If you have any thoughts about mental health not being a work life balance issue, read this: The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports that one in four adults, approximately 57.7 million Americans, experience a mental health disorder in a given year. Even though some mental illness is purely biological, much, and perhaps even most, can be prevented.
There is a very wide continuum of severity of mental illnesses. Even though the above numbers from NIMH suggest that mental illness is widespread in our population, the main load is concentrated in a much smaller proportion, about 6 percent (1 in 17) of all Americans. These are the people who live with severe mental illness.
Many people think that mental illnesses are simply a matter of willpower. That could be no more further from the truth than thinking that willpower could cure or control cancer or diabetes. Mental illnesses are diseases and need to be treated as such, but too often they are judged as moral conditions or are related to one’s character or intelligence.
The people who have the less severe mental illnesses, which are most likely to be in the categories of depression, anxiety or addiction, are often referred to as “the walking wounded.” They show up and put on a front that makes it look like they’re doing okay, but behind closed doors, their lives are slowly falling apart.
But let’s look more at the prevention end of this. What can be done to prevent serious anxiety, depression or addiction from getting activated?
A lack of work life balance is one of the leading causes of stress. A very common example would be people working too many hours with too little time to get recharged. Very few people actually have an awareness of how much stress they might be experiencing.
Here are ten common stress indicators:
1. Poor sleep patterns (insomnia) resulting in less than 5 hours sleep a night.
2. Feeling overwhelmed and drained by day to day activities.
3. Easily upset or angered at home, work or with friends.
4. Difficulty concentrating or remembering things.
5. Somatic aches and pains, like headaches, tension in shoulders, back and neck, and/or digestive issues.
6. Over eating or under eating, or eating foods in a rush.
7. Loss of motivation to exercise.
8. Using drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism.
9. Fantasies about running away.
10. Constant feelings of exhaustion.
To counteract excessive stress, it’s best to develop a “less stress life plan.”
Be proactive and plan breaks into your day. Even taking as little as a few 10 minute breaks during the day to stretch, walk, meditate or talk to a friend can be very powerful.
The most important aspect is the awareness to plan your days and weeks. People who fail to plan are the people who have the most stress.
You’ll need to put yourself first. The book Marry YourSelf First! has numerous tools and resources that you can use to help intervene and keep you life in more balance.
Work life balance is possible when you put the effort into your life, take charge of your life and plan your life.
No one is going to do any of that for you.
You deserve it. Start today. Breathe…