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Is Your Mental Health Making You Sick?
While many people think of mental health and physical health as different things, there is a significant correlation between the two. For example, anxiety and depression have been shown to be just as harmful to physical health as smoking and obesity. People with these mental health conditions are more likely to develop heart conditions, have strokes, high blood pressure, or arthritis. What can people do to manage these conditions and improve health?
How common is depression?
In the US alone, over 16 million people have at least one major depressive episode in a lifetime. About 1 in 5 will struggle with anxiety. With these statistics in mind, managing mental health becomes more important than ever. Follow these 3 tips for decreasing symptoms of depression.
1. Understand rumination
To ruminate means to over-think or over-analyze an issue so severely that a person loses the ability to problem-solve. Because of this loss of problem-solving, rumination can keep a depressed person in a rut. However, people should remember that ruminating does not increase insight and can reinforce unattainably high expectations. Take small steps toward problem-solving and work on reframing negative thoughts. Learn to identify when rumination starts and immediately redirect thoughts.
2. Be present
Continuing to live in the past can quickly lead to despair. Either pining for times that are perceived to be better or beating one’s self up for past actions can increase depression. Likewise, consistently worrying about what will happen in the future can keep people in the depressive pit. People who worry chronically tend to make everything into a catastrophe, leading to consistent daily overwhelm. Learn new techniques for keeping the mind focused on the present, such as meditation, breathing exercises, or grounding.
3. Lean on structure
Depression thrives on feelings of helplessness. Implementing some simple structure into a daily routine can make people feel a little more in control. The night before, think through plans and goals for the following day. At the end of each day, take stock of what was accomplished and what feelings came up. This exercise can help people to gain a better understanding of what structures help to improve mood and well-being.
Seek more support
With any mental health struggle, finding a network of support is crucial. Connect with friends, family members, and other loved ones who offer encouragement and compassion. Consider joining a support group or volunteering to connect with others. Many people with depression also benefit from talk therapy or medication. To learn more about treating depression and improving mental health, speak with a family medicine healthcare provider.