The Road to Wellness: How to Make Mental Health a Priority

Written by Gizelle Jones LISW-S, VANTAGE Director of Behavioral Health Solutions.

When the big ball drops in time square and we look forward to the New Year, most of us begin to think about the New Year’s Resolutions we can make to be a better you. Our society tends to focus on the physical aspects of our well-being; commercials offer great deals on spa and gym memberships and some may consider cosmetic surgery as an option. However, you do not see any commercials advertising the need to work on positive mental health. Why?

There is a stigma attached to mental health in our society. This stigma leads to the false belief that mental health means that you are crazy, and that you have some sort of defect. This can lead to discrimination and why many of us refuse to seek help when we need it. However, learning the facts can change attitudes and behaviors. So let’s focus on the positive aspects of mental health.

First, instead of calling it mental health, a positive description is behavioral health. Behavioral Health describes the emotions, behaviors, and biology related to a person’s well- being and his/her ability to function in everyday life. It includes the promotion of positive health and prevention. Over the next few months I will discuss some of the common problems that affect our behavioral health. I will then offer some solutions on how to address these problems.

So, let’s start with the most common problem we all experience: STRESS. Stress is your body’s response to any kind of demand. It can be caused by both good and bad experiences. When your body experiences stress, a surge of hormones releases into your bloodstream. These hormones include adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones can give you a burst of energy so that we are ready to “fight or flight,” depending on what is causing our stress. You might find it difficult to lose weight because our bodies will hold onto the cortisol. Cortisol tells the body to hold onto those fat cells so we can have the energy to “fight or flee” if we need it.

What are the top 10 causes of stress?

The top 10 causes of stress are:

  1. Moving to a new home
  2. Chronic illness or injury
  3. Taking care of an elderly or sick family member
  4. Traumatic event, such as a natural disaster, theft, rape or violence against you or a loved one
  5. The death of a loved one
  6. Divorce
  7. Loss of a job
  8. Increase in financial obligations
  9. Getting married
  10. Emotional problems (depression, anxiety, anger, grief, guilt, low self-esteem)

Managing Stress

So, how do you manage stress? By regularly addressing four important treatment interventions. They are:

Exercise

Yes, I said the ugly word, but it rings true. Exercise produces those feel good brain chemicals that cause you to think positive and promote relaxation. Just 30 minutes of walking reaps great benefits for our bodies.

Nutrition

Eating well promotes good physical and emotional health. Eating well-balanced meals throughout the day keeps your energy up and minimizes mood swings. Avoid sugary foods and make complex carbohydrates a better snack choice.

Sleep

Sleep has a strong effect on your mood. Very few people do well on less than seven hours a night. Drinking too much caffeine also affects your ability to sleep. Aim for one cup or less of caffeine a day and sleeping from seven to nine hours each night.

Relaxation

Try yoga, deep breathing, and meditation. Aromatherapy is also a great alternative.

Final Thoughts on Managing Stress

Finally, if you are unsure about your level of stress, feel free to call VANTAGE Aging at 330-253-4597 and take the stress test. It only takes a few minutes, and it will let you know where you stand.

This article was written by Gizelle Jones LISW-S, VANTAGE Director of Behavioral Health Solutions. Gizelle has worked in the field of Social Work for more than 30 years and specializes in women’s issues, depression, and family therapy. With experience in developing community collaborations, she develops programs that fit the needs of the client while also providing community education programs and workshop coordination.

VANTAGE Behavioral Health Solutions specializes in providing quality mental health treatment and counseling for drug and alcohol addictions to adults age 50 and older. Call us today at 330-253-4597 or visit vantageaging.org/behavioralhealth to learn more.

*The information in this article is intended solely to provide general information on matters of interest for the personal use of the reader, who accepts full responsibility for its use. This article should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional legal, medical, or other competent advisors.

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