There was a time where most people used to feel uncomfortable when they heard the term "mental health" or "mental illness", but in recent years we are managing to break though that stigma. However, we unfortunately have not yet broken that very stigma completely.
6 -7 years back, I had no idea what mental health was. Like most people in my country, if someone said mental health, I would immediately picture mental hospitals and terminally ill dangerous patients. I am not proud of it, but I am glad that I am unlearning what society taught me. Now I am learning again because, after all, learning should not be static but dynamic.
Every day, I am still getting to know more about mental health, and the more I think about it, the more I realize that we are not doing enough to promote it. I see some teenagers writing on how beautiful depression is, and romanticizing it, not realizing that instead of finding ways to cope with it, they are drowning in it. Counseling is still not normalized in my country, for example, and there are still people who will shame other people just because they are proactive about mental health.
My first year of university I was a workaholic (I am still) and I personally thought I was fine. Unfortunately, I ended up with too much emotional baggage later on that I ended up being so stressed and getting anxiety. I regret that I took my mental health for granted because I felt stuck, uninspired and could not write as I used to.
University can be very stressful, and it can take a toll on our mental health if we are not careful. Many people feel guilty or embarrassed to take a mental health day, but they are as important as sick days. Self-care breaks are crucial, and studies show that this boosts overall productivity of work.
It's vital to highlight that physical health is only one part of our overall health. We can work out, go to gym every day, eat salads, drink green smoothies and have abs, but if we do not deal with what is going on in our head, we will never be able to achieve our best. We are not fit and fine if we neglect our mental health. Denial is another coping mechanism, which may trigger an emotional meltdown later and can potentially lead to other serious problems like depression, extreme anxiety and chronic stress.
Self-care breaks are not just using lush bath bombs and face masks, they're also acknowledging that emotionally you are drained and need to do something about it. For example, when we have a fever, we do not carry on with our lives hoping it will be gone on its own. In fact, just like our annual visits to the dentist, I think we should also include an annual visit to a psychologist or therapist to just talk. Children must be encouraged to take mental health days so that they can recharge, detox and come back refreshed. In case it’s not possible, including small self-care gestures in our routines like meditation, writing or journaling, and any mindfulness exercises could help.