Mental Health


  • Author Tessa Hankey
  • Published January 12, 2023
  • Word count 1,374

Mental health is not something we think about. We are too busy thinking about our physical health and wellbeing, and then life in general, that we rarely stop to think about exercising our mental health.

It’s just as important to look after our mental health, as it is our physical health. So why don’t we take more time looking after our own mental health?

Health, according to the World Health Organization, is "a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being……".

Mental health is a big factor towards your overall health and wellbeing. We all understand we need to eat well and exercise to maintain our physical health, however when it comes to mental health do we really understand what it means (unless you work in the mental health industry)?

I know that I didn’t really think of it, let alone truly understand the meaning behind it. Sure, I knew about mental illness, I knew it affected people in different ways, though I didn't fully comprehend just how important exercising our mental health actually is.

What does mental health mean exactly? According to the World Health Organization, “Mental health is a state of mental well-being that enables people to cope with the stresses of life, realize their abilities, learn well and work well, and contribute to their community. It is an integral component of health and well-being that underpins our individual and collective abilities to make decisions, build relationships and shape the world we live in”.

So mental health affects how we think, feel, act, within our everyday life, such as work, relationships and study. When we're feeling mentally healthy we can be fully present with our family, friends, work colleagues and community.

So how do we stay mentally healthy? Here are a few things that are good for our mental health:

  • Having supportive people in our lives

  • Maintaining good physical health through healthy eating and exercise

  • Getting enough sleep

  • Taking time out to do activities we enjoy

  • Doing work that is meaningful and enjoyable

  • Volunteering in our community

  • Having good coping strategies for times when our mental health is not so good

  • Having work-life balance

  • Financial security

  • Feeling confident in our ability to manage day-to-day life

  • Living and working in a society that is fair, just, tolerant and equitable.

So we know what helps with our mental health, now let's see what isn’t so good for our mental health:

  • Unsupportive relationships, or few supportive relationships in our lives

  • Times when we are physically ill

Practicing poor health habits, e.g. not getting enough sleep or exercise, not maintaining physical hygiene

  • Chronic stress

  • Not having time to do activities we enjoy or not being able to take time out to relax and care for ourselves

  • Being in work that is not engaging, fulfilling or secure

  • Practicing unhelpful coping strategies when stressed, such as drinking too much alcohol

  • Lacking stability, certainty or control in our lives

  • Limited opportunities for career or educational advancement

  • Bullying, discrimination or harassment

  • Living and working in a society that is unjust, intolerant or inequitable.

Does that mean that if we stay in good mental health that we’ll never experience mental unhealth? Short answer is no. Though it certainly helps, that’s for sure.

Did you know that approximately 20% of Australian adults, in any 12-month period, experience a common mental illness (based on the most recent National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing). A person will vary between being mentally healthy, and experiencing some form of mental illness at different points in their life. Only a small minority have ongoing mental health problems.

Interesting statistics aren't they? And the most common mental illness is anxiety, depression, and substance use. What’s even more interesting is that marginally more Australian females aged 18-85 will have, at some stage, anxiety and/or depression in any one year. And more Australian males will have substance use in any one year.

As long as we are aware of our own mental health, and can see signs/changes in ourselves then we can get the right help and support. It’s also about noticing when your friends, family, work colleagues are exhibiting changes to their usual way, and asking them if they are OK. Being there to listen to them, without blame or judgment in any way. They just need to feel that they are being heard and understood.

So what are some of the signs? Generally you may notice certain behaviors or physical signs that yourself or others are portraying. You also may not notice these changes in yourself as they may start off as little things at first. It’s very important that your friends and family also notice the signs, changes in your behaviors, how you act and react in social situations.

Some behaviors exhibited may include:

  • Appearing worried, sad, angry, irritable, distracted or nervous

  • Withdrawing from social or work activities

  • Conflict with the people around them, e.g. friends, family, colleagues

  • Problems with memory, attention or concentration

  • Appearing indecisive or confused

  • Not getting things done

  • Loss of motivation and interest in activities they used to enjoy

  • Loss of confidence or increase in self-criticism

  • Saying they feel helpless or hopeless

  • Unplanned absences from work or study

  • Increased errors or accidents

  • Behaving in ways that are out of character, e.g. developing unusual routines or odd ideas

  • Increased use of caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes or sedatives.

Some physical signs you may notice include:

  • Being tired all the time

  • Feeling sick and run down

  • Headaches

  • Unexplained or persistent muscle aches and pains

  • Increased reaction times

  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns

  • Weight loss or gain

  • Disheveled appearance

  • Gastro-intestinal issues

  • Appearing to have more or less energy than usual

  • Nervous behaviors, tremors or shaking.

I’m sure you read that and think to yourself, am I exhibiting these behaviors? Remember the meaning of good mental health, a state of wellbeing in which a person is able to: cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively, relate to others, and make choices that are positive.

So if you are acting as you normally would, feeling happy, healthy, alive, then that’s a great sign. We can also wake up and not feel the best some days, be in a bad mood, get angry at our kids, the traffic, be fed up with work. They are normal feelings, we can’t always be 100% happy can we? You’d be a saint if you could!

Recognising that something isn’t quite right can save someone, and help them get better quicker than if it goes unnoticed. It’s important if you see a family member, friend, work colleague exhibit the behaviors and physical signs, to support them fully. You may think they are just being weak, lazy, selfish, uncooperative, attention seeking, instead of being mentally unhealthy.

We cannot fully understand what someone is going through, unless we have gone through it ourselves. Let me explain in a different way - It’s like having a baby, you think you might know the pain you go through with labor, and what it’s like feeding, and not having enough sleep. However, the reality is that unless you have experienced having a baby yourself, you don’t actually know what it’s like. Same with being mentally unhealthy, unless you have been there, you don’t know what they are or have experienced.

It’s best to be supportive, and to talk to them about seeking help (as they need to take that first step themselves, all we can do is be encouraging and be there for them).

Who do you turn to for help? There are a lot of people who are versed with helping people with mental unhealth; GP’s, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health nurses, occupational therapists and social workers, counselors and coaches (for milder types of mental health problems).

Mental health is very important, make sure that you stay mentally healthy and vigilant for those that you love. Recognize the signs. Take action; stand up to say you need help, or support others to find their way back to mental health.

Finally, love and take care of yourself, and the people around you.

Love and light.

Tessa ♡

Mindset Evolving

Hello, my name is Tessa Hankey

I’m on a mission to help thousands of women navigate their way through all aspects of their busy life, helping them to gain confidence as a woman, so that they live a fulfilled life.



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