The internet also can provide a source of treatment for the right individual. Advances are being made in internet counseling, which I think will be so helpful to individuals who wouldn’t normally have access to treatment services otherwise.
But it’s important to keep in mind that these tools can be misused. A person can become addicted to the internet environment and rely on it for more than just helpful purposes.
Read more about chat rooms here: Pros and Cons of Anonymous Chat Rooms
I wouldn’t classify it as compulsive, but I’ve been known to partake in a little retail therapy now and again. I get it. Getting out and spending a little cash on yourself really can make you feel a whole lot better.
When shopping becomes the main form of “therapy” we tread into dangerous territory. This habit can destroy lives. Compulsive shopping can interfere with your ability to meet your basic needs for survival. Having a home and living in a stable environment in particular. If you are spending all of your money at the mall, you’ll have nothing left to keep a roof over your home.
I’ll be the first person to say that exercise does wonders for your mental health. And it can be tough to draw a line between healthy and excessive. But it’s important to give your body a break.
I’m not strict on my exercising, but when I am using the gym I like to go 2 days on, one day off. This gives my body the rest it needs but allows my mind to regularly reap the benefits of physical exercise.
This list was provided by Mental Health America, and for this year’s Mental Health Month, they chose to bring awareness to risky behaviors that can harm your mental health.
Want to find out if you have been partaking in any risky behaviors? Head to MHA and take their quiz to find out if your behaviors have become risky.
My Experience with Mental Illness
While I think that my mental health, currently, is fairly stable, I want to share with you my experience in hopes that you’ll feel more comfortable opening up about your own. Maybe you’ll even feel inspired enough to submit your recovery story for the Spotlight on Recovery series.
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 never reached out for treatment or help with my symptoms until this year. After suffering extreme irritability, lack of sleep, sleeping too much, and an extreme lack of energy for months, I decided to get help.
I was struggling with just getting up to shower. Something so simple and refreshing, and I couldn’t find 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 these thoughts, but they were there and they were common. I wanted to feel normal. I wanted my kids to know that I was okay. And I wanted my mental health back, 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 always aware of my own symptoms. Being open about our mental health with 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 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 and warding off risky behaviors doesn’t have to be a time-consuming activity. Although if it’s 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 up with your grades, building a business, keeping up with a home, and caring for your babies. But if you spend a small amount of time each day on an activity you enjoy, or that allows you to unwind, you’ll benefit so much.
Personally, I’ve found exercise to be the most beneficial and most stress-relieving. It has helped in easing many of my own symptoms. I get it, when you’re down and feeling bad about yourself it’s tough to get up and go to the gym. But if you do it once, you’ll feel the benefits and want to continue doing it.
Creating a Self-Care Plan
My suggestion for you ladies is to create a self-care plan. Take 20-30 minutes out of each day to do something that is totally for you. Something that makes you feel happy, confident, loved, excited, and most importantly relaxed.
No, the activity doesn’t have to make you feel all those things at once. Which is why it’s helpful to have more than one hobby. I myself have quite a few, which is why I’m never bored for long.
I attempt to go to the gym regularly, even though there are times that I don’t go for days (or longer). But going just once gives me days of benefits.
Exercise is such a great way to practice self-care because it’s not only good for your body, it’s good for your mind as well. If you don’t believe me, you should read The Exercise Effect from the American Psychological Association.
On top of having enjoyable activities to engage in regularly, going to the doctor and dentist will keep your body in proper working order. Your mind is much healthier when your body is healthy.
Women & Mental Illness
If you didn’t know, women are at a higher risk of developing mental illnesses. If you look through the following infographic, you can see how common mental illness is for us ladies.
Women’s mental health is a concern, especially for those of you who have multiple major roles in life. Staying aware of the risks and warning signs, such as risky behaviors, 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 been down it and it is a long, rocky climb back up. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and know that while we don’t personally, I am here for you too.
You are always welcome to reach out to me, I’ll do everything I can to help you as much as I can.