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Mental Health In The New Year

You’ve probably heard this phrase before: “Mental health is like physical health.” But what exactly does that mean? For starters, they are related. Poor mental health is a risk factor for poor physical health. But the analogy extends further in that mental health can be approached and managed in the same manner as one’s physical health. This approach asks us to be proactive, rather than reactive. But how does the mind notify us of ongoing issues and what should we do when we notice these signals?

Our first notification presents itself rather overtly: stress can make you physically sick. As such, getting sick regularly can function as an indicator that our mental health needs attention. Furthermore, our emotions can be signals for mental health issues and attending to our emotions can be informative. However, many of us have learned mixed messages about how to respond to our feelings. If you’ve ever taken an important exam in your life, you likely felt nervous. However, you were also likely encouraged to “push through!” In this situation, there was some advantage to that approach; if the exam served as an obstacle to a goal, overcoming the potential impact of nervousness was likely beneficial. But “pushing through” the emotion of nervousness is not the most active coping mechanism. We would benefit more from attempting to identify the source of the emotion and subsequently evaluating our thinking patterns. This represents one of the more fundamental therapeutic approaches to establishing more functional cognitions.

However, therapy does not stop there. As you set out to learn coping skills and set your treatment goals, you’ll be asked to take a more refined approach to meet those goals. Athletes often take similar, deliberate approaches to their training. To improve at baseball, one doesn’t simply play baseball. Yes, playing the sport can help us to feel more comfortable in a game. But the sport itself is comprised of many nuanced components. Baseball players hit off of stationary tees to improve hand-eye coordination. They stretch and strength train to ensure their bodies can handle the wear and tear of playing the sport. They even watch film to help the mind become more practiced at differentiating between a fastball and a curveball. All of these acts (practiced in unison) help a baseball player improve in different facets of the game. And most importantly, they don’t see the payoff until these practiced acts have become habits!

The act of improving our mental health is the same. We can’t wait until the stressors have mounted! We must prepare for stressors when they are absent. Ensure you’re well-practiced before you challenge yourself. At some point in life, you will be thrown a curveball; it may happen when you are least expecting it. However, many of us can anticipate when these curveballs are coming. The holidays in particular can be difficult as we may be spending more time with family and friends. Others may be spending their first holiday without someone. As such, we must incorporate active coping skills in order to ensure we are taking care of our mental health.

As 2022 comes to a close, research indicates anxiety and depression have increased by 25% worldwide. Don’t allow yourself to be surprised by a curveball this year. Be proactive in building skills that you can apply not only in times of adversity but when life is going well! Roswell Psychology is here to help you build the skills necessary that will help you thrive. Please reach out today for a complimentary consultation.

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