Winter is upon us. Shorter days provide less and less sunshine, the holidays usually add more pounds to the scale, and the stresses of everyday life continue with every passing day. Whether you feel as if “it’s the most wonderful time of the year” or not, your mind, body and soul may be facing neglect. Do you exercise regularly, if so, is it effective exercise? Does your diet consist of healthy foods and appropriate calorie levels? What is the status of your mental health? When was the last time you took the time to assess your overall health?

Many of us lead extremely busy lives, revolving around hectic jobs and families, among countless other factors. Daily tasks, poor habits and everyday stressors can easily consume the day in its entirety. It seems that no matter how hard we work to achieve and succeed, at the end of the day many of us are left in a state of pure exhaustion, which will only carry over into the next day. As we go about our day, it is a struggle for most to find successful ways to prioritize our own health and wellness. Comfort food and cozy couches are always there for us, and their invitations are even bolder when the sun has set by 5 p.m., and the temperature is below 40 degrees. Although some of us put forth effort to include some type of fitness or gym membership in our New Year’s resolution, along with having good intentions to consume healthier foods involving less calories, it is a rarity that mental health maintenance makes it on our New Year’s resolution lists. The Mentalhealth.gov website explains in detail that “mental health is important at every stage of life” and should always be maintained and included in your overall health and fitness plan.

According to the dictionary, mental health is typically defined as a level of psychological well-being. Sigmund Freud defines mental health as the capacity “to work and to love.” The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reveals that depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide and 18.1 percent of American adults live with anxiety disorders. In addition, one out of every five adults experience a mental illness. Common disorders such as depression and anxiety may vastly affect one’s “level of psychological well-being,” as well as their ability “to work and to love.” NAMI also states that “60 percent of adults with mental illness didn’t receive mental health services in the previous year.” As we digest these statistics, we can better understand why mental health needs to be maintained just as your physical fitness and level of nutrition do.

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So how do we get started? The first step toward improving and maintaining your mental health is to assess your current level of well-being. If mental illness or mental disorders are evident in your family, contact your doctor or ask for referrals for treatment specialists in your area. Very often, there is provider information listed online that include patient reviews. If you have never been treated or diagnosed with a mental condition before but do have some questions or concerns, it does not hurt to get evaluated by a professional. You can also assess your level of mental health by taking a look at your daily life. Certain signs may indicate that you could benefit from talking with a therapist or another mental health professional. A few of these signs may include having low stress resilience to minor situations (overreacting to minor daily occurrences), difficulty sleeping, excessive crying and frequent headaches. The American Institute of Stress (AIS) lists 50 common signs and symptoms of stress, all of which can have a significant impact on your level of mental health.

With the new year just beginning, no matter how packed our schedules are, it is vital to take action toward prioritizing our own overall health. As we take advantage of new gym membership discounts and turn our attention toward calorie counting and healthy eating, we should also be mindful to include some mental health maintenance as part of our resolution.

This article was written on behalf of Drug Crisis in Our Backyard, a community action organization dedicated to assisting individuals struggling with addiction and their families. Learn more by visiting drugcrisisinourbackyard.org or calling 845-842-1212.