When most people think of their top priorities, they think about family, work, friends, money, health, house, car, and the list go on. Often their own mental health does not even make the list. Why is that? It helps to frame mental health as the clay that we use to construct success of everything else in our lives. If our mental health is thriving, we are more likely to be motivated to reach our fullest potential in every setting of our lives. However, if we let our mental health suffer, the negative impacts can make life seem impossible.
“For example, depression increases the risk for many types of physical health problems, particularly long-lasting conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke” (CDC). According to data from the American Psychology Association, employees with unresolved depression “experience a 35% reduction in productivity, contributing to a loss to the U.S. economy of $210.5 billion a year in absenteeism, reduced productivity, and medical costs”. Anxiety has been known to impede focus, memory, self-esteem, increase tense muscle pain, contribute to lack of sleep, skin blemishes, and the list continues.
It is often regarded as ‘selfish’ to prioritize one’s own mental health or happiness above others; however, the research clearly shows that lack of mental health care actually creates more problems and a fiscal loss of $1 trillion annually in America, according to Forbes.
So, how do we start to improve our mental health to improve our overall functioning? First, we can make sure that all of our physical needs are being met daily (eating at regular intervals, sleeping, and try to get up and move as frequently as possible). Most companies have a mental health reimbursement policy/insurance coverage for counseling services that go mostly unused. If comfortable, inquire about how to make those systems work for you to process some of the more difficult emotions and worries. Also, building a meaningful support network of people you can vent to or empathize with can make us feel less isolated in our frustrations. Lastly, many people find that doing hobbies with the sole purpose of feeling joy helps ground them and fosters emotional expression. Client’s have often found it helpful if the hobby is slightly unproductive to not feel pressured by it (making models, gaming, art, etc).