May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and with the current COVID-19 situation, it couldn’t have come at a more critical time. In a recent survey of nearly 110,000 Vitality members, 58% percent of people reported feeling more anxious than normal and 38% of people reported sleeping less than normal. Unfortunately, it’s not unreasonable to assume that those numbers are higher for those who have lost jobs or have experienced other hardships due to COVID-19.
1 in 5 people will experience a mental health illness during their lifetime, but everyone at some point will experience a challenge that will impact their mental health. At Vitality, we understand the intimate role mental health plays in overall well-being. During the next few weeks, we plan to share resources and tools to help you learn how to prioritize, protect and promote your mental well-being. We hope these resources help you live a life full of vitality.
Mental Health Overview
What is mental health?
Mental health is a general term that covers our emotional, psychological and social well-being. It affects how we think, act, and feel, and it also determines how we handle stress, relate to others and make choices. When someone experiences a disruption to these mental functions, they experience what is commonly referred to as a mental disorder. Mental disorders can affect an individual’s ability to:
- Perform at school or work
- Function in social settings
- Maintain relationships
- Participate in other important life activities.
How does mental health impact other areas of health?
As we’ll cover this month, mental health impacts every area of life. Take these statistics for example:
- Keeping feelings to yourself has been linked to a 47% increased risk for heart disease and 70% increased risk for cancer.
- Individuals living with high levels of anxiety and depression are:
- 64% more likely to have a stroke
- 50% more likely to develop high blood pressure
- 87% more likely to have arthritis than those without anxiety or depression.
- Studies show having a serious mental illness can reduce life expectancy by 10 to 20 years.
- Studies have also shown links to poor mental health and unhealthy behaviors such as binge drinking, smoking, illegal drug use, poor diet, lack of exercise and lack of sleep.
There is also an inverse relationship: our lifestyle choices and behaviors impact our mental health. But the good news here is that healthy behaviors can benefit our mental health, creating a virtuous cycle of total well-being. For example:
- People with diets high in vegetables, fruit, fish and seafood, and lean meats reported 25% to 30% lower risk of depression.
- 150 minutes of moderate- or high-intensity exercise every week has been linked to reduced anxiety and depression, and increased self-esteem.
- 10 minutes of deep breathing or meditation a day has shown to reduce stress.
While we plan to release new content in the coming weeks covering topics such as gratitude, owning your feelings, supporting others and more, we currently have a number of blogs on our site covering mental well-being that we encourage you to check out:
- Staying positive in a world of uncertainty
- Redefining the Coronavirus and our way of thinking
- A healthy body. A healthy mind. Make time for both.
- Exercise for depression
- Mental Health Month 2019: Making the mind/body connection
- For Vitality Members: Vitality tools to help you take care of your mental well-being.
In addition to the resources we offer, we also want to make you aware of a few other tools available to you.
- Calm – As of the writing of this post, the Calm meditation app is offering free access to some of their meditation programs.
- Free Mental Health Screening Tool – Mental Health America offers free mental health screening tools on their website. These resources do not replace consulting with a doctor or a mental health specialist, but can serve as a good starting place for a discussion.
Follow us for more Mental Health Awareness Month content
If you don’t already do so, follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram to stay up to date on all of our Mental Health Awareness Month content. You can also join us in the Vitality Virtual Training Club—an online community of people committed to health and one other.