Unlike physical health issues, which are often obvious and have readily identifiable symptoms or pain sensations, mental and emotional well-being can be trickier. Now more than ever, we should be paying attention to mental and emotional health and how we process feelings. The rise of mental illness in the US, especially among teens and young adults, is alarming. Depression and suicide rates are not only the highest in the past 30 years but of all time, and suicide attempts are starting younger and younger. In light of August being Mental Awareness Month, let’s look at ways to best address mental health together.

The Difference Between Physical and Emotional Health

Age-related physical health issues like muscle pain, joint pain and limited motion, or disability, usually don’t hit most people until middle age or older. It’s fairly uncommon for teens and people in their 20s and 30s to have chronic aches and pains unless they experience some sort of injury.

Emotional issues, however, seem to manifest most often when kids reach adolescence, although research is showing they could start at much earlier ages as a result of traumas. For example, sexual molestation, physical abuse, an alcoholic or otherwise dysfunctional parent, or even a parent who fails to empower, validate, or show affection to a child, can all lead to emotional traumas with lasting effects.

What Happens When Emotional Issues Mount

These emotional issues can easily get stuffed down where they fester and smolder for years. They can affect your decisions in life and can make you careless and reckless or lead to isolation, depression, drug use, alcohol use, job loss, or abuse of your friends and relationships. They attract people into your life who will press your emotional buttons in a bad way – and these relationships can become very tumultuous and damaging, affecting the rest of your future.

As pressure from these various events and stressors build, it can begin to feel that life is falling apart. Often it takes an intervention or extensive counseling to help a person suffering in such a way to regain strength, and deal with the ways all those incidents negatively impacted them. This can involve a painful but beneficial process of rebuilding, discarding old and harmful beliefs and presuppositions, and forgiving others who have contributed to the suffering, intentionally or not.

What You Can Do to Be More Emotionally Sound

So what can you do now? There’s no quick cure for serious trauma, of course. But there are five things that mental health practitioners have suggested that you can do right now to help you stay more mentally healthy:

1. Get in Touch with Your Emotions

Sounds cliche, but it’s true. Whenever someone calls you a “crybaby”, a “whiner” or a “drama queen”, or tells you to “be strong, don’t let this get you down” or perhaps “what happened to you isn’t a big deal, get over it”, do NOT take this advice. Sometimes your friends and loved ones are genuinely trying to help you but lack understanding, and other times they are asking you to do what will make them feel the most comfortable. Either way, an injury does not heal if it’s untreated, and emotional or psychological injuries are just as real as physical ones. What you need most is someone who can actually listen to you explain how you feel and take you seriously. If you ignore big emotions, you may end up stuffing true feelings where they can never be honestly dealt with. And stuffed emotions may point to an ongoing of physical and emotional pain or illness overtime, or behaviors that you don’t realize are negatively impacted.

Learn how to express your emotions positively. There are counselors and classes you can find online that are very effective. Perhaps the classes may be in the form of a transformation or even an anger management classes - how to be assertive, how to deal with your emotions, or even how to deal with difficult people. Don’t let a negative stigma associated with “counseling” prevent you from attending to your emotional health. Whether through groups, classes, or counseling, it’s important to learn healthy ways to manage your emotions. Especially since this topic is not one taught in typical schools or even in many home situations. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can raise your emotional intelligence once you’re empowered with knowledge, and how doing so can change your life positively.

2. Improve Your Diet

What you eat is affecting you every minute of the day. It affects how you perceive situations and react to them. For example, if your blood sugar level is low because you eat sugar or processed foods you will tend overreact to situations and have more drastic emotional swings. This behavior can lead to further issues as your relationships with others become fraught.

If you’re looking for a diet that may contribute to mental and emotional stability, look for one that is:

  • Low in chemicals, preservatives, and pesticides (toxins), including high fructose corn syrup found in many beverages
  • Low or absent in sugars except from low glycemic index fruit
  • Normal to higher in protein
  • Normal or higher in fat
  • A little low on calories, but not too strict
  • Low in overall carbohydrates
  • High in fiber
  • Low in foods like wheat and other grains that are high on the glycemic index scale
  • Low in processed foods and beverages like soda • not excessive in caffeine intake
  • Uses grass-fed meats and wild fish rather than commercially produced meats
  • High in vegetables and fruits, moderate in nuts and seeds

This type of diet isn’t one you can easily change to overnight but the more of these rules of thumb you start to incorporate over time, the greater the emotional stability you will see in your own life. Your relationships with friends and loved ones may improve as well.

3. Give cbdMD a Try

To best set your mental health on the right track, one must ensure your sleep hygiene is also dialed in, meaning you must not skimp on quality 7.5-9 hours of rest each night. The innumerable amount of people who are turning to the therapeutic aspects of cannabidiol (CBD) compounds typically extracted from hemp and infused into gummies, lotions, tinctures and other products are finding their ability to sleep much better. People report experiencing less stress and anxiousness overall. A high-quality company such as cbdMD does not take any shortcuts in growing, harvesting and formulating their CBD products. Their satisfied, worldwide customer base reports cbdMD products continue to help regulate the body under high stress circumstances, in which their products helps the user experience a a sweet sense of calm and focus, and may be one of the most important daily steps in improving anyone’s quality of life.

4. Exercise Regularly

Exercise resets your body’s ability to deal with stress. It can really be any type of exercise – bicycling, walking, powerlifting, working out with weights, or swimming – all of these have great benefits! Exercise releases endorphins that improve your mood and overall sense of wellbeing. Some routines, like yoga, incorporate activities like stretching and conscious breathing that can help you relax and calm your mind.

5. 3 Deep, Diaphragmatic Breaths  

Sometimes going from reaction, agitation and anger to a calmer state is as easy as taking 3 deep, diaphragmatic breaths. When a slow, methodical and intentional breath is taken in through the nose and fills up the lungs, the central nervous system of the body is able to be calmer. Most people hold their breaths or take shallow ones when in the face of fear, stress or uncertainty. 3 deep, diaphragmatic breaths allows your lungs to expand to its fullest and promotes relaxation, as this practice best allows your organs and tissues to fully become oxygenated and disarming the negative effects of the parasympathetic “fight or flight” responses of the body.

6. Get Enough Vitamin D

It’s said that 6-12 oysters a day keeps depression away. This must be because oysters have a ton of vitamin D and zinc. It’s true that vitamin D is one of the best serotonin boosters, the feel-good hormone that is imperative to lifting mood. Vitamin D is also great for immune boosting and supporting long-term mood stabilizing health. To ensure you are getting your rightful amount of vitamin D, take a high quality supplement, get some natural sunshine on your body daily and eat foods high in vitamin D, such as mushrooms, sardines and, yes, oysters!

Remember that your emotional health and mental health is something every bit as important as your physical health, and very often the two are connected. Being mindfully aware of what it is you need, practicing daily self-care, asking for help when you need it, taking time to pause and take a break before the burnout, and doing something that brings you joy each day...are some of the most important self-care tactics you can do in life for success in your relationships, jobs and in the way you view yourself.