Mental health is a term that refers to the general state of how people regulate their behavior, feelings, and thoughts. There is no one-size-fits-all measurement or standard for what's normal when it comes to mental health. Poor mental health has the potential to impact every area of life, including:
- Your relationships with friends, family, co-workers.
- How productive you are at work or school.
- Your interest in activities, social life, etc.
- Your energy levels, and much more.
The past year and a half has been stressful for all of us, from navigating a global pandemic and the ensuing shutdowns, travel restrictions, layoffs, and so forth, which is why it's important to know if your stress levels and response are normal or you may need to seek help. These six signs may signify it's time to check in with a health care provider.
#1. Your Sleep is Disrupted
Difficulty falling and/or staying asleep is often a red flag that you're experiencing depression or anxiety. On the other hand, frequent oversleeping or the inability to get out of bed can signal depression or your body being overly fatigued and burned out.
#2. Irritability and Feeling More Emotional Than Normal
Common signs of poor mental health include irritation, anger, feeling snappy, and extreme mood swings. Depression and anxiety make it much more difficult to self-regulate thoughts and feelings— which leads to higher sensitivity than normal.
#3. Loss of Joy
We all have bad days from time to time. But, if you are regularly finding yourself in a bad mood, not being able to enjoy things you used to love, and overall joy-less—it's a sign that something's not quite right.
#4. Appetite Changes
Depression and anxiety affect the body in a number of ways, including our appetites. For some people, stress, and anxiety lead to loss of appetite, while others may stress eat and find comfort in the bottom of a tub of Ben & Jerry's—which is fine once in a while. But, if you find yourself stress binge eating nightly, it's likely a mental health red flag.
#5. Worsening Physical Symptoms
The side effects of depression and anxiety also have the potential to be physical—from sweating to rapid heart rate, G.I. problems, and headache. If you notice sudden physical symptoms with no other cause, it may be a sign that your mental health is declining.
#6. Low Energy
Fatigue and lethargy are also common in people struggling with mental health issues. When you feel sluggish—both mentally and physically, it can be hard to concentrate, think quickly, and hold conversations. If you notice your energy levels dipping to the point you are unable to find the motivation to get out of bed or get things done, consider speaking with your health care provider.
If you start to feel overly anxious, depressed, or not like yourself, try the following:
- Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
- Eat healthy, balanced meals and exercise for at least 30 minutes daily.
- Drink water and eliminate excessive caffeine.
- Meditate and practice mindfulness.
- Avoid excessive alcohol and drugs consumption.
If healthy habits don't improve your mental state, it's time to seek help from a licensed professional. Your provider will talk to you about your medical and mental health history, daily habits and stressors, and your current concerns to develop a customized plan to get you back to feeling your best.