The difference between mental health and mental illness; why you need to know.

Have you ever had a really bad day – you felt exhausted, overwhelmed, or ‘stressed-out’? A day where you wanted to just stay in bed or watch Netflix all day? The next morning, did you wake up feeling the same way? Or were you able to get out of bed and move along with all the things? Did you get up and go grocery shopping? Visited a friend? Filled your gas tank? Did laundry?

This is how our mental health ebbs and flows. This is how our mental health depends on situations, it fluctuates from good days to bad days and okay days.

On the other hand, mental illness – such as depression and anxiety – are quite similar in symptoms, except they don’t fluctuate. Mental illness has three main characteristics – it is persistent, consistent, and prolonged. It is not situational.

So why, when we are having a bad day do we label our emotions as being ‘depressed’ or saying things like ‘I have anxiety’? When the next day we are capable of getting up and out of the house? I am not sure when this terminology got involved with our mental health but it is something we need to work on to change.

Bringing up the way we talk about mental health and mental illness is SO important right now. We are all living in the same world with major world events happening around us. Globally, we are all feeling a lot of stress, overwhelm, and apathy. And this is normal, because we are all in this situation. But it is really important for us to know the differences between mental health and mental illness. It is important for us to talk about the things we are experiencing and the symptoms we are feeling instead of labelling them as depression or anxiety.

And here’s why…

If we all label our experiences as depression then we water down what it means to live with clinical depression – we make it an everyday experience for everyone which leads to deteriorating the seriousness for those who are living with the grave effects of clinical depression. It is a serious thing to be diagnosed with a mental illness. It involves psychiatrists, medications, and daily monitoring.

Mental illness is categorized by three main things – it is persistent, consistent, and prolonged. Whereas mental health is not, it is changing all the time, it fluctuates and is situational. It depends on your situation, including with your relationships, friendships, families, your job, where you’re living, and your money situation.

What can we do to reframe the way we look at mental health?

#1: Be more descriptive when talking about your mental health.

When you own an identity (such as being depressed or anxious) there is not much room for movement. There’s not a lot of room for days where you’re feeling great or days where you’re emotions are actually just fluctuating. By being descriptive with your mental health you are able to describe how you’re feeling and why you’re feeling that way. Instead of saying “I’m depressed” try saying “I’m feeling upset because…” or “I have no motivation today, because…”. When you reframe the way you talk about your mental health, you are capable of finding solutions for yourself.

#2 – Think about your mental health the same way you think about your physical health.

We would all agree that we have physical health, right? Whether that is good or not so good physical health, we’ve all got it. We all have moving bodies and organs and all of that which is part of our physical health. You know what we also have? We all have brains and minds as well which is part of our mental health.

When we start to look at mental health the same way we look at physical health it becomes clear that both are important. And both come with issues. In physical health we may get injuries or our fitness may not be the best – and when you think about those things you can think about how they are all due to situation. Maybe you’re injured from overused muscles and joints, or your not eating your best so you’re starting to see body changes. These are situational things that can be turned around with minor changes. The same goes for your mental health.

reframing mental health for your wellness

Sometimes we have bad days and that usually depends on the situation – maybe it was the weather, or an argument you had with your spouse. All those things are situational and can also be turned around by changing the situation.

And that is the beauty about your mental health. You have the ability to change some of these things in order to alleviate some of the symptoms you experience. For example, if your job is stressful, you have the ability to talk to your employer in an attempt to make it less overwhelming for you or look for another job.

When your body & mind register something as being stressful it will directly impact your mood. Makes sense right? Your mood is a way for your body & mind to bring attention to the stressor so that you can do something about it.

I talk all about reframing mental health in my latest Coffee Talk “Reframing How We Label Mental Health” and I invite you to watch the replay here:

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