Turns out a huge part of being an adult is learning to take care of yourself.
And I’m not just talking about working out, or making yourself tea when you’re sick.
I’m talking about mental health.
Unfortunately most people don’t learn great coping skills or how to deal with their emotions growing up. I’m hoping that changes soon, but for now many teens entering adulthood are ill-equipped to deal with their own mental health. Not to worry – there are a TON of resources available to teach you about it! You just have to be willing to learn.
But what I want to go over specifically is this idea that you have to be unable to get out of bed, or having daily panic attacks, in order to need to worry about your mental health. This simply isn’t the case. Just like keeping up with exercise, you need to keep up with your mental health to ensure a healthy lifestyle. These are just a few ways to check in with your mental health, like keeping a journal or seeing a therapist (covered in an earlier post!). But the most important part that I feel our generation struggles with is realizing and accepting that you need to work on your mental health at all.
The most common mental health problems young adults have are with depression and anxiety, so those are the issues I’ll be talking about today.
First I want to talk about the warning signs of depression:
-loss of interest in activities
-feeling tired, change in sleep patterns
-changes in eating habits, exercise, weight
-changes in emotion; numbness
-excessive thoughts about death
You’ve probably heard most of these. When you picture people with depression, you likely think about characters in movies or TV shows with depression, whose signs might be very outward and obvious; quickly brought on and quickly solved.
However, that’s often not the case. In reality, these symptoms can have an incredibly slow onset. So I want to mention a few specific ways in which these symptoms manifest that can feel sort of “normal” (like you’re just in a funk of having a bad few weeks, or are just a little more stressed than usual), but actually aren’t:
-time feeling like it’s passing more slowly than usual; life is in slow motion
-feeling like significant events (such as birthdays, weddings) pass by without feeling any different before and after – everything just feels the same
-feeling like you just no longer enjoy your previous interests and passions (and even relationships), but you can’t find something new that you enjoy
–pushing friends away – starting to feel as if you don’t like any of your friends
–trouble imagining the future – the feeling that you will never accomplish your dreams
-feeling like sounds and bright lights bother you, and you would rather decrease the amount of stimuli
–perfectionism and “tough love” on yourself when you don’t achieve your goals
Similarly, when it comes to anxiety, the symptoms are below (there are many different types, but these are some general ones):
-feeling detached from the world
-irrational or intrusive fears; excessive worrying
This one can be even harder, because everyone knows what it’s like to feel stressed or nervous. It’s normal, and even healthy in some cases. It’s incredibly subjective: it all depends on if you feel your anxiety is hindering your life or not. There aren’t necessarily “lesser known” symptoms here, and it’s also a little easier to be aware of than depression. But the simple rule is this: if it is making your life more difficult, or you are constantly feeling it before regular tasks (and not just things like auditions or first dates), then it might be time to get help.
As with any illness, the best treatment is prevention, and noticing any decline in health and addressing it before it gets too serious makes a huge difference. It’s easy to say “I’m fine now, if it gets worse I’ll get help” – but the reality is, it only gets harder to get help the worse you feel. You might feel like you’re not “worthy” of getting help because your symptoms aren’t serious enough, or like maybe you’re not depressed at all and are just going through some personality or life changes. But hear me out – even if those things were true, what harm would it do to go to therapy, or start saying some of your thoughts out loud to see if anyone is feeling the same way?
Say it with me: mental health is just as important as physical health, and we all need to be more vigilant in keeping ourselves healthy.
More on how to do so in a later post!