Oct 10, 2021
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How to deal with stress and maintain mental health

What is mental health

Let’s remember what mental health is. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines it as a state of well-being in which a person is aware of their own abilities, can cope with life’s stresses, can work productively and contribute to society. This wording may seem too general and not very clear. But the main thing is obvious from it: for good mental health, it is not enough just to have no mental illness.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is taking the WHO’s message forward by pointing out that people can experience periods of well-being in the midst of mental illness. That is, good mental health and the absence of mental illness cannot be called different poles of the same phenomenon.

Mental health includes emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It must be in good condition so that we think normally, experience healthy emotions, communicate productively and enjoy life.

The ability to cope with stress (resilience) is one of the most important parameters of mental health. This, at least, follows from the definition of the WHO. We understand what psychologists say about training this quality.

What is resilience and how to train it

Psychologists call resilience a person’s ability to adapt when faced with adversity, trauma, stress. It involves not only returning to normal after a difficult experience, but personal growth, according to the American Psychological Association (APA).

American psychologists emphasize that resilience is not an innate character trait inherent in some people. These are actions and thoughts that virtually anyone can develop. Experts compare her workout to building muscle. The APA identifies four key components that help a person to survive: connections, health, healthy thinking and meaning.

Build connections

The pain from traumatic events can lead to a person’s isolation. Communicating with understanding people can remind you that you are not alone in your difficulties. It is very important not to forget how to accept support from other people. “Make it a priority to connect with people who care about you,” advises the American Psychological Association. One way to build connections is by participating in interest groups or getting help from social support groups.

Take care of your health

Remember physical health. The American Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends to promote mental health:

  • be physically active,
  • enough sleep,
  • monitor nutrition.

Relaxation techniques can help support mental health. This can be a variety of practices, including meditation, mindfulness, yoga, guided imagination, breathing exercises. Psychologists advise avoiding “self-medication” with alcohol and psychoactive substances. They compare it to bandaging a deep wound that requires serious treatment.

Find the meaning

The question is not in studying the depths of the philosophy of the meaning of life, but in practical aspects. The NIH in its recommendations directly states that the meaning of life must not be found, but precisely developed. The APA gives the following tips:

  • Help others. Meaning can be gained through volunteering or simply supporting friends. In addition, such activities will improve self-esteem, help to find new connections with people.
  • Be proactive. In case of difficulties, you need to not only be aware and accept your emotions. It is advisable to wonder what can be done with them. If the difficulties are too great, you can try to isolate those parts of them that can be dealt with. Being proactive will remind you that you can be motivated even during tough times.
  • Follow your goals. You need to develop realistic goals and work on them regularly. Instead of focusing on global challenges, ask yourself what one thing you can accomplish today and what needs to be done to get it moving in the right direction.

Try to keep your thoughts healthy

Mindset can play a significant role in resilience. Try to highlight the things that you tend to think irrationally: for example, many catastrophize difficulties or believe that the whole world is up in arms against them. Often times such things can be viewed in a more balanced and realistic way. Current difficulties are not a sign of how events will unfold in the future. Perhaps the stressful event cannot be changed, but you can reflect on your attitude towards it.

Among the recommendations of psychologists on this matter:

  • Embrace change, it’s part of life. Some goals may become unattainable due to changes in life. If you accept this, it will be easier to focus on new goals.
  • Try not to look to the future with a sense of hopelessness. It can be difficult, but optimism itself can be empowering.
  • Learn from your past. Remember what helped you in the past difficult periods. Remind yourself that you have dealt with difficulties before.

Ask for help

Using only your own resources shouldn’t be a priority when it comes to mental health. If you do not have enough strength to cope with the situation, contact a professional psychologist.

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