Taking care of our physical health seems an obvious and basic rule: if we do not take care of ourselves, we increase the risk of suffering from diseases, dying younger, limiting our field of autonomy, making other people have to take care of us, suffer pain, have to be interned in the hospital, etc. From there, each person decides how much they want to take care of themselves physically and how much not , and if they choose to carry out risky behaviors, there are always openings of their own guilt, or of reproach on the part of other people.
However, we do not give mental health that essential category in life. It is a dimension in which a large proportion of the population, day by day, push ourselves to unsuspected limits. We load ourselves with extra work until the body cannot take it anymore, we put up with the bad behavior of other people so as not to start conflicts, we put responsibilities on our shoulders that should not be exclusive to one person, we let our fears mark the limits or we leave dropping into sadness and resignation because we had to “be like that.” Isn’t this diminishing our life, autonomy and, ultimately, our health?
In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1948 defined Health as “A state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not only the absence of disease.” It is the bio-psycho-social model on which we work in all areas of Health Sciences, and which indicates that taking care of our mental (and social) health is essential.
Why we do not attend to mental health the same as physical
It is common to think that emotional discomfort, the first gateway to mental disorder, is a matter of happiness. Since we cannot live in a continuous state of happiness (and we should reflect on what we understand by happiness), we think that being dejected, suffering stress , having anxious thoughts, lack of sleep, excessive worry or resignation are something natural. life. It has touched us like this and we have to endure. However, mental health has nothing to do with constant feelings of joy or continued positivity. There are situations that we must not allow to continue present in our life, nor causing us emotional and mental damage.
On the other hand, we can consider that we have a way of being that we cannot change. If we tend to go through episodes close to depression, or have an overly negative or anxious vision regarding the future, if we do not dare to take an important step in our life or if we do not know how to face certain situations , we believe that it is the way we are and It is done. Nothing can be done. Nothing could be further from the truth.
For both types of situations, psychologists are dedicated to helping people overcome all those obstacles, personal and circumstantial in our lives, that are limiting us from day to day. Even a professional of this type helps us with the most difficult process of caring for our mental health: learning to get out of a situation to which we have already become accustomed and do not dare to overcome, even if we are unhappy in it or it generates problems. mental health. The example that best reflects this is depression .
Consequences of not taking care of our mental health
Although we think that mental health is only something that affects us inside, our cognitive and emotional sphere, its consequences, in truth, go much further:
– It affects us physically . Many of the diseases that we can develop are triggered and / or aggravated by stress. This can be caused by external factors (work, housework, relationship problems with a partner, family, children, friends, etc.), or internal factors (derived from other disorders, constant suffering, etc.). From heart diseases , circulation, strokes, sleep disturbances, chronic pain, etc.
– We can develop serious psychological disorders . A stressful situation or anxiety maintained over time can lead to depression problems, and also to the development of psychotic disorders ( schizophrenia , bipolar disorder, etc.). Treatment will become much more complicated each time, so good mental health prevention is much more satisfactory than “cure.”
– Neglect in self-care . Taking care of our mental health is the least thing we can do to take care of ourselves and ourselves. Every day we must take time to do something that pleases us, we also have to learn to delegate tasks, promote the independence of the people around us and reduce our feelings of guilt.
– Bad social relationships . A person who does not take care of his emotions, cannot establish healthy and egalitarian social relationships. We will transmit our discomfort to other people, it will be easier for arguments to start, we feel threatened by others or we become someone toxic who can harm other people. On the contrary, we can be more vulnerable to other people doing us emotional and physical harm .
– We will limit our options . Guilt, fear, establishing healthy relationships, worrying, or blocking are making us less free to make decisions. If we think that a person with a chronic physical illness has less autonomy to move and carry out activities in life, why do we think that a person with a phobia, anxiety or depression is going to have more options? That obstacle can be removed with psychological therapy, so we must not miss the opportunity.
– We will let unhappiness mark our lives . As we said, happiness does not consist of having positive emotions. We could define it, in a summarized way, in a state of acceptance and enjoyment of life, with the good and the bad that it entails. If we live it immersed in emotional suffering, with bad social relationships and with a lack of autonomy in making decisions when there is a remedy for it, at some point in our life we can look back and feel that we have not taken advantage of it as we would like . It is not so much a matter of traveling, having money or a desired job, but of finding the source of enjoyment of our existence.