8 Mental Health Self-Care Practices to Caution your Cognitive Well-being

Mental health, defined as emotional, psychological, and social well-being, is a critical component of overall health. A good mental health state means you can connect, function, thrive, and cope with today’s fast-paced lifestyle without exhibiting mental health problems. Multiple factors around us can singly or combined affect our mental health. Individual, family, community, and structural perspectives can work to protect or undermine our mental health status. Factors such as poverty, violence, or inequality can influence and put pleasure on our psychological well-being risking many individuals to mental health conditions. These risks can occur at any time during a lifetime but are most detrimental when they occur during the developmental stage of early childhood.

Globally, one in every eight people lives with a mental health problem. Mental health problems are recognized as the leading cause of years lost to disability and contribute to one in every six years lived with disability (YLD). In addition, mental disorders account for a huge economic burden from lost productivity and indirectly through health-related costs.  

However, despite the adverse consequences of mental health problems, they continue to suffer from low attention worldwide.  

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Types of mental illness

Mental health problems present with many facetsand are grouped into; 

Anxiety disorders

Anxiety is an intrinsic way of dealing with stress. It creates a fight or flight mode that helps us react to dangerous situations. Anxiety becomes a concern when it is prolonged and affects normal function. Excessive anxiety is the most common form of mental illness. It presents with phobias or persistent feelings of worry over daily events. This fear makes it impossible to perform activities, is hard to control, and is usually out of proportion with the actual situation. 

Mood disorders

A mood disorder is a mental health condition that affects emotions with persistent feelings of extreme sadness, hopelessness, elevated mood, or both. It can also present with other emotional conditions like anger and irritability. A mild change in feelings is natural, it becomes a problem when it persists for several days or weeks rendering the person unable to perform daily activities.

The most common mood disorders are depression and bipolar disorders.

Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a serious psychotic mental condition that influences how a person thinks, feels, or behaves. People with schizophrenia present with a loss of reality and experience the world in a distorted way. Thought distortion, is usually complicated by delusions or false beliefs of nonexistent occurrences, or an illogical way of thinking with thought and speech disorganization. The person may have a flight of ideas and move from one topic to another with meaningless sentences. 

Risk factors for mental health conditions

Several factors are involved in the genesis of mental health problems; 

Genetics

Some mental illnesses tend to run in families, a possible genetic predisposition. A recent study of the five major mental disorders; schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and autism pointed to a likelihood of shared genetic risks. However, studies have also pointed out that no one psychiatric disorder is 100% hereditary, and multiple external factors greatly influence their manifestation.

For example, a bipolar disorder with a global prevalence of 1-4% is 70-90% genetically triggered even without environmental factors. Likewise, schizophrenia is 70% to 80% hereditary from the first degree.

Adverse childhood experiences

Adversity in childhood increases the risk of mental illness in children and later adult years. Life experiences in the first three years shape how children withstand challenges later in life. Children raised in a stressful environment, encountering mistreatment, violence, and physical and emotional traumas are at greater risk of mental disorders. Other biological shocks like malnutrition and infections can change the trajectory of child health with psychosocial maladaptation.

The United State National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine discusses factors that put children at higher risk of mental maladaptation later in life. Sustained and chronic physical and emotional abuse, neglect, exposure to a violent environment, and accumulated family economic hardships can trigger a toxic stress response that disrupts brain structures. Cumulatively, the toxic stress responses lay the foundation for future mental health problems later in life.

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Socioeconomic pressure

Low socioeconomic status affects mental health and well-being. People in the lower social strata suffer multiple deprivations and life stressors related to financial capacity, social relationships, employment hardships, and ailments than people in higher economic strata. Moreover, low socioeconomic status exposes people to adverse life events such as poor household income, unemployment, hunger, malnutrition, and domestic violence. Exposure to sustained poor life events is a modifiable risk for mental health problems.

Mental health Self-Care

Self-care is a multidimensional process of practices aimed at purposefully enhancing well-being. It is a conscious decision a person undertakes to promote physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

Self-care builds resilience to navigate daily stressors that are unavoidable. It encompasses the care of the mind and body so that days are better and well-lived. There are several components of self-care; mental, physical, emotional, social, and spiritual well-being.

Mental Health Self-Care Practices 

Mental health self-care is a group of activities to promote psychological well-being. Our actions are products of our thoughts from things we perceive in our minds. To achieve optimal mental well-being, below are activities that can help nourish our cognitive functions;

  1. Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a way to pay attention to the present, be aware of our thoughts and manage them. We all have episodes when we are overwhelmed, stressed, or frightened. These feelings can pass without much attention, it becomes a problem when negative thoughts linger for a long time.

Mindfulness practice relieves stress, anxiety, depression, and addictive behaviors. Some mindful practices include meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises. 

  • Invest in a Nutritious Diet

If we are what we eat, then brain functions are equally affected by diet. A nutritious diet provides brain power in the form of energy, improves cognitive function, and breakdown harmful substances that cause mental decline.

A balanced diet that is nutrient-dense from whole grains, legumes, quality protein, fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats provides essential nutrients to the brain. Omega-3 fatty acids, folate, iron, magnesium, zinc, and vitamins A, B, and C are crucial for maintaining vibrant mental health.  

Reduce or take with caution foods that contain inflammatory markers linked with mental decline. Ultra-processed foods, sugar-sweetened beverages, food rich in trans fat, and excess sodium are examples.  

  • Be Physically Active

Physical activity in any form is not only great for your body but your mind too. During physical activity, the brain releases chemicals that make you feel good, increase your self-esteem, and concertation, and at night you can sleep soundly.

Most people associate physical activity with expensive gym schedules, sports, or organized programs that can be deterrents. Physical activity does not need to be too expensive or confined in an environment. Rather, it should include all activities that increase body movement and burn energy. Physical activity boosts energy, reduces stress, and increases focus, confidence, and appetite. 

Brisk walking is one of the best-recognized forms of physical activity that has multiple benefits. It helps burn excess energy and prevent adiposity, strengthens bones and joints, and maintains balance and posture.

Household chores, gardening, shoving waste, wheeling a wheelbarrow, or carrying heavy shopping bags are all forms of physical exercise that have benefits for the body and mind.

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  • Spend Time Out in Nature

A breath of fresh air is soothing. Go outside and connect with nature. Some activities are better done out of the house like gardening, walking the pet, and tending to flowers.

Scientist associate nature with improved mood, reduced anger, stress, and improved physical health. Being active is an opportunity to interact with your community, avoid loneliness, and promote self-esteem and confidence. Even sitting under a tree and looking into the sky reduces stress and relax the mind.

  • Practice Self-acceptance

We cannot all be equal so learn to appreciate who you are. Self-acceptance or self-love is a critical component of mental well-being. Self-acceptance during difficult times is what set us apart from the rest. This is the unique definition of an individual or special characteristics that identify a person.

Self-acceptance means that you appreciate the positive aspects of your life and disregard the ones you cannot change. This is possible if you identify your capabilities and optimize them. Stop dwelling on things that you cannot change because they only waste time and resources, and is demoralizing. Put the best foot forward.

Having realistic goals that you forge to achieve, remaining true to the course, and tirelessly working towards achieving them. Always take credit for your achievement and appreciate your efforts. Value yourself, be kind, and do not over-criticize yourself when things do not turn out as planned.

Be in control of your life, do not give room to disappointment, and tap the power of positive thinking. Be the best version of yourself and appreciate even small gains knowing that they are the baby steps that will ultimately propel you forward.

  • Prioritize sleep

Sleep deprivation is one known leading cause of mental health disorders. In particular, sleep problems are more common in people with depression, anxiety, bipolar, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorders.

Though most of us lack proper sleep once in a while, insomnia is the most common form of sleep deprivation. Insomnia makes it hard to get to sleep, wake up several times during the night, or wake up very early in the morning. The results can cause sleepiness during the day, irritability, poor concentration, and difficulty remembering things.

  • Stay connected

Human beings have a natural need for social connections, love, care, and comfort. Ample evidence has demonstrated the impact of social isolation and loneliness on mental health. In one study, social isolation had a more profound effect on health than most chronic diseases and carried a greater risk of mortality, infections, and cognitive decline. In people with mental health problems, social connection creates a sense of belonging, security, and purpose. Giving or receiving support from others adds to life’s meaning and purpose.

  • Practice gratitude

One way to boost self-esteem is by being grateful. People who practice gratitude are happy, enjoy better relationships, and can avert negative thoughts. Gratitude inspires the brain to release dopamine and serotonin, the happiness hormones.

Gratitude has a trickle-down effect. It creates a happy feeling that lessens the release of cortisol, the stress hormone.

Be kind to others and yourself. Positive feelings increase your sense of well-being and contentment. Research shows that positive people are more likely to share with others, offer emotional support, and are more willing to forgive.

When to seek intervention

Despite your best intention to remain focused, grateful, and emotionally connected, you may face challenges that significantly distort your mental health. Seek intervention when you experience;

  • A significant change in your sleep pattern that denies you quality sleep
  • A change in appetite with unwarranted weight gain or weight loss
  • Loss of willpower that put you in bed for several days
  • Lack of interest in formally enjoyable activities
  • Inability to lead a gainful life and functions
  • Prolonged low mood with loss of self-esteem

To connect with others, give your comments in the box below.

Picture courtesy of freepik.com

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6 thoughts on “8 Mental Health Self-Care Practices to Caution your Cognitive Well-being

  1. This is wonderful Catherine,can’t stop reading it! Quite educative/ informative.i wish it can circulate to our school for our youth to read . keep it up..

    Like

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