Avoiding the Gloom

Diego Ponieman, M.D., M.P.H.

by Diego Ponieman M.D., M.P.H.

Mental health is one of the most talked about facets of health in today’s world. As mental health issues continue to rise, we aim to provide different ways that you can help tackle one of the most prevalent forms of mental illness today – depression.

Depression is the leading cause of disability among people in the U.S. for ages 15 to 44. It affects more than 16.1 million adults, and is more common in women than men. Common symptoms of depression include feelings of sadness, sleep disturbances, loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, slowed thinking, and agitation.

Although depression sounds scary, there are increasing measures available to help. First, it’s important to understand that depression is a mental illness, which differs from mental health in that a mental illness is a diagnosable disorder. A person can be experiencing poor mental health in reaction to a particularly stressful period of time, whereas a mental illness is a diagnosed condition that will affect someone throughout their entire life. If you feel as if you suffer from depression, visit your doctor to establish a treatment plan and stay healthy as you would for any other physical ailment or disease.

And if you’re looking to promote your overall mental health, which has to do with your emotional and phycological well-being, here are a few ways that you can help take care of yourself:

  • Manage your stress: Taking care of yourself is essential to your physical and mental health. This can be as simple as taking a moment to breathe during moments of high stress to help stay calm, increase your resilience and build a positive outlook.
  • Reach out to family and friends: Dealing with mental health issues is never easy, and it is near-impossible to do so alone. Friends and family are key support systems for those who are in dark states or suffer from depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses.
  • Sleep: Your body recharges as you sleep, and you can often control stress levels and better prepare to face the next day’s challenges by getting adequate sleep.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol: While they may seem like quick fixes, drugs and alcohol can end up increasing the stressful emotions you are already dealing with.
  • Do something you enjoy: There is arguably no better way to help boost your mental health than by simply engaging in activities that you find enjoyable. Combat episodes where you feel at a low point by doing something fun that makes you happy or spending time with those you are closest to.
  • Get treatment early: Mental illnesses can often worsen over time if not treated. It is encouraged to seek treatment such as counseling and/or medication as soon as symptoms manifest themselves.

Although there is no one way to prevent mental illnesses, there are many ways to boost your mental health and wellbeing. Most importantly, never think that you have to handle a mental illness like depression or anxiety alone. Reach out to friends, family, and medical professionals to get the help you – and millions of other people – need. Remember to stay alert to how you are feeling and reacting to what’s going in your life.

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