On May 1st, New Yorkers might have noticed that the Empire State Building was glowing green. But, you may not know why. That glowing green was honoring the first day of Mental Health Awareness Month 2017.
This year the theme is "Risky Business," which highlights how certain behaviors can impact our mental health and why it's important to be aware it.
From drug use to exercise, we need to be mindful of the ways that we can be contributing to our mental health directly and indirectly.
Sometimes we do things that we don't necessarily associate with mental health- this years theme reminds us that there are so many factors contributing to mental health and that in order to be healthier we need to be aware of risky business.
Prescription Drug Misuse
As we become more and more aware of how huge the pharmaceutical industry is and how common prescription drugs are, we have to talk about misuse of these drugs. So, how are we defining misuse? This year's campaign by Mental Health America (MHA) defines misuse as, "when a person uses a prescription drug that is not intended for them, or uses a prescription in a way that is different than how the doctor indicated (using larger amounts, taking it more often, or using it for longer than prescribed)."
MHA a provides us with some striking statistics:
- 12.5 million people misused opioid prescriptions
- 6.1 million people misused tranquilizers
- 5.3 million people misused stimulants
- 1.5 million people misused sedatives
Misuse can have consequences ranging from drug side effects to addiction and even to fatality. We have to remember that prescription drugs are incredibly powerful and can have dangerous impacts on our bodies, especially if they are being misused or overused. Here's how they can affect our mental health:
If you have a dependency on prescription drugs there are plenty of places you can find support. Talking to your doctor or mental health professional is a first step you can take to get the help you need. Visit samsha. gov for a helpful, comprehensive list of treatment options and resources.
Being sedentary is definitely a concern when it comes to living a health life. Though many people associate physical exercise with physical health, there is an important relationship between exercise and mental health. Have you ever heard that magical buzzword 'endorphins' or had someone refer to 'runner's high'? Exercise gets those good hormones pumping and released throughout your body, which has shown really great impacts on your mental health, reports CNN.
John Hopkins Medicine talks about the potential risks of being inactive, which includes high blood pressure, developing coronary heart disease, and experiencing anxiety and depression.
Click here to read up on 13 ways exercise can benefit your mental health
You can speak with your primary care provider or your mental health provider about the benefits of exercise and how you can achieve regular exercise. They may be able to help you set goals for yourself and support you in the process!
Not exercising has been linked to anxiety and depression, often a reflection of how hard it can be to get yourself going. But, being obsessive about exercising is also a reflection of larger issues at hand, which can have to do with control, body-image and are often correlated with eating disorders - nearly 38% of people with an eating disorder also struggle with exercise addiction (MHA).
Be kind to yourself and be patient with yourself. If you are dealing with this issue, know that you are not alone and that there are steps you can take to begin your process of healing. The MHA has a really helpful set of guidelines that can help you address this issue:
- Take days off from exercising or substitute your normal routine with less strenuous workouts.
- Remind yourself that a certain body type or weight will not automatically lead to happiness.
- Avoid negative self-talk like, “You’re a lazy slob if you don’t go to the gym,” or, “Nobody will want to date you with a body like that.”
- Make sure you are eating enough to fuel your body for exercise.
- Tell a trusted friend or family member about your struggles. Make plans to do something besides workout a couple of days each week.
- Know when to seek professional help.
Balance is the ultimate goal! As we've learned, too little and too much exercise can have negative affects on your mental health.
Remember, it's okay to start small. Setting achievable goals is really important, especially if it's been a while since you've regularly exercised. At first, it may be hard but soon enough it will become part of your routine. Exercise is really important to your mental and physical health, and it's important to figure out what works for you.
If you are dealing with over or obsessive exercising, it's important that you talk with someone. Speaking with a professionals or trusted friends and family can be a helpful way of addressing the issues that are leading you to over exercise.
There is not one single regimen or exercise that works for everyone. Finding support in your community can be a helpful way of sticking to it, whether that's taking an exercise class or finding a friend to exercise with.
Last, but not least...internet addiction! Let's face it, our world is becoming more and more digitized and social media platforms have become a primary pillar of communication. It feels like at large, we have a societal internet addiction. Take a moment and think, how much time do you spend on your devices per day? And New Yorkers, have you ever been sitting on a subway and just noticed how many people are staring at their phones?
Once again, the MHA hits us with some really striking statistics:
- 88.5 % of Americans are Internet users
- Less than 40% of the world has internet access
- 40% of young adults use social media in the bathroom
- An estimated 75% of Americans use a smart phone, tablet or mobile device to get online
According to the MHA campaign, internet addiction typically comes in these forms: cybersex and internet porn, net compulsions like gambling or shopping, cyber-relationships like social media or online dating, online gaming, and compulsive web searching. It's important to note that because of how internet-driven our society has become, we have to be especially aware of how these behaviors are becoming more and more normalized.
In a recent blog post called, "Using Hook-Up Apps in 2017: Emotional Health," we talked about the impact online dating and hookup apps have had on emotional and mental health, namely when it comes to self-esteem, validation and loneliness or isolation. There are so many ways that internet use can become damaging to our mental health, and we have to be especially mindful of it because it is becoming more and more ingrained in the fabric of our every day lives.
Visit the MHA page on Internet Addiction to learn more and access helpful resources on the issue. The Center for Internet Addiction also has plenty of really helpful resources and information on the issue. Here are some options for treatment as outlined by the MHA:
To read up on the rest of MHA's Risky Business behaviors visit these pages: