Tacoma Christian Counselor
Knowing and understanding the importance of mental health is more openly discussed today than it was ten or twenty years ago. While we know our mental health is important, it can still be difficult to identify when we are struggling.
The importance of knowing when your mental health is suffering.So much of mental health feels internal. We often navigate the inner workings of our minds, feelings, and souls in isolation. Sometimes this works well and we can recognize when we are not doing well or we need help. Other times, we can be so intensely wrapped up in our circumstances that we miss the signs of our struggles.
When this happens, it can lead to things getting harder than they need to be. Instead of addressing our wellness early on, things spiral and get worse. The struggle becomes more intense, causing us to suffer alone more intensely and for a longer time.
For example, if the pressure at work is building and you feel overwhelmed, you may not recognize it initially. It may just feel like a busy season where there is a lot to do. You push through, trying to get beyond the hard things you are working on. Maybe you work longer hours or skip lunch to get things done. Maybe the pressure keeps you up at night.
For a short period, this may seem insignificant, like nothing more than a normal challenge in daily life. But when you don’t recognize the burden these things are placing on your wellness and mental health, things can compound.
Instead of skipping one lunch, you skip lunch all week. This leads you to feel cranky and impatient, causing you to lash out at your family when you get home. Maybe one sleepless night turns into three, and you don’t even realize the impact that has until you feel like you can’t function. As the pressure at work builds, you may find yourself angrily gripping the wheel and speeding on the way home.
As these things compound, you find you are arguing with your spouse or avoiding them altogether. Maybe you miss out on important family events because you are tired, stressed, and overwhelmed. At this point, your relationships are suffering and you are still overwhelmed.
All of these little examples quickly become something more significant if they are not recognized and addressed.
This is why it is important to know when your mental health and well-being are at risk. The sooner you recognize this, the less likely it is to spiral into something harder to deal with. Being aware of the warning signs that you are struggling can prevent a more significant problem.
Common warning signs that you are struggling.
While every person and situation is different, there are some warning signs that your mental health is at risk. Consider each of these and honestly assess whether they are relevant to your life right now:
Stress and mental fatigue can make you feel tired, worn out, or like you have no energy. Even if your body is still functioning, you may feel like it is always hard to get out of bed, accomplish daily tasks, or do things you typically enjoy doing.
Mental fatigue is a state of tiredness that sets in when your brain’s energy levels are depleted. Mental fatigue is usually the result of prolonged stress. Long-term stress can be brought on by a variety of factors, including a challenging life event, a demanding job, or procrastination. – Shonna Waters, PhD
Everything feels like a chore:
Similar to decreased energy, when simple things, take little time, or are typically enjoyable feel like a chore, your mental health may be shaky. Anything from anxiety to decision fatigue can make even the simplest things feel overwhelming.
If you notice that simple tasks like putting something away or taking a shower feel like a chore, you may be suffering in some way. While you may not always enjoy life tasks, simple things should feel simple overall.
Your responsibilities are overwhelming:
When it feels like the to-do list is endless and all the responsibilities rest on you, it can be a lot to handle. Think about your current responsibilities. Do they feel like things that may challenge you but are attainable? Or do they feel impossible, as if you could never possibly achieve even half of them?
People often overlook the common feeling of being overwhelmed by responsibilities. Instead of pushing harder to get things done, consider who you can talk to that will help you sort through them to function in a healthier way.
You snap at people frequently:
General impatience can be a red flag that something deeper is wrong. If you find yourself responding sharply to others, it may not be the situation. It may be that you have something else that is bothering you.
Consider how you are responding to the people in your life. Notice whether your family feels like they are walking on eggshells around you. Consider whether friends are engaging or seem to have backed away. Pay attention to how you treat strangers like a store clerk or person on the phone. If you discover you are being short with them, you may have something else upsetting you.
You escape more often:
Escaping can sometimes be a healthy outlet when we need a break. Things like taking a drive, reading a book, or watching tv can give our minds and bodies the break it needs from whatever is going on in life.
If you find, however, that these forms of escape are taking up more and more of your time, that can be problematic. Consider how often you are using these escape mechanisms and why. Are they preventing you from getting things done? Are they keeping you from important relationships? Too much escape is a sure signal that you feel like there is something from which you need to escape.
You disengage from people and activities:
We all have differing levels of comfort when it comes to interaction with people and activities. This is normal and nothing to be concerned about. When you or people close to you notice, however, that your normal level of interaction is changing, that can be a signal.
If you are withdrawing and avoiding interaction with people like your family and close friends, it can be a sign that something else is wrong. Similarly, if you are avoiding things you love doing that can signify a problem. If, for example, you love going for a bike ride and you suddenly find yourself dreading it, that can indicate that you are disengaging. Consider your typical level of interaction and how you feel in your current state.
Your habits change:
If you notice changes in your sleeping or eating habits, it can be a sign that your mental health needs to be addressed. Sleeping more than usual or less than usual for more than a night or two may indicate something is bothering you.
Similarly, if your eating habits change for more than a few days, you may be struggling with something. This could mean eating more than usual, less than usual, or other variations like eating late at night. If you notice these things, they can be a red flag that something is wrong.
What to do if you notice any of these concerns.
If you discover that you are suffering from any of these things, it doesn’t mean that something terrible is going on. It can, however, mean that your mental health needs some support.
Contact our office for help as you consider these things. The counselors in our office can talk with you and help you address potential warning signs before you find yourself in a crisis. We are here to support you and help you discover and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Waters, Shonna Ph.D., “Is your brain tired? Here are 6 ways to treat mental fatigue.” Better Up, December 1, 2021. https://www.betterup.com/blog/mental-fatigue
“Counseling”, Courtesy of Andrej Lisakov, Unsplash.com, Unsplash+ License; “Patience”, Courtesy of Umit Bulut, Unsplash.com, CC0 License “Comfort”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Down”, Courtesy of Kateryna Hliznitsova, Unsplash.com, Unsplash+ License
DISCLAIMER: THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE
The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this article are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please contact one of our counselors for further information.