~This week, May 1st-7th 2017 is The Canadian Mental Health Association’s 66th annual Mental Health Week. Through their various initiatives and the hashtag #GETLOUD, the overriding goal is to increase the awareness of mental health throughout Canada. If you are interested in more information or are looking for resources, check out their public toolkit here. ~
Over the last decade or so, the general understanding of mental illness has increased significantly, both scientifically and socially. It is my opinion, however, that with this growing understanding, the causes and potential treatment of poor mental health have become overly complicated. This is not to say that there are not circumstances in which an intensive combination of medication, therapy and other resources are necessary – there absolutely are. However, as someone who has suffered through major depressive episodes and generalized anxiety for the majority of her life, I have found one simple way to combat my poor mental health without medication or therapy: go back to the basics! To me, this means a number of things, all of which could warrant their own blog post, but below I provide short summaries of various ways that I feel better by going back to the basics.
- Get involved
With the increase in socially-acceptable narcissism and online activism (read: social media), has come a decrease in hands-on social involvement. Unfortunately, this means that fewer and fewer of us are experiencing the amazing feelings that come with helping those who are in need. In fact, it has been shown that those who volunteer “experience higher levels of mental well-being than those [who do not]…” (Tabassum et al., 2016). So – what is it that you are passionate about? Maybe it is decreasing poverty levels in your city, or improving the lives of women; maybe it’s increasing mental health awareness! Whatever it is, there is no shortage of opportunities available for you to become involved, and whether it is once a month, once a week, or every day, increasing your social involvement and making someone else’s life better will make you feel better, too.
- Get active
It has been shown time and time again that regular physical activity is a fantastic way to improve your mental well-being. As we exercise, “feel-good hormones” known as Endorphins are released from the brain and create effects such as reduced stress, improved self-esteem and improved sleep (WebMD, 2017). Furthermore, getting active can create feelings of accomplishment and purpose throughout your every day life. If you’re looking for social support, invite a friend to come for a walk, meet you at the gym, or join a run-club with you. By incorporating activity into your daily life, and doing it with someone you care about, your mental health is bound to improve.
- Avoid detrimental self-medicating and find alternatives
If you suffer from any type of mental illness and have been able to avoid self-medicating through drugs, alcohol, tobacco, or other detrimental methods, KUDOS to you. Self-medicating is an extremely common approach, and one I found solace in. While I admit, as I’m sure those like me can attest to, it seemed to help momentarily, it also caused great strife and resistance as I attempted to find greater mental well-being. If you find yourself self-medicating, one great approach I have found is to create a list of healthy, non-harmful activities that you enjoy and attempt to replace your drinking, drug use etc. with one or more of these activities. Keep in mind our unreasonable need for immediate gratification and remember that the good we do for our bodies may not show immediate benefit, but it will improve our well-being over the long run more than self-medicating ever will.
My intention is never to dissuade anyone from receiving the help that they need, whether that be through medication, therapy, or a combination of various treatments. My only intention is to remind us of all of the ways that we can improve our treatment through improving other aspects of our lives and take back a bit of control that our mental illness has taken away from us.
About Stephanie Brash
I live in Hamilton, Ontario and have a brilliant, beautiful daughter named Skylar. I am in the unique circumstance of having multiple quasi-diagnoses, and while they do bring about many difficulties, I have an amazing support system and am proud to be able to share my story and struggles with those who can use them!