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Mental Health: Taking Care Of Your Brain

Updated: Nov 21, 2023

✍🏻 Lau Sze Yi | PhD Chemistry Graduate from the University of Oklahoma


What is Mental Health? 🏆

“Mental health is a state of mental well-being that enables people to cope with the stresses of life, realize their abilities, learn well and work well, and contribute to their community.” (World Health Organisation)

Mental health includes your emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Contrary to what some people believe, mental health applies to everyone; it doesn't just include individuals with mental illness. Although someone is not diagnosed with a mental illness, they may still experience poor mental health.

Everyone encounters challenges, big or small, at different stages in life that can alter their mental health status. Mental health is a vital part of overall health. There is no health without mental health. It is essential to take care of your mental health in the same way you take care of your physical health.

Like physical health, mental health exists on a spectrum from good health to debilitating illnesses. When you experience pain in your body, it could be a minor problem like a small cut or a sign of a more serious health condition that needs to be treated or managed. Likewise, mental health can have a small or large impact on your health. It is important not to diminish signs of mental illness, no matter how small. Early intervention makes a huge difference in preventing mental health deterioration.


Can we measure mental health on a spectrum?🌈

The mental health continuum model recognizes that mental health is not static. It acknowledges that mental health can fluctuate, often in response to various internal and external influences.

The mental health continuum model is a tool developed to help in the identification of changes to mental health states in yourself or others. It can also help to show when it might be time to seek help.

It acts as a spectrum, allowing for an easy and simple check in,. This is split into four defining states: The green zone (healthy) represents a state of mental wellness where one is thriving; the yellow zone (reacting) represents a state where one may experience an elevated level of distress and mild disruption to daily routines; in the orange zone (injured), one may experience more severe and persistent distress and may find it difficult to cope with various aspects of life including sleep, work or social life; the red zone (ill) is a crisis zone and includes those who are clinically ill and may have extreme difficulty coping to the point of considering self-harm or suicide.

More information on these sections can be found here. Although this is a helpful tool, it is important to remember if you are struggling regardless of the criteria defined, seek help from a healthcare provider.

Everyone falls somewhere along this continuum and can shift toward better or worse mental health states in response to various factors.


What Influences Mental Health?🪫

Personal traits, circumstances, and environmental factors can all influence mental health in both negative and positive ways, often defined as either a risk or a protective factor.

Risk factors (factors that can compromise or potentially worsen mental health) include:

  • biological factors (e.g., if your biological parents had any mental health conditions)

  • adverse childhood experiences (e.g., neglect, abuse)

  • domestic violence

  • ongoing medical conditions such as cancer or skin diseases

  • major negative life event (e.g., loss of job, divorce, death of loved one)

  • poverty

  • discrimination (e.g., race, ethnicity, sexual orientation)

  • poor interpersonal relationships

Protective factors (factors that help to improve or maintain good mental health) include:

  • feeling physically healthy

  • financial security

  • feeling safe

  • social belonging and support

  • good familial relationships

Challenges are inevitable in life. A combination of these factors can influences how resilient you are to challenges. Those who lack resilience or have never had the chance to develop resilience are at a higher risk of developing mental health conditions. This is especially true for vulnerable groups including:


What is Mental Illness? 🧠

Mental illness refers to health conditions that change how a person thinks, feels, and behaves.

Mental illnesses are increasing worldwide. According to a recent study, half the world's population can expect to develop at least one mental illness in their lifetime.

Examples of mental illnesses include:

  • anxiety disorders

  • bipolar disorders

  • borderline personality disorders

  • depression

  • dissociative disorders

  • eating disorders

  • obsessive-compulsive disorders (known as OCD)

  • post-traumatic stress disorders (known as PTSD)

  • psychosis

  • schizophrenia

Mental illnesses can severely impact many parts of a persons life, including close relationships, work and hobbies. On a wider scale, mental illnesses incur a huge economic cost to society. They are costly, not only in direct medical cost built up but also in the loss of income and productivity due to symptom management, disability, or death.

Loss of productivity due to anxiety and depression costs the global economy US$ 1 trillion each year. The economic cost of mental illnesses even exceeds those of chronic diseases such as cancer and diabetes.


What are the Symptoms of Mental Illness? 😞

Symptoms vary for everyone. It is possible to experience more than one at a time.

Symptoms that can be a sign of mental illness include:

  • feeling anxious or worried

  • feeling depressed or unhappy

  • having emotional outburst

  • having trouble sleeping

  • changes in weight or appetite

  • quiet or withdrawn

  • feeling guilty or worthless

  • experiencing changes in feelings and behaviour

It is normal to experience these symptoms with day-to-day challenges. However, when symptoms persist and start to affect your ability to function, it is important to seek help.

Do not wait until symptoms get worse. Talk to someone or seek professional help. Early intervention can help prevent the progression of minor mental health issues into serious mental illnesses.


How Can You Care for Mental Health? 🔋

You can incorporate healthy habits into your daily routine to strengthen and support your mental health.

Mental health is vital for your overall health and well-being. Maintaining good mental health takes time and effort. Many situations are out of your control and you can never be completely free from experiencing adverse events. However, you can exercise good habits or self-care that will help you cope better with challenges as they arise. These include:

  • exercising regularly

  • eating healthy and staying hydrated

  • getting adequate sleep

  • trying out relaxing or enjoyable activities

  • setting goals and priorities

  • practicing gratitude

  • focusing on positivity

  • staying connected

While these habits can help boost your mental health, they are by no means a cure for mental health conditions. If you find yourself still struggling to cope, seek help. Talk to someone you can trust like your primary care doctor, or a mental health professional.

Editor with Purple Background

Edited by: Olivia Laughton | Content Editor | Microbiology BSc, University of Leeds


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aijaz ali khushik
aijaz ali khushik
Dec 20, 2023

Taking care of your mental health and well-being is crucial for maintaining a healthy brain. Here are some essential practices to consider:

1. Prioritize self-care: Make self-care a priority in your daily routine. This includes getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, engaging in regular physical exercise, and managing stress effectively. Taking care of your physical health has a positive impact on your brain and mental well-being.

2. Manage stress: Chronic stress can have detrimental effects on your brain and mental health. Find healthy ways to manage stress, such as practicing relaxation techniques (e.g., deep breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga), engaging in hobbies, spending time in nature, or seeking support from friends, family, or a mental health professional.

3. Maintain…

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