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BY: FIRDAUSH YASMIN

One very important, but avoided topic in society today is mental illness. For women dealing with mental health problems, this is a troubling and sensitive topic of discussion because it brings up their deepest insecurities and doubts. Mental illness as it’s portrayed in media, is weakness, unattractiveness, and even stupidity. When this is the type of image society feeds us, it’s no surprise at all that many women who get diagnosed or realize they have mental health problems, often avoid or ignore it. While the desire to belong is irresistible enough to convince us to knowingly avoid reality, it’s important that women are mindful of the difference between them controlling their mental health vs letting their mental health control them.

What you label as a “minor” health complication when you are young, can easily prelude to a serious mental illness if it’s continually avoided. Regardless of what mental health situation you’re in, there is always something you can do to keep these complications from interfering with your life. Whether in the form of formal therapy or simply finding a supportive family member or friend to talk to, taking a proactive approach towards mental health goes a long way.

If you know of someone or are personally struggling with balancing mental health, recognize that no mental health problem can define you, because you are the one that defines to what extent your mental health problem will affect your plans, goals, and dreams. Even with mental health problems, your story isn’t over yet.

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Refer to the following suggestions to help alleviate anxiety about mental health problems:

Do consult a medical professional first. If your family has a history of mental health concerns, or you’re simply anxious about your own mental health, it’s important to contact a medical professional and avoid self-diagnosis.  Mental health issues cover a broad range of topics, and only your doctor can properly assess you to be at risk of a potential mental illness.

Don’t ignore your mental health. Often times the biggest obstacle to someone receiving treatment is the person getting treated. Too many people disregard their mental health even after a proper diagnosis from a medical professional by thinking it’s a “mistake”, or assuming that their condition will improve on its own. Acknowledging and accepting your mental health concern is not only the first, but the most important step of recovery.

Do get routine medical care. Actively and consistently monitoring your progress is an important part of overcoming a mental health problem. You and your doctor need to know if a treatment plan is working for you as well as it should. If it’s not, your doctor will know what has to be changed or added in order to help you properly recover.

Don’t blame yourself or others. People with mental health problems have a tendency to find fault for their condition, either within themselves, or with others. Although some health complications are a result of our choices, this is not the case with mental health concerns. Being the result of a combination of factors that are out of our control (like our family history or stressful life events), mental health issues are not the result of anything you or someone else does.

Do learn about your symptoms. It’s fairly normal for people with mental health issues to not understand a diagnosis, simply because they aren’t able to recognize the symptoms within themselves. Taking the time to learn about your symptoms keeps you from being in denial and prepares you to take appropriate action if they happen to recur in the future.

Don’t isolate yourself. The relationships and friendships in your life have a significant influence on your mental well-being. The ties we form with people provide us with a sense of belonging in the world; making us feel understood and cared for. Due to this, having a support system, whether it’s through family and friends or a support group, is an essential part of keeping up your mental health.

Do communicate openly and often with your doctor. Having and dealing with poor mental health can be confusing. If you have questions or concerns about your treatment plan or diagnosis, don’t be afraid to ask. Know that your doctors are there to aid you in your efforts of recovery. Anything they can do or say to help you better understand your diagnosis, they will.

Don’t worry about things you can’t control. An easy way for a mental health recovery to be hindered is through a person trying to control each and every aspect of the treatment. This will only increase unnecessary anxiety and leave you feeling disappointed with the actual results. It’s necessary to recognize that despite the mental health concern being battled, treatments are unique for each individual. While some recoveries are shorter, others may take longer. While some only require medication, others may require a combination of medication and therapy. Allowing your doctors the power to manage your treatment is the best insurance of a good recovery.

Do talk about your feelings. Having and dealing with a health complication is difficult regardless of the severity or situation. Know that talking to your family, friends, and doctor will only help your journey to recovery be an easier one. Allow the people you trust an opportunity to understand what you’re going through. They will only know how to help you if you tell them. Try keeping a personal journal to keep your thoughts organized; this will help you later verbalize what you want to say.

Don’t set unrealistic goals or expectations. It’s crucial for patients struggling with mental health problems to understand the importance of staying realistic about the outcome of treatments. While complete recovery is possible, it’s also not a guarantee for every mental health complication. For some, “recovery” can simply mean the treatment of their symptoms. Keeping a clear understanding from the start, of what the treatment means for you, is the best step towards recovery. It keeps your main focus on track and helps avoid disappointment.

Do follow a healthy diet. There’s no denying the fact that our physical and mental well-being have a strong correlation to what we eat and drink. Following a healthy diet helps our body physically stay healthy and makes us emotionally feel good about ourselves.  A healthy diet is a win-win for both your mind and your body during recovery.

Don’t label a mental health concern as a personal weakness or failing. Mental health problems aren’t a character flaw; they are the result of a biological, psychological, and social mixture of poor mental health enablers that are out of our control. Things like genes, brain chemistry, traumatic life experiences, or abuse can easily trigger an onset of mental health concerns in an individual who is as competent and accomplished as the next. It’s important to remember that like any other health problem, it is very much possible for mental health patients to get better or even recover completely.

Do manage your time and energy. A large part of overcoming a mental health issue is keeping control of any anxiety or stress that can accumulate as a result of a potential diagnosis. Being aware of how you spend your time and energy can significantly reduce the amount of stress you feel at the end of the day. Reducing your everyday workload to make more time for things like meditation, journaling, or prayer, is a great method to unwind yourself and focus on your treatment.

Don’t drink or make use of unprescribed drugs. Besides not interrupting your medication, keeping alcohol and other unprescribed drugs to a minimum allows you to maintain control and power over your treatment, and as a result, your mental health recovery. People often resort to these options as means of avoiding the fear or stress of a potential diagnosis. They forget that these substances are only a short-term fix for something that may be a long-term problem, if not dealt with correctly and promptly.

Do stay active. Exercise is often times the simplest way to make progress towards overcoming a mental health concern. Regular exercise will produce dopamine and increase inner “feel-good” vibes that’ll create a positive energy for you throughout the day and reduce chances of anxiety or depression. Moreover, they will also help battle any possible side effects of weight gain from psychiatric medications in your treatment plan.

Don’t interrupt your treatment plan. It’s not uncommon for people with mental health concerns to view the sign of no more symptoms as a sign of recovery. While this may be a positive indicator for the direction of your treatment, it doesn’t equate to a full recovery. Following and keeping up with medication, therapy, and other treatments necessary to your treatment plan, until otherwise instructed by your doctor, is essential to maintaining your mental well-being well after the cease of any symptoms.

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