Have you ever thought deeply about mental health? Is mental health only for people who suffer from mental illness? As a mental health clinician, I strive everyday to reduce the stigma surrounding this very topic. To me – mental health does not have to be that serious or deep.
STAND UP TO STIGMA
In conversations about the topic, often times people associate mental health with people that have “issues” or are “crazy.” The reality is it affects every individual that has a mind and it is simply just the health of your mind.
As humans, we encounter adversities throughout our entire lifetime. We all at one point, at the very least, will experience one form of showers and experience stress. Nobody lives a perfect stress-free life. How we handle those negative moments, stress and the emotions that can result from them, will in turn affect your mental health.
The things we do, and the steps we take to take care of our minds and souls, shapes our mental health. Mental health is an important part of our overall health and wellbeing- it affects how we think, feel, and act. It may also affect how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. There are many fortunate people that are just equipped to bounce back fast from adversity and breeze through things like a champ. Some bounce back quicker than others, and some need a little guidance.
I believe that caring for your body, mind and soul is your greatest responsibility. In the same way we see a doctor when our bodies are not feeling well, seeking help with our internal struggles, is just as important.
It does not mean you are “crazy.” I also understand that therapy is not for everyone. I of course will always advocate for it and think it is the greatest thing ever, but I know I have a bias because it’s my profession.
For some, it is just not their cup of tea and that is okay. It can be too probing, mushy gushy, or uncomfortable. Therapy can also be very expensive and for financial reasons, some may not be able to afford the services. Insurances do not always cover the services or can limit your sessions, making it difficult to get the care you need. Many times, it could be your schedule just does not allow.
Nonetheless, whatever the circumstances may be – I believe we should all take necessary steps in our everyday routine to take care of our emotional wellness. Coping with stress in a healthy way will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger.
THE TOLL THAT STRESS TAKES ON US
Stress can trigger many negative effects in your body, such as the release of a surge of hormones. Mainly, adrenaline, which bumps up your heart rate and blood pressure to boost your energy supply and cortisol, the stress hormone that alters or suppresses systems in the body, so it can switch into the “fight-or-flight” mode.
The fight or flight response is an automatic physiological reaction to an event that is perceived as stressful or frightening.
Our bodies also are equipped with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS includes a series of receptors located all throughout your body. These receptors can be found in your brain, central nervous system, immune system, and etc. The main function of your ECS is to maintain balance across your body’s systems, such as your immune response, pain, inflammation, sleep, mood, and your hormones to name a few.
Your body naturally creates compounds called endocannabinoids, which interact with your ECS’ receptors to turn them on and off, with the goal of maintaining balance across your systems.
Chronic levels of stress can increase production of stress enzymes. When this happens, that can diminish your bodies endocannabinoids, throwing off your balance. As humans, we are built to handle stress and fight it, but not for chronic stress.
OUR ECS SYSTEM AND CBD
One way of helping your ECS system when it is on overload, is supplementing with CBD, which is a phytocannabinoid. They are cannabinoids that occur naturally in the cannabis plant. They are very similar to what our bodies naturally produce.
The goal of using CBD is to allow your body to limit or stop overproducing stress enzymes, which in turn, allows your body to produce endocannabinoids again, thus helping maintain balance across all symptoms.
By strengthening the function of your ECS, you will have better functioning digestive and immune systems, a reduction in inflammation, and better sleep. Our bodies are interconnected.
Other natural ways to help strengthen your ECS is, boosting your omega-3 fatty acid intake, exercising, eating fruits and vegetables, and of course, managing stress levels.
In addition to supplementing with CBD, supporting your wellbeing with everyday measures is necessary and a lifestyle. Some pillars of emotional wellness are proper sleep, purpose, silent reflection, play and exercise/movement, boundaries, community and connection with others, and nutrition.
Below we will go into a little more detail about the seven pillars of emotional wellness.
Struggling with sleep? According to the American Sleep Association, 50–70 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder. In addition, up to 95% of Americans have experienced at least one episode of insomnia in their lives (Chawla, J. 2020). Sleep helps protect your mental health, physical health, as well as your quality of life.
What does Insomnia look like? It can be difficulty falling asleep, waking up during the night or waking up too early, or not feeling well-rested after a night’s sleep.
CBD has a calming effect in the central nervous system which can help increase overall sleep amounts, decrease the time it takes to fall asleep, and help with both falling asleep and staying asleep according to research. Unfortunately, over the counter sleep aids have well-known side effects including drowsiness and creating dependency.
Having purpose in life impacts our physical and mental health and overall well-being. It is a sense of knowing your life has meaning, value, and importance.
Numerous studies have found that having purpose provides us with fulfillment, direction, guidance, comfort through hard times, motivation, and a sense of aliveness.
In an article published in PLOS One, the authors found that finding and creating purpose provides us the tools to proactively handle and cope with adverse situations (Schaefer, SM 2013). In turn, teaching us greater emotional regulation over time.
3. Silent Reflection
The importance of silence in a noisy world is so important because of the world we are living in today. With our smart phones, it allows us to engage in multiple modes of connectivity at once, whenever we want.
The purpose of self-reflection is to make meaning. The creation of meaning is at the heart of what it means to be human.
Moments of silence allows us to reflect on our day and our experiences. What did we learn from them? How can we grow from these experiences or learn something new? Allowing yourself the time to tune out helps you develop the ability to reflect and grow.
4. Play and Exercise/Movement
Research has found that exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood (Mikkelsen K. 2017). It helps improve our self-esteem and cognitive function.
Exercise has also been found to alleviate symptoms such as low self-esteem and social withdrawal.
The benefits of exercise are not only limited to mental health, it has been found that exercise also helps aid in improved sleep, increased interest in sex, better endurance, increased energy, increase mental alertness, weight reduction, and improved cardiovascular health.
“Healthy Personal Boundaries = Taking responsibility for your own actions and emotions, while NOT taking responsibility for the actions or emotions of others” – Mark Manson
Having healthy boundaries is self-care.
It is about knowing when and how to set boundaries to protect yourself from unwanted outside energies. Boundaries are basically rules that you set up for yourself, on how you want to be in relationships.
It is what you are willing to tolerate. What your limits are.
They are essential to your overall wellbeing because relationships make up a large part of life and life is composed of so many different relationships. It can help conserve your emotional energy, improve your self-esteem, and improve your independence.
Community can be defined in many ways, but when simplified, it is all about connection. It is not just about a group of people; it is a feeling.
It is the feeling of being connected to others.
Feeling accepted for who you are and feeling supported. Having connection can help us feel wanted and loved. As humans, we are social beings. It is not meant for us to live alone or in isolation.
People can find community and connect through many avenues such as their interests, values, and beliefs. Where you find your sense of community is up to you!
There is research that suggest that what we eat may not only affect our physical health, but also our mental health and wellbeing.
Proper nutrition is essential for our nervous system to work efficiently. It helps support our ECS.
Studies were conducted to show the link between nutritional deficiency and mental disorders. Common mental disorders include – anxiety, depression, ADD/ADHD, OCD, and Bipolar disorder.
These disorders were linked to severe deficiencies of vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids. Psychologists have been studying the role of Omega-3 fatty acids in particular, indicating deficiencies linked to mental health problems (Clay, R. A. 2017)
TO WRAP IT ALL UP…
It’s important to remember that our mental health is just as vital as our physical health. For the 40 million Americans struggling with mental health and anxiety disorders, the pillars of wellness plus CBD can offer the possibility of a natural and holistic approach by utilizing the natural interactions of hemp with the body.
This article is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. We encourage you to always seek the advice of a physician, psychologist or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a possible medical condition. Please do not disregard or delay treatment from a professional because of something you have read on this blog.
Chawla, Jasvinder. (2020) Insomnia. Medscape.
Schaefer SM, Morozink Boylan J, van Reekum CM, Lapate RC, Norris CJ, Ryff CD, Davidson RJ. Purpose in life predicts better emotional recovery from negative stimuli. PLoS One. 2013 Nov 13;8(11):e80329. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0080329. PMID: 24236176; PMCID: PMC3827458.
Mikkelsen K, Stojanovska L, Polenakovic M, Bosevski M, Apostolopoulos V. Exercise and mental health. Maturitas. 2017 Dec;106:48-56. doi: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2017.09.003. Epub 2017 Sep 7. PMID: 29150166.
Lakhan, S.E., Vieira, K.F. Nutritional therapies for mental disorders. Nutr J 7, 2 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2891-7-2
Clay, R. A. (2017, September). The link between food and mental health. Monitor on Psychology, 48(8). http://www.apa.org/monitor/2017/09/food-mental-health
Written by co-founder Jamie Mikha, MA LLPC. Jamie is a mental health clinician and is passionate about helping others and positively influencing individuals lives. Jamie works with people to achieve emotional wellness and offers guidance to individuals who are dealing with issues that affect their mental health and well-being. Jamie approaches her work holistically and is a believer in the mind-body connection.