Are You Ignoring Your Mental Wellness?
By Dr. Mikol S. Davis
Maybe the new year brings with it the usual resolutions to lose weight, get more exercise, and take care of other neglected things. But have you ever heard of making a resolution to take better care of your mental health?
Probably not. Like most good health we have for a time, we tend to take it for granted. But unlike a lot of our physical health, a decline in our mental wellness can be completely invisible. Caregivers may start out doing a few chores for Mom or Dad. The burden gradually increases, and we just do what needs to be done, without really thinking about it much. We feel increasing stress, but it’s not a visible thing like putting on weight in our bodies. We need not wait until we collapse to take some preventive steps to protect our mental health.
When we get physically out of shape, we can see the scale. We can tell if our clothes don’t fit so well anymore. We usually notice. But our mental wellness? What tangible things can we look at to tell if it’s sliding? Mental wellness is more subtle. The physical manifestations can look like something else. We may feel sluggish, and lacking in energy. We dismiss this as just being tired with so much to do. We may start to lose interest in things we used to enjoy doing. We might sleep a lot or not enough. Weight may fluctuate in an unusual way. We chalk it all up to being overworked, and don’t think about how the spirit may be suffering.
Difficulty concentrating, lack of energy, feeling overwhelmed, and physical symptoms such as changes in appetite, pains, indigestion and others can all be warning signs that our mental wellness is in trouble. The stresses of being a caregiver can readily diminish our mental health. It’s up to us to protect it, just as it’s up to us to maintain good health habits for our bodies.
If you go to a dentist for a checkup, the dentist may tell you that you haven’t been flossing regularly and tell you that you need to improve your dental hygiene. But when it comes to mental wellness, your friends don’t generally tell you the equivalent of what the dentist says at a checkup: you need to improve your mental hygiene. There isn’t exactly an equivalent for your mental health of “flossing regularly”, but there are some things you can do to stay mentally healthy.
Here are three good New Year’s resolutions to protect our mental wellness.
In case you haven’t noticed, you can kill all three birds with one stone: take a break from those tasks that must get done, find a fun way to exercise and do this for your own, uninterrupted 20 minutes. Now that’s a New Year’s resolution you can handle.
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