Guest Blog: Staying Mentally Healthy When Stress Intensifies
By Brad Krause
When life gets tough, stress has a tendency to increase. Whether you’re struggling at school or work, facing troubles in your relationship, or you’ve lost someone close to you, experiencing a difficult life event has a big impact on your mental well-being. And while sometimes that stress fades on its own, other times it can lead to long-lasting mental health issues. For some people, times of high stress and anxiety can trigger a suicide.
Suicide is more common than you might think, and it doesn’t only happen to people who are visibly unwell. Mental illness is the greatest risk factor for suicide, with depression being the most common among people who commit suicide. However, mental illness alone typically isn’t enough to lead a person to take their own life. Rather, it’s when mental illness interacts with other factors that the loss of life becomes a rising danger. That could be a life event, a health condition, or anything that causes mounting stress.
The most important thing anyone can do to prevent suicide is to make an effort to stay mentally healthy, especially during difficult times. But what does a mentally healthy lifestyle look like? The National Alliance on Mental Illness recommends these lifestyle choices for strong mental health:
● Stay Active:Physical activity improves your mood and reduces risk of mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression. It also makes your brain more resilient to stress, so you’re more able to cope with life’s challenges.
● Eat a Healthy Diet:A healthy, well-rounded diet made up of “whole, unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods” is associated with a lower risk of mental illness, according to reporting from the Washington Post.
● Avoid Substance Abuse: Substance abuse greatly increases a person’s suicide risk, and addiction can even trigger mental illness in a previously mentally well person. While some people use drugs or alcohol to cope with life’s many stresses, substances and mental illness can be a fatal combination.
● Sleep Well:A well-rested mind is more able to cope with stress, but poor sleep can exacerbate existing mental health conditions.
● Practice Positive Thinking:Negative self-talk contributes to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness that can precede suicide. Counter negative thoughts with positive affirmations and learn how to quiet harmful thoughts through mindfulness. If necessary, set aside of portion of your home — be it an entire room is just an area that doesn’t get much traffic — as a meditation space. All you need to get started is some calming music, a few soothing fragrances, and some comforting decorations.
● Find Support: Social isolation makes a person more likely to die from suicide. Surround yourself with supportive people and resist the urge to withdraw when life gets difficult.
In addition to adopting good mental health habits, everyone should be aware of these warning signs for suicide:
Talking about death or suicide.
Seeking the means to commit suicide.
Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, purposelessness, or worthlessness.
Feelings of being a burden.
Abusing drugs or alcohol.
Withdrawing from activities, isolating oneself.
Mood swings, agitation, or recklessness.
If you notice these warning signs, it’s time to get help. You can reach a crisis center by calling 1-833-456-4566. If you or someone else are at immediate risk of dying from suicide, dial 911.
We can’t stop life from getting hard, complicated, or stressful. Things like deaths and illnesses are largely out of our control, and life can be stressful even when times are good. Instead, we have to stay mentally healthy despite life’s stresses. That means adopting habits that promote a healthy mind and knowing when it’s time to ask for help. There’s no shame in getting help, especially when it could save your life.
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