Mental health is a hot topic these days. The condition of the mind has come under increased scrutiny thanks, in part, to the self-care movement.
In most cases, the conversation about the health of an individual’s mind is connected to stress. Is the person in a stressful environment? Are they stressed out by their circumstances? And so on.
However, there are other factors that can impact our mental health beyond mere stress. Here are a few other major mental health concerns that should be on everyone’s radar besides their level of stress.
1. Lifestyle Concerns
One of the biggest factors that impact mental health is your lifestyle. This applies to several different aspects of life, such as how you eat, exercise, and relax.
For instance, your diet can have a huge impact on your mind. Certain diets have been shown to have a positive impact on neurogenesis (that is the development of brain tissue).
The Mediterranean diet, intermittent fasting, and low-calorie diets have all shown signs of being good for the brain. At the same time, classically infamous items like processed, refined, fried, and sugary foods are not recommended. When consumed, these tend to drag down mental health.
Physical activity is another concern. On the one hand, exercise has the potential to release endorphins, improve happiness, and reduce stress. All of this is great for mental health. However, excessive time spent sitting at a desk or otherwise avoiding exercise can lead to mental concerns like depression and anxiety.
Substance abuse is another lifestyle concern that can impact the mind. This doesn’t only have to do with obvious things like drinking too much or smoking, either. It can also show up in quiet ways, like dealing with medication withdrawal.
For instance, detoxing from Seroquel, which itself is used for a variety of mental health concerns, can create its own issues. Seroquel withdrawal symptoms include several mental health red flags, including insomnia, mood swings, and even suicidal behavior.
2. Life Experiences
While the way you live your life is important, the things that happen to you are also worthy of consideration. And this isn’t merely a reference to feeling stressed out by a boss or your child’s poor behavior. Your greater life experiences don’t have to be stressful to still have a bad influence on your mental state. Just a handful of different experiences that can be particularly harmful include:
- Childhood trauma or abuse: If you have a traumatic experience in your past, it can continue to impact you far into the future. Much of that lingering impact can take place in your mind, dragging down your mental health in the process.
- Nurtured negative mental habits: Even if your childhood isn’t traumatic, you can still pick up undesirable mental habits from your parents. Everyone is human and, by extension, flawed. Your parents may have a way that they handled things, such as excessive control or emotional outbursts, that wasn’t ideal. This has the potential to establish a precedent for negative habitual behavior in your mental processes.
- The loss of a loved one: Losing someone you love is always difficult. This might involve losing a friend in an unexpected car crash. It could just as easily be due to losing a grandparent after a long, unsurprising illness. It doesn’t matter what the specific circumstances are. Letting go of a friend or family member can wreak havoc on the mind as you process your loss.
- Time spent in the military: Countless servicemen and women return from time spent in the military with significant mental health concerns. If they’ve seen combat, the effects are often compounded. This has led to growing attention directed at the issue of PTSD in military personnel.
Another great example is the coronavirus pandemic itself. Everyone wants to pin the mental health concerns of the crisis on stress, but it goes so much further.
Consider, for instance, the fact that the pandemic created financial crises for many individuals. This can be stressful, but it can also have other repercussions. A lack of finances can lead to lower grocery budgets, canceled gym memberships, and fewer counseling sessions. All of these can compound mental health concerns.
3. Biological Concerns
Along with lifestyle and life experiences, there is your biological makeup itself. The truth is, for some, mental health is biologically a bigger battle than for others. This can be due to several different factors.
Your genetic makeup and family history are the primary concern here. Mental disorders have long been observed to pass through family members from generation to generation. In fact, several psychiatric disorders appear to pass from parent to child more than others, including:
- Bipolar disorder;
- Major depression;
Mental health conditions like these can manifest in an individual even if they live a pristine lifestyle that is free of stress and adverse events. While biological mental health concerns are inevitable in a certain sense, that doesn’t mean they’re hopeless. On the contrary, there are still many ways to address that kind of inherent struggle, even if you can’t point to a direct external cause creating the problem.
So, the next time you’re tempted to blame your poor mental condition on stress, pause and think things through. Are there other factors at work in your life that are impacting your mental health in a negative manner?
Do you have a family history of struggling with certain mental illnesses? Have you gone through a traumatic or otherwise adverse life experience that is haunting your thoughts? Are there aspects of your lifestyle, such as what you eat, a lack of exercise, or a substance addiction, that are weighing down your mind? If you can broaden the scope of potential factors beyond mere “stress,” it can make it much easier to help. Rather than using vague destressing tactics, you can target your mental health efforts. Consider the list above and how each category may be impacting your mind right here, right now. Then take steps to address the issue in a deliberate and informed manner.