Living with a mental health condition, like any illness, can make life challenging. While the right treatment can help, overall wellness includes a balance of physical, mental and spiritual health.
“It’s important for all of us — with a mental health condition or not — to be mindful of our physical and emotional health,” says Dr. Eric van der Voort, a clinical psychologist affiliated with Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital. “There is an important link between our physical health and our mental health. When we feel better physically, we are better able to have a healthier mental outlook.”
According to Dr. van der Voort, when we have a healthy mental outlook, it is easier to continue doing those things that make us feel balanced, healthy and good. However, if we neglect certain aspects of our health — not getting enough sleep, lack of exercise or poor nutrition — our mental health suffers. For those with a mental health condition, it can exacerbate symptoms and create a downward spiral.
“If we neglect our emotional health when we have a mental health condition, we allow everyday stresses, anxieties, frustrations and disappointments to build until they become overwhelming,” he says. “For some, this can result in more visits to the doctor or therapist, relationship troubles, more time away from work and even hospitalization.”
In order to find balance in all aspects of your wellness, Dr. van der Voort recommends the following nine tips:
- Take your medications as prescribed.
Whether for your physical or mental health, taking medications regularly and as your doctor prescribes is important. If something isn’t controlling your symptoms or is giving you side effects, let your prescriber know so you can explore your options.
- Treat your body nicely.
Find a diet that works for you and that you can sustain long-term. Make sure to get enough sleep. Do anything that gets your body moving, your heart rate up and you out into the fresh air to help improve your health.
- Be kind to yourself.
Yes, you’ll make mistakes, forget things and say the wrong thing sometimes. But just like you’d tell your best friend if they did these things, you’re human. You have permission to forgive yourself and give yourself some slack.
- Challenge your thinking from time to time.
If you know you tend to see things pessimistically, ask yourself if there is any evidence that your negative thought is not true. Use that evidence to come up with a more balanced, realistic way of thinking about a situation.
- Connect with others.
Human beings are social creatures and we need interaction with others to really thrive. Whether it’s spending time with your family, your friends or co-workers, make sure to reach out to others and build relationships.
- Do what you love.
Whatever it is for you, find what makes you smile and gives you purpose. Whether it’s sports, nature, a passion for painting, your place of worship or volunteering, the more sources of meaning and fulfillment we have in our lives, the stronger we are.
- Know when to ask for help.
Even Superman can’t defeat kryptonite. We all have times when we are spread too thin emotionally and need a helping hand. This is when our friends and family can offer us love and support, but sometimes we also need the help of a professional.
- Know your limits.
Having healthy boundaries with others is important. If we overextend ourselves for others, we may neglect key aspects of self-care. If we’re too rigid in our boundaries, others are put off and we can feel lonely and isolated. Know that whatever limits you set are OK, and that you are entitled to change them.
- Watch the uppers and downers.
It’s important for anyone, but especially those with a mental health condition, to be mindful about what substances they consume — and how much. Alcohol can be an easy way to overcome social anxiety for a few hours, but a nasty hangover, guilt over poor decisions, interactions with your medications and possible misuse of the substance have longer-term consequences. While caffeine and nicotine can make us feel more alert and capable, they can also make us feel more anxious and irritable.
Dr. van der Voort notes that many people — even the famous and successful — have or have had a mental health diagnosis. People with mental health conditions can lead wonderfully fulfilling and meaningful lives.
Talk with your doctor if you have concerns about your mental health. There are evidence-based treatments — including medication, therapy or a combination of the two — to address mental health conditions. Learn more about Sharp’s mental health programs and support groups.
For the news media: To talk with Dr. Eric van der Voort about wellness for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.