Maintaining good mental health

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Annan Boodram

By Annan Boodram – The Caribbean Voice

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the issue of mental health to the fore, like never before. And this need for good mental health becomes even more critical when one considers that experts and analysts have made dire predictions about post-pandemic mental health, many describing it as another pandemic in the making. In this context, it is important to know what constitutes good mental health so you can be able to determine where you stand.

Mental health is often used as a substitute for mental health conditions – such as depression, anxiety conditions, schizophrenia, and others. Though, mental health describes our social, emotional, and psychological states, all wrapped up into one. Within this context, good mental health is not only the absence of mental problems, although good mental health is likely to protect against the development of many such problems; rather it is “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community,” (WHO).

Mental health experts have identified the following as indicators of good mental health:

Being able to feel, express and manage a range of positive and negative emotions: If you have good mental health, you tend to feel good about yourself, without becoming egotistic. You will also generally experience happiness, love, joy, compassion, kindness, caring while preferring to avoid being sucked into negative emotions or patterns of behavior. And while you may also experience negative emotions their impact will be momentary.

Having a sense of belonging, feeling engaged with the world around you and making meaningful contributions to your communities: You are also likely to feel like you belong to a community and are positively contributing to society when your mental health is in good shape. In fact, family and community would be important to you and you may be the kind of person who contributes to making a difference. You might have a sense of spiritual well-being, such as feeling connected to a higher power, a sense of meaning or purpose, or feelings of peace or transcendence.

Possessing skills that enable one to cope well and manage change, uncertainty and disappointments: We all face challenges in life, but people who have good mental health are more likely to be able to cope with the ups and downs as well as the normal stresses of life. You are resilient so you manage change well and are always on the lookout for opportunities.

Being able to say ‘no’: Mentally strong people know when to say ‘no’. You know where your emotional responsibility ends and another person’s begins, and vice versa. You feel comfortable standing up for yourself and have learnt that saying ‘no’ to boundary violations, aggression, and unjust behaviour benefits you in the end. You don’t feel shame or guilt about expressing your emotions and conveying your displeasure, and instead, feel liberated and free while doing so.

Building and maintaining healthy relationships: If your mental health is in good shape, you’re more likely to treat others fairly which means you love and respect those who are worthy of it and don’t waste your resources (time, money, energy) on toxic people or tolerate their disturbing behaviour. If you come across something that seems toxic or unhealthy, you make a decision about it instead of reacting emotionally or passively accepting it. You reevaluate your relationships with others on a regular basis and come to conclusions that will help maintain your boundaries as well as mental peace.

Not trying to please everyone: The truth is that no matter who you are and what you do, there will be people who dislike you. You do not like everybody, so it is only natural that not everybody will like you. Mentally strong people do not aggress against or mistreat others but accept that social rejection is unavoidable and understand that it is okay.

Possessing a healthy self-focus; self-confident and possessed of high self-esteem: Instead of concentrating on what you can’t control or having unrealistic or disturbing goals, you simply live life as healthfully and as consciously as possible if your mental health is in good shape. You have your circle of people who truly care about you and whom you love deeply. You actively create a better life for yourself without aggressing against others and constantly work on improving yourself and your immediate environment.

Mental health continuum: If by now, you believe that your mental health is good it is also important to know that mental health, just like physical health, operates on a continuum. At the green end of the continuum, people are well; showing resilience and high levels of wellbeing. Moving into the yellow area, people may start to have difficulty coping. In the orange area, people have more difficulty coping and symptoms may increase in severity and frequency. At the red end of the continuum, people are likely to be experiencing severe symptoms and may be at risk of self-harm or suicide.

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