People always say the mind is a fragile thing. But what exactly is the mind and how can we manage our mental wellbeing?
In the English dictionary the mind is thought of as the element of a person that enables them to be aware of the world and their experiences, to think, and to feel; the faculty of consciousness and thought. In actual fact it can be explained as the ability of a person to think and reason. We know the mind is not physical however when we do describe it, it’s always from a physical standpoint.
The best description given to me by a patient was her mind is like glass. Normally strong and firm but stresses from life chip at it and sometimes cracks appears at the edges and side parts of the glass. Then there are life events that tend to crack the central part of the glass. However sometimes a combination or just one thing can shatter the glass. You’re then left with the pieces and the struggle to hold and put them back together. I remember thinking to myself when I heard this what courage she must have to be dealing with this and to tell me.
It’s not so taboo
It’s Mental Health Awareness Week and it’s good that more promotion has been done on mental illness. No more is it thought of as taboo, rather a condition to recognise and seek treatment for. It is not about a defect in one’s character or a personal weakness because honestly it can happen to anyone of us. People these days generally know of at least one person with a mental illness and though it can be uncomfortable to watch and talk about, we must remember it is likely worse for the person affected. The thoughts and concern of what people may think of you can itself add more challenge to the condition.
Our ability to think and reason can never be taken for granted. But illnesses like depression, anxiety, and phobias highlight a disorder in the mind’s thinking process. This can lead to a path which affects our daily routines and even people around us.
Though environmental factors can lead and contribute to mental illness, genetics can also play a role but the vast majority are usually thought of as a combination of environmental factors. Some of these are unavoidable. However some can be tackled directly like excess alcohol intake, drug usage and poor nutrition. But there are other treatments which can be done to help.
Help the mind – keep physical
Physical activity as a treatment is a major factor in helping. The hormones released from exercise relieve stress, improve memory, aid better sleep and improves mood. It is not something that should be ignored especially in the context of non-pharmaceutical treatment. However on its own it can be difficult to initiate or get a person to partake in regularly.
Obviously help is on hand specifically targeting a mind ‘s thinking and reasoning. Examples include counselling and behavioural therapy delivered by trained mental health professionals. Sometimes access to these treatments can be lengthy however the results can be wonderful.
Can medication help?
Sometimes mental illness will not be solved by non-medical means alone and therefore medications need to be used. There is still that taboo of being on medication for mental health but really it’s there only to help. People are sometimes reluctant to take medication and honestly as a doctor I can agree to a certain level but if the degree of mental illness is affecting the functioning of a person’s day to day life, then pharmaceutical treatment may be a good option.
Being on a medication does not make you weak nor signify you will need this for the rest of your life. Essentially it is there to help while other therapies are put in place. That decision to consider medication is not taken lightly by a doctor and they will always seek to monitor your response while on it. At some point a discussion maybe had about weaning you off any medication but other aspects of care should be implemented at the same time to better the chances of recovery.
Seek professional help
It’s evident that mental illness should be dealt with by a medical professional and that journey starts by recognition and acknowledgement that help is needed. A visit to your local GP will be fundamental in directing you to the correct services and letting you know that you are not alone in this.
At My WAFFL, we believe good exercise, a healthy diet and knowledge are key ingredients for reducing life stresses. It forms a degree of protection and even rewarding treatment outside of just the well known physical benefits. The underlying point is how we deal with stresses which if uncontrolled can trigger/contribute to mental illness. But the mind like all things does need help at times and it only takes early recognition and assistance to reduce those cracks in the glass appearing.
Dr Anthony Egboh
MBBS, AICSM, BSC MRCGP