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Everything you need to know for optimal mental health

It’s not a hush-hush thing any more…balance is key yet often overlooked

We all have mental health. We all deal with anxiety, and we all go through rollercoasters of emotions over time. Mental health however is often neglected up until a medical diagnosis of a problem. A common misconception is that a mental disorder is either genetic or unpreventable. Here’s a spoiler alert: Neither of those are true.

Best-selling author Steven Masley, M.D. discusses in his latest book Better Brain Solution, that a growing number of research now shows that even Alzheimer’s, which affects one in 10 people aged 65 and older in the US, can be largely prevented with a healthy lifestyle. Mental wellbeing is just as important as physical wellbeing, in fact, they’re closely interconnected.

Stacey Brown, Licensed Mental Health Counselor

I talked to Licensed Mental Health Counselor Stacey Brown in Fort Myers to see how you can improve your mental health.

One of the most important questions she believes to ask ourselves is “Am I well?” If not, can you explain why? Whatever the reason may be, it’s not the event itself that matters, but how you choose to respond to it.

Noticing signs of anxiety, depression or stress is the first step toward overcoming it as oppose to overreacting it. Furthermore, our society nowadays has been much more open to talking about what used to be largely neglected.

“The counseling community has done a lot of work to reduce the stigma,” Brown says. “It’s not a hush-hush thing any more. We use the terminology and encourage to look for signs.”

What makes the biggest difference, however, between a person letting anxiety consume them and someone else who’s able to manage the pressure is how well they are able to introduce balance into several aspects of their life.

“A lot of people who come to my office are out of balance,” Brown says, noting that anxiety is the most common issue clients see her with.

But why are we such an anxious nation? With being busy becoming the new norm, many of us are focused on everything around us yet forget to listen to what’s happening within us.

“We live in a society that values productivity, moving forward and paying attention to a lot of things at one time,” Brown says, adding that although it’s good to be productive, “you want to have balance with rest, recreation, turning inward and evaluating yourself.”

You might wonder, what is it that we can do to regain stability then?

Brown mentions nutrition, making sure your body gets all the nutrients it needs for optimal physical and brain function. She also talks about fun and romance, spending time with family and friends and taking part in social gatherings. Balance between work, exercise and sleep is also important because over- or underdoing either one of those will negatively affect not only the other two but your overall health too.

Finally, a practice that’s proven to work for more than 5,000 years, yoga, meditation and mindfulness, also referred to as spirituality, which doesn’t only refer to religion, but rather believing that you are part of something bigger than you.

There’s a lot of misinformation around mindfulness, and many people find it overwhelming and give up. “It’s called practice for a reason – you have to work at it,” says Brown who also teaches meditation and yoga. “It’s hard at first. Our brain is busy, busier than we realize, but you can do it as long as you take time to practice.”

Most days we tend to run relentlessly and before even finishing one task we’re already thinking about the next, which often leads to people crashing and burning out.

There’s no reason to feel guilty or unproductive if you decide to take some time out of your day to just be still and be present in the moment. It’s called “me time,” which is just as powerful as your time spent with other people.

Mental health checklist

6 essentials to balance your mental health

Nutrition: eat smart and consume healthy meals — healthy fats, fiber, protein and vegetables

Exercise: incorporate physical activity into your life at least three-four times a week

Sleep: Make sure to get between 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night

Meditation: Practice it every day, even if only for 10 minutes. Try guided meditations on Youtube or download the Calm or Headspace app to get started.

Play and romance: Take time to have fun and nourish your relationships

Work: There’s a time and place to do work, but don’t let it consume your whole life. You deserve working on yourself too.