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Thoughts, Feelings & Behaviours: the Keys to Mental Health

12/11/2015, 5:00am PST
By Kelvin Cech

Special thanks to Marilyn Marchment for her work on this series.

In the first two parts of this series we discussed how mental health is relevant to everyone, all the time. We defined it as being your everyday thoughts, feelings and behaviours and how this affects your daily life, your ability to participate in it and have meaningful relationships.

We also talked about awareness of mental health issues and how they might emerge for you or someone else. We also looked at some online resources and how to support a friend during a tough time. 

Read Part 1: Defining Mental Health

Read Part 2: Supporting Our Friends

Everyone’s ability to cope with stressors and what life throws at you varies. Understanding and embracing your thoughts, feelings and behaviours not only helps you know when you might need to pay a bit more attention to them, but it also helps to reduce stigma and increase our collective comfort around talking about mental health – a huge benefit to everyone, particularly teenage males.

Predicting Stress

Stress is a relatable mental health condition for many of us. We usually know what causes us stress, so we do our best to avoid these situations. Sometimes that’s impossible to do, but more often than not, action taken beforehand has a powerful impact on the result.

“Long-term stress can increase the risk of developing depression, anxiety and other mental and physical health problems. Dealing with stress early can help prevent these problems.”

That’s borrowed straight from mindcheck.ca’s section on the symptoms of stress and the steps we can take to gain control of our mental health, which include:

  • relaxation techniques such as reading, writing or meditating
  • expending physical energy in the gym or on the tennis court
  • confronting and managing negative thoughts
  • cutting back on work or responsibilities
  • talking to a friend

Stress is only a small representation of your overall mental health profile, but it’s a slice with which we’re all familiar. How often do you hear the phrase “I’m so stressed out, man?” Yes, saying the words yourself counts. 

Spotting Stress in Yourself or Others

  • Irritability
  • Exhaustion & fatigue
  • Angst and anxious feelings
  • Dizziness or feeling light-headed
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
  • Headaches, tension in the muscles
  • Increased use of drugs or alcohol

Some of these factors are quantitative, some of them aren’t. You know if your appetite changes. You know when you’re sleeping more than usual. It can be a difficult cycle to break, one where cause and effect is blurred.

Each person’s response to stress is different, just like response varies when it comes to depression, social anxiety and body image challenges. 

The Day to Day Conditions of Mental Health 

When I have morning practices at 6:45am, I often spend what seems like half the night watching my clock, worried I’ll sleep in. It normally subsides as the season progresses.

The same circumstances might be felt by a student the night before a big test, or people faced with presentations. Social anxiety feelings plant cruel thoughts in our mind of a face-plant as we’re walking across a room in front of people. It’s why we think people will laugh at us or people will judge us.

Everyone can relate to the feelings of stress and anxiety described above; or feelings of great sadness when we lose a loved one or a relationship ends; or thoughts of failure or incompetence. Typically those feelings and thoughts (and associated behaviours) subside once the event has passed or over time.

Someone experiencing a mental health issue will feel and think those same things, but for them it doesn’t subside and it’s more intense.

It’s alright, and even appropriate, to be anxious or sad sometimes. Just like it's fine to be stressed, exuberant or fearful. Our thoughts, feelings and behaviours can help us get motivated, keep us safe and create connections with other people.

Understanding ours and our children’s mental health starts with knowing you have it and it’s always at play in how well you’re doing. It's the same as your physical health. Learning typical thoughts, feelings and behaviours for you and yours helps you identify emerging issues so you can take action sooner rather than later.

Being aware and getting support early can change someone’s outcome. NSWC is a tight-knit community, no matter what sports your family participates in. Be there for each other with the comfort that we’re all in this together.

Go spend some time at mindcheck.ca to gain a clearer picture of your mental health and that of your family. You’ll be glad you did.

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