Mental or emotional health refers to your overall psychological well-being. According to the World Health Organization, mental health is defined as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” Many internal and external factors contribute to mental and emotional well-being, including relationships with loved ones, financial issues, work environment, and coping behaviors/skills. When one or more factors prove overwhelming, severe (anger, anxiety, depression) or chronic stress may result. Stress can lead to physical symptoms ranging in severity from headache, heart palpitations and bowel problems, to heart attack and stroke. When an individual is experiencing chronic stress, their risk of committing a violent act against themselves and others increases significantly.
Improving Mental and Emotional Health
Good mental health isn't just the absence of mental health problems such as depression or anxiety. Rather, it's the presence of positive characteristics, such as being able to cope with life's challenges, handle stress, build strong relationships, and recover from setbacks. Many mental health problems begin when physical stress or emotional stress which trigger chemical changes in your brain. The goal of treatment and prevention is to reduce stress and restore normal chemical processes in your brain. Coping skills are methods a person uses to deal with stressful situations. Obtaining and maintaining good coping skills does take practice. Some good coping skills include:
- Meditation and Relaxation Techniques: Practicing deep breathing techniques, progressive muscle relaxation are ways to help reduce stress and induce relaxation.
- Time to Yourself: It is important to set aside time every day to allow yourself to relax and escape the stress of life. Give yourself a private, mini vacation from everything going on around you.
- Physical Activity: Moving around and getting the heart rate up causes the body to release endorphin's (the body's feel good hormones). Exercising provides some stress relief.
- Reading: Escape from reality completely by reading. Reading can help you to relieve stress by taking your mind off everyday life.
- Friendship: Having friends who are willing to listen and support through good and bad times is essential.
- Humor: Adding humor to a stressful situation can help to lighten the mood.
- Hobbies: Having creative outlets (i.e. listening to music, drawing or gardening) are great ways to relax and relieve everyday stress.
- Spirituality: Actively believing in a higher power or divine being can have many health benefits. In recent studies, it has been found that people who pray have better mental health than those who do not.
- Pets: Taking care of a pet helps distract the mind from stressful thoughts - pets are a calming influence in people's lives.
- Sleeping: The human body needs a chance to rest and repair itself after a long and stressful day. Sleeping gives the body this chance so that it is ready to perform another day.
- Nutrition: Eating foods that are good for you not only improve your physical health, but they play a major role in your mental health. When your body gets the proper nutrients, it is better able to function in every capacity.
There are also negative coping skills which can hinder progress in dealing more positively with stress. Actions that are harmful to both mental and physical health include:
- Excessive alcohol use
- Ignoring or storing hurt feelings
- Excessive working
- Avoiding problems and denial
These actions offer only temporary relief, if any, from stress. Ignoring or covering up how you feel does not solve the problem and the next time the situation arises, you will still have no way of dealing with it. The next time you find yourself faced with a difficult or stressful circumstance, remember to practice your new coping skills.
The Benefits of Yoga
The purpose of yoga is to create strength, awareness and harmony in both the mind and body. Most yoga sessions typically include breathing exercises, meditation, and assuming postures (sometimes called poses) that stretch and flex various muscle groups. Yoga is a great tool for staying healthy because it is based on the body's ability to heal itself.
Relaxation techniques incorporated in yoga can lessen chronic pain, such as lower back pain, arthritis, headaches and carpal tunnel syndrome. Yoga can also lower blood pressure and reduce insomnia. Other physical benefits of yoga include:
- Increased flexibility
- Increased muscle strength and tone
- Improved respiration, energy and vitality
- Maintaining a balanced metabolism
- Weight reduction
- Cardio and circulatory health
- Improved athletic performance
- Protection from injury
Aside from the physical benefits, one of the best benefits of yoga is how it helps a person manage stress, which is known to have devastating effects on the body and mind. Stress can reveal itself in many ways, including back or neck pain, sleeping problems, headaches, drug abuse, and an inability to concentrate. Yoga can be very effective in developing coping skills and reaching a more positive outlook on life. Yoga’s incorporation of meditation and breathing can help improve a person’s mental well-being. Regular yoga practice creates mental clarity and calmness; increases body awareness; relieves chronic stress patterns; relaxes the mind; centers attention; and sharpens concentration. Body and self-awareness are beneficial because they can help with early detection of physical problems and allow for early preventive action.
Sit up comfortably on your heels. Roll your torso forward, bringing your forehead to rest on the bed in front of you. Lower your chest as close to your knees as you comfortably can, extending your arms in front of you. Hold the pose and breathe.
Lie face down on the floor with thumbs directly under shoulders, legs extended with the tops of your feet on the floor. Tighten your pelvic floor, and tuck hips downward as you squeeze your glutes. Press shoulders down and away from ears. Push through your thumbs and index fingers as you raise your chest toward the wall in front of you. Relax and repeat
Begin in a full push-up position, palms aligned under shoulders. Place left knee on the floor near shoulder with left heel by right hip. Lower down to forearms and bring right leg down with the top of the foot on the floor (not shown). Keep chest lifted to the wall in front of you, gazing down (if you're more flexible, bring chest down to floor and extend arms in front of you). Pull navel in-toward spine and tighten your pelvic-floor muscles; contract right side of glutes. Curl right toes under while pressing ball of foot into the floor, pushing through your heel. Bend knee to floor and release, then switch sides and repeat.
Stand with legs apart, turning right foot out 90 degrees and left foot in slightly. Bring your hands to your hips and relax your shoulders, then extend arms out to the sides, palms down. Bend right knee 90 degrees, keeping knee over ankle; gaze out over right hand. Stay for 1 minute. Switch sides and repeat.
Stand tall with feet together, shoulders relaxed, weight evenly distributed through your soles, arms at sides. Take a deep breath and raise your hands overhead, palms facing each other with arms straight. Reach up toward the sky with your fingertips.
Stand with arms at sides. Bring your right foot to the inside of your left ankle, keeping your toes on the floor for balance. As you get stronger and develop better balance, move your foot to the inside of your left calf. Once balanced, bring hands in front of you in prayer position, palms together. On an inhalation, extend arms over shoulders, palms separated and facing each another. Stay for 30 seconds. Lower and repeat on opposite side.
Start on all fours with hands directly under shoulders, knees under hips. Walk hands a few inches forward and spread fingers wide, pressing palms into mat. Curl toes under and slowly press hips toward ceiling, bringing your body into an inverted V, pressing shoulders away from ears. Feet should be hip-width apart, knees slightly bent. Hold for 3 full breaths.
Sit on the floor with your legs extended. Keep bottom leg straight and place both hands on raised knee. If your lower back rounds forward, sit on a folded blanket. Cross right foot over outside of left thigh; bend left knee. Keep right knee pointed toward ceiling. Place left elbow to the outside of right knee and right hand on the floor behind you. Twist right as far as you can, moving from your abdomen; keep both sides of your butt on the floor. Stay for 1 minute. Switch sides and repeat.
FUND FACTS: CLAIM PROCEDURES
Period for the submission of claims
In order to qualify for the payment of Benefits, a claim must reach the Fund on or before the last day of the 4th month (120 day period) following the month during which the service was rendered, unless, in the opinion of the Board of Trustees, extenuating circumstances exist. In such event, any such claim must reach the Fund on or before the last day of the 6th month (180 day period) following the month during which the service was rendered. Any such claim so received by the Fund will be considered as a claim for an ex gratia Benefit and will be paid subject to the availability of funds. For determining the amount of the Fund's contribution, each Date of Service shall be separately taken into account, whether or not the service concerned forms part of an extended period of treatment for the same illness or condition.
Whole Wheat Spaghetti & Avocado Sauce
- 2 Avocados (stoned, peeled and chopped)
- zest and juice 1 lemon
- 25g faded almonds
- 1 garlic clove
- small pack basil
- 300g whole-wheat spaghetti
- 25g Parmesan (or vegetarian alternative) finely grated, to serve (optional)
Put the avocados, lemon zest and juice, almonds, garlic and half the basil in a food processor. Blend until smooth, and then set aside in the fridge.
Cook the spaghetti following pack instructions. Drain and toss in the creamy avocado sauce. Top with the remaining basil leaves and grated cheese (if using) before serving.
This newsletter was compiled with the following references:
Help Guide, http://www.helpguide.org/articles/emotional-health/improving-emotional-health.htm
Osteopathic Organization, http://www.osteopathic.org/osteopathic-health/about-your-health/health-conditions-library/general-health/Pages/yoga.aspx
BBC Food, http://www.bbcgoodfood.com