9 Factors Affecting Your Mental Health Everyday
Yesterday you woke up ready to tackle the day. You handled the morning with your kids without losing your temper, even though your son wouldn’t put socks on, and the intense conversation with your boss didn’t leave you frustrated or in tears. Today is a different story. You didn’t want to get out of bed. You’re irritable and short-tempered with your loved ones, and you can’t stop worrying about whether your boss is upset with you. You feel like avoiding people, hiding under a blanket, and aimlessly scrolling through social media until you’re numb.
Managing your mental health day to day is often like a labyrinth. Some days are smooth sailing, and other days it’s a struggle to engage in essential self-care, let alone care for others or do your job. That rollercoaster can worsen mental health problems and make us question our sanity. Why does our mental health change from day to day? Is there anything we can do to help keep a more even keel? This blog explores nine factors that affect your mental health daily and offers tips for mitigating their effect on your health.
Hormones like dopamine, cortisol, and estrogen are chemicals in our bodies that affect our emotions and tell our bodies how to behave. Hormones can make you tired and stressed and activate your flight or fight response, happy, content, or angry. Too much or too little hormone can negatively affect your mental health. Too much cortisol can happen when you have chronic stress, and thyroid hormones help regulate mood and energy levels. Depression, Anxiety, and other mental health issues can be caused or worsened by hormone imbalances.
If you’re concerned about how your hormone levels affect your mental health, you can do a few things. First, scheduling a visit with your health care provider can help rule out any underlying conditions. Then, work on lifestyle modifications that can help balance your hormone levels.
- Eat a healthy diet with plenty of protein and fiber-filled food and avoid excess sugar.
- Get 30-60 minutes of exercise each day.
- Reduce stress through relaxation techniques like meditation, getting out in nature, yoga, or listening to music.
- Get consistent, good-quality sleep.
Physical Health Problems and Chronic Pain
Many people with chronic health conditions struggle with mental illness as well. The stress associated with managing a complex medical life combined with the pressures of finances and normal day-to-day activities can easily overwhelm people. For many, the significant life changes caused by physical health issues cause severe grief that, if not processed, can lead to depression. Moreover, many people with chronic illnesses have good and bad days. It makes sense that your mental health worsens when you aren’t feeling well.
When navigating a chronic medical condition, take care of your emotional health. Talk to your doctors about mental health issues and physical ones. If you feel isolated, reach out to loved ones for support. If you struggle to manage your everyday life, you may want to seek professional help from a therapist or counselor specializing in working with people going through life changes.
Quality of Life Problems
Many times, your quality of life suffers as a result of life circumstances. This can include financial struggles, the stress of divorce, an inability to exercise due to illness or injury, or a lack of free time due to childrearing or demanding careers. While many of these circumstances are out of your control, there are things you can do to mitigate their impact on your mental health.
Making an action plan to address the parts of your life you can control may help. If you’re struggling financially, you may not be able to cut back any more than you have already, but maybe you can put effort into looking for higher-paying work. If recovering from an injury, seek help from a physical therapist to get moving in the ways you can. If you have young children, trade babysitting with a friend to occasionally have a bit of kid-free time. It can be challenging to ask for help – but I bet you aren’t the only one who needs it! If you need help making an action plan working with a mental health professional may be the best first step.
Your Internal Dialogue
The way you talk to yourself affects your mental health. If you wake up in the morning telling yourself it’s going to be a terrible day or thinking negative things about the way you look, you won’t feel your best. Left unchecked, negative self-talk can cause poor mental health and problems with self-esteem.
If your internal dialogue tends toward negative or self-deprecating, there are a few things you can do to reign it in.
- Learn to identify negative thoughts, and stop them. Sometimes, saying the word stop helps, even if it makes you feel silly.
- Replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
- Ask yourself questions about your negative thoughts: Is there any evidence to support the thoughts I’m having? Are my thoughts factual or just my interpretation? What facts exist to disprove my thoughts?
Changes in Sleep Habits
You’ve probably heard that you should get 7-8 hours of sleep a night, but sometimes that seems impossible. Whether it’s working the midnight shift, waking every two hours with a newborn, or staying up late studying for finals, a lack of sleep is nearly inevitable at certain parts of your life. When your sleep habits change, your mental health can suffer.
Not getting enough sleep causes you to have less control over your emotions which means it’s easier for them to take over and leave you feeling riled up or overwhelmed. You may try to overcome the tiredness by consuming caffeine, but too much of that can increase anxiety. It’s a vicious cycle. Instead, try napping when you can. Even closing your eyes for 20 minutes can leave you feeling refreshed.
What You Eat and Drink
Our food affects our energy levels, the way our bodies produce and process hormones, and more. If you haven’t been eating enough or consumed too much processed food or sugar, you may feel more irritable or mopey. Make sure you eat regularly throughout the day, drink plenty of water, and focus on a healthy, whole-food diet.
How Much Time You Spend Connecting
No, we don’t mean connecting online. The amount of time you spend interacting positively with other people directly influences your mental health. Humans are a social species, so we require community for survival. Loneliness is a risk factor for depression. It can severely impact your mental health if you aren’t spending enough time with your people or don’t feel like you have enough people to count on.
If you’re having an off day from a mental health standpoint, try reaching out to friends and family. If no one lives nearby, perhaps someone is available for a facetime or zoom call over dinner. It can be difficult to reach out at first, especially if you tend to be introverted or anxious, but the more you seek connections, the easier it becomes.
Many people find their mental health is affected by the weather. Seasonal Affective Disorder generally impacts people during the winter months when less sunlight and colder temperatures keep them inside. Some people, however, experience seasonal depression during the summer. If you’re sensitive to weather, even a series of a few rainy days can negatively impact your mental health.
If the weather affects your mental health, try enjoying as much nature as you can when the weather permits. When you’re feeling down, engage in other forms of self-care to take care of your mental well-being. Ideas to try to include talking with friends, watching a favorite movie, or cooking yourself a delicious meal.
Substance Use or Abuse
Even if you don’t abuse alcohol regularly, a single night of drinking can affect the quality of your sleep and leave you feeling anxious the next day. This is because of how the chemicals interact with your hormones and normal brain function. Small amounts of alcohol provide a relaxing effect, but too many drinks cause increased tension and even symptoms of panic like increased heart rate, high blood pressure, and sweating.
Using illegal drugs or misusing prescription drugs can also alter your brain function. If you struggle with substance abuse, you don’t have to struggle alone. Seeking help from a health care provider, mental health practitioner, or even family and friends is the first step in recovery.
What To Do When You’re Struggling
When you have fluctuating mental health symptoms, it can be challenging to figure out if you need behavioral health care or are just having a bad day. The real question isn’t “do I have a mental health condition?” instead, ask yourself, “is the fluctuation in my mental health bothering me or interfering with my life?”. You don’t have to have depression, PTSD, or an anxiety disorder to get help from a therapist.At SMPsychoterhapy and Counseling Services, our clinicians are skilled at providing an empathetic space where you can discuss your mental health concerns and develop tools and strategies for living your best life. Whether you need help managing a long-term mental health condition or tools for dealing with occasional mood changes and managing difficult times, our therapists will meet you where you are and guide you toward your goals. Reach out to our office today to schedule an appointment.