By Nadine Gale. Nadine is the owner of AlphaGraphics, a Marketing Services Provider to the Hub on Smith
The term “mental health” has come to have a much different meaning for me in the past two years. Politics, riots, pandemics, and family health issues have caused me to pay attention to my mental health and the mental health of those close to me. The news and other statistics indicate that I am not the only one with a paradigm shift of mental health. It makes sense that mental health is similar to physical health. You have to work at it to be healthy. For some people, maintaining good physical health seems to come naturally. I think of those people who have naturally high metabolisms. They can eat almost anything and keep low body fat. Maybe mental health is similar. Some people seem to take whatever is thrown at them and rebound easily while others have a harder time working through tough mental situations.
I do not have a naturally high metabolism. I must work at maintaining good physical health by watching what I eat and exercising regularly. However, I do seem to be able to process stressful situations better than some people. Well, I should say, I used to think I was better at dealing with stress. I am finding that years of not learning techniques for de-stressing is not only causing me to have less than optimal mental health, it is starting to manifest in physical ailments (tight neck and shoulders, headaches – can anyone relate?).
In working with The Hub on Smith, I was introduced to Dr. Vivianne Tran, a Clinical Psychologist at the Sheridan VA Health Care System. She explained to me that mental health is a human condition. We all have ups and downs in our life. Too many “down” times or traumatic events without the time or tools to recoup and cope with those events may lead to a mental health disorder diagnosis. Thirty percent of the general population have conditions that meet the clinical criteria for a mental health disorder diagnosis.
Dr. Tran teaches that human beings are flawed. None of us have a perfect life despite what is represented on social media, movies, or television. Almost everyone feels like there is something wrong with them or their life. Why can’t I go on tropical vacations and post about it on Instagram? Why aren’t my children as happy as the pictures I see of my friends’ children? Why don’t I look like the people who are posting pictures of their workout at the gym? These examples and others like them, conjure feelings of not being good enough, feeling like something is wrong with us, or feelings of being different, all of which may lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness.
If I take a moment to realize that EVERYONE feels this way, how liberating would that be? If I am a flawed human just like every other human I come into contact with, that means that we are all free to pursue joy and happiness in our own way. As humans, we still go through life’s ups and downs, but we are all free to actively work on our reactions and choices when faced with these situations. Actively engaging in this process can lead to long lasting feelings of being OKAY or contentment with life.
The Sheridan VA is a valuable partner of The Hub on Smith. Dr. Tran has been a presenter for different programs and activities at The Hub and is working on ways to record future events so that more people can watch and learn more about creating joy and mindfulness. I encourage everyone to take time and work on your mental wellness. Do not wait to focus on your mental health until you “feel better.” Absence of symptoms does not equal happiness. Just like our physical health, our choices affect our overall wellbeing. The Hub on Smith has resources available to help if you or someone you know is struggling. Check out www.thehubsheridan.org or call the Support Center at 307-675-4958 for more information about programs available in the community.