Mental Wellness: Should you be reactive or proactive?
The mind and body are keystones to our overall health. Every year, thousands of Kiwis take a proactive approach to physical health. They may see a primary care physician for an annual physical or pursue health screenings for a variety of potential illnesses. Intuitively, we should take the same proactive approach when it comes to our mental wellness. Yet, we tend to neglect the critical role it plays in our lives. Mental wellness is an integral part of our overall health. We can take a reactive approach to support crisis moments, or we can proactively seek to identify the problems and work toward long-term solutions. However, we must first understand the signs and symptoms and know when to call a professional.
Tune in to your mental health.
We all have a bad day, feel nervous or stressed. That doesn’t necessarily mean we need to call a psychologist or psychiatrist. However, some behavioral signs and patterns may help identify when to seek support.
First, take a look at the longevity of the behavior or feeling. Have you been feeling this way for a long time?
Second, has this behavior or feeling affected your ability to function? Are you unproductive at work or disengaged at home?
Lastly, how does this differ from your normal behavior? Is it uncharacteristic or unusual?
If any of these are present, consider reaching out to consult with a psychologist or psychiatrist.
The first step to improving your mental health is not to ignore it.
An estimated 700,000 thousand New Zealanders have a mental illness. However, only one-third have sought out a mental health professional within the previous year (CDC).
We can choose to take a reactive or proactive approach to our mental health. Knowing when to use each approach is vital because there are moments in time where our bodies’ inherent flight-or-fight response to stress or anxiety comes into play. One of the most important things to remember is that you should not hesitate to react in times of need. Seek support when you find yourself in circumstances that challenge your state of mind. Even a short 25-minute appointment can help identify your concerns and guide you in the right direction. Advances in telehealth are making this type of access easier and more cost-effective.
Prevention can ease the need for intervention.
The challenge we face, when we consistently take a reactive approach to our mental health is that symptoms tend to grow exponentially. This may require higher levels of treatment than if we address the underlying issue at the onset. To quote an old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” In years past, we often tried to just ‘tough out’ mental health concerns that arose. We have learned through experience and research that this approach leads to worsening of the problems.
A different approach: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
Everyone is different, and the types of therapy vary depending on your needs. You may want to consider Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which takes a goal-oriented approach to problem solving by taking your thoughts and tying them to your behaviors and feelings. Studies show that CBT is an effective treatment for a wide variety mental health issues and illnesses including depression, anxiety and eating disorders, insomnia and schizophrenia. It’s a proven method, and patients often see improvements after six to 10 sessions. This type of therapy exemplifies one of the many benefits of proactive mental health care.
Another CBT benefit is that therapy sessions can be supported through telehealth providers like Healthbox. Doctors can connect with patients online or via mobile phones through live video. With Healthbox, you can avoid the three to six-month wait for an appointment, skip the commute and the waiting room. While we encourage preventive mental health, the Healthbox format supports both reactive and proactive mental health requests, for short and long-term needs.
Good mental and emotional health goes hand-in-hand.
Our mind and body have a symbiotic relationship. They work and respond together, and in ways, we can’t predict. When we actively engage and take care of our medical and mental health needs the benefits are tremendous. If we choose to connect with a psychologist or other health professional once or twice a month, we are taking steps in the right direction. Whether in person or through telehealth, we will begin to see improved relationships at home and work; more personal empowerment, optimism and hope; and a happier and healthier lifestyle.