484-841-6154 Glen Mills | 610-455-4284 Kennett Square

Book Appointment

Mayday, May Day: Mental Health Awareness Month

Mayday, May Day!

April showers bring May flowers, but what did the May flowers bring?  Pollen and allergies? The longing for days filled with sunshine and happiness? Graduations, prom, Mother’s Day?  And maybe for others: fatigue, sluggishness, agitation; the feeling of dread and lack of interest towards anything; or maybe the feeling of absolutely nothing?  Let’s talk about this because May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and we are going to explore potential signs of mental health illness, as well as tips to improve your overall mental health.

The purpose of Mental Health Awareness Month is to educate the public and raise awareness about mental health disorders and illnesses: including depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.  It also serves to enlighten the public with strategies and tools to improve overall mental health and wellness, prevent suicide, and reduce the stigma and negative connotations surrounding mental health struggles.

According to the CDC, more than 1 in 5 adults in the United States may suffer from mental health issues, with an increase since the pandemic.  While common forms of mental health disorders include depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, the less noticeable mental health disorders can also include anxiety, suicidal ideation, trauma, and addiction.  Those struggling with mental health are still capable of smiling, laughing, and telling jokes.  They may still look and appear to be confident, healthy, and happy, but what makes it so difficult to detect mental health problems is that sometimes the symptoms can be invisible.

Let’s look at a few warning signs of mental health issues:

1.) Increased Anxiety and Worry

It is normal for everyone to have some level of stress, anxiety, and worry, but if these feelings become more constant and start to interfere with daily life, it is time to seek help.  Some physical signs of anxiety and panic disorders include heart palpitations, sweating, nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, restlessness, headaches, shortness of breath, and racing thoughts.

2.) Appetite or Weight Changes

Fluctuating or rapid weight gain or weight loss may indicate signs of depression or an eating disorder.

3.) Changes in Sleep Patterns and Behavior

Insomnia and the lack of sleep may be due to anxiety or substance abuse. Also, sleeping too much or too little can indicate depression or a sleeping disorder.

4.) Low Energy, Loss of Interest, and/or Isolation

A lack of energy and a lack of interest can lead to a lack of self-care and isolation, which can further lead to being quiet and withdrawn.  These are symptoms that may indicate depression, bipolar disorder, or another psychotic disorder, and may be a strong indication that someone needs help.

5.) Changes in Personality and Emotions

Subtle changes in mood, feelings, thinking, and behavior may be signs of the development of a mental health disorder.  However, if these feelings and behavior continue to escalate, and something feels “not right”, then it is important to start to seek help.

Tips to Improve Mental Health:

1.) Exercise Regularly

Even if it’s just 20–30 minutes of walking, regular activity can help boost mood and improve health due to a release of neurochemicals in the brain.

2.) Stay Hydrated, Eat Healthy

A healthy diet can improve the neurochemicals and proteins in our brain that affect memory and learning centers, which can further improve our memory, mood, attention, and mental health.

3.) Improve Sleep Patterns and Behaviors

The average adult requires 7-9 hours of sleep at night.  Reduce the number of distractions impeding sleep, including cell phones, and other types of screen time before bed.  Put down any distractions for at least 30 minutes to an hour before going to bed.  Also, try to stay in bed and avoid getting back up to improve sleep quality.

4.) Practice Gratitude and Positive Thinking

Every day, try to identify at least 3 positive things that went well that day.  Studies show that those who practice positive thinking and gratitude techniques tend to be generally happier, and are also less affected by stressful situations and decisions.

5.) Practice Breathing and Meditation

Deep breathing techniques and meditation for relaxation help send messages and signals to the brain to help calm the body down and relax.  The brain then sends signals to help manage and reduce heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate, which may be triggered due to high stress and anxiety.

6.) Connect with People

A good support system not only provides social and emotional support, but also serves as an outlet for coping techniques, and helps promote good self-esteem, autonomy, and self-worth.

We have only tackled a small layer to address improved mental health practices.  However, if you or someone you know is really struggling with mental health issues, please seek professional help.