Exactly what is mental health? There are probably as many definitions “out there” as there are books and articles written on the subject! For these purposes, however, the definition will contain very specific abilities or qualities:
- A general feeling of well-being – that things are going well and that the future looks pleasant
- A belief that one is productive on a daily basis – able to identify tasks and complete them
- Ability to deal with the normal stressors of everyday life – small crises, disappointments, changes in routine or obligations, etc.
- A belief that one is and can continue to be successful in what s/he does.
So, what happens when one or more of these 4 qualities goes missing? First and foremost, one’s mental health is at risk in all categories. Consider this: If one is suddenly unable to deal with the normal stressors of life, and the responses to those stressors are unhealthy (panic, avoidance, denial, immobility, etc.), then a sense of productivity, of meeting with success, and the general feeling of well-being are all gone as well!
Distinguishing Between Mild and Severe Mental Health Issues
No one goes through life without mental health issues. Most are temporary and relate to events and circumstances at the time – divorce, death of a loved one, loss of a job, overload of task responsibilities, financial difficulties, rebellious teen children, moving, a fire – the list could go on ad infinitum! And when we believe that our emotional health is at risk, we may seek professional help for a period of time. That’s why there are therapists, support groups, and such.
Severe mental illness, however, is quite another matter. When disruption of the above 4 qualities/feeling is pervasive and long-term, psychoses can develop; when severe mental illness (e.g., schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, personality disorder) is diagnosed, medical interventions are absolutely required.
Writing as a Strategy for Relieving Mild Mental Health Issues
One of the most cathartic activities during periods of temporary and mild emotional disturbances is to write. For those who have never considered this important “therapy,” they should understand that mental health professionals put it right up there with physical exercise, positive friendships, meditation, and support groups. So, how does writing actually help? Here are the ways!
- Keeping a Journal: When you can write about yourself, your experiences, and your feelings on a daily basis, you “get them out” rather than allowing them to fester deep within you. Putting this stuff down on paper lets you identify it, truly see it, and perhaps develop strategies for dealing with it. You would be amazed at how just writing things down can give you all sorts of ideas for creative and unique solutions that you may have never imagined!
- Writing a Short Story, a Novel or a Poem: When you can place your emotional difficulties into a piece of writing, there is a great sense of “letting go” that can help you “right” yourself in your world again. I once knew a highly successful career woman who took a new position, in her career field, but one that would be highly challenging. She looked forward to it! About 8 months into this job, she was a wreck! The demands were too great; there were problems to solve without the resources to solve them; no matter how many hours she spent every day and on weekends, she could not meet the unrealistic demands of her superiors. The result was panic attacks that completely immobilized her and that actually put her in danger (think panic attack while you are driving!). Her first stop was to her doctor who prescribed a very mild anti-anxiety drug. It didn’t help. She began to fear for her sanity, and in that fear did the only possible thing that might help. She quit her job, went on temporary disability, and stayed at home to “heal.” That did not work either. Finally, she realized that she had to get the “issues” out, so she sat down to write a novel – a murder mystery actually, the setting for which was her old career position. In the writing, however, she was able to release all of the anxiety and the frustrations that had caused her “illness,” and two things happened. She found new employment in a realistic environment, and she actually got her novel published! Mental health restored, and career saved!
- Writing Progress Notes for Mental Health “Recovery:” As one is going through the process of restoring the 4 qualities and beliefs listed above, it is critically important to commit the steps to concrete memorable form. This means keeping a notebook of sorts that will document the successes, no matter how small. As time goes on, it is really a huge “pump up” to go back and look at where you were in the beginning and to see how far you have come since then. Reflecting on the progress made, moreover, is a strong motivator to continue on your path to full mental health!
If you have never considered writing as a source for emotional recovery and health, you ought to. You don’t have to be a great writer, for you will be the only one reading what you have put on paper! You just have to get your feelings, setbacks, successes, and, most important, your progress committed to a medium that you can access and read!
Laura Callisen is a permanent writer for Grabmyessay’s blog where she is trying to reach public with her thematically wide range articles. Her posts would be interesting for travelers, students and individuals loving culture varities and phylosophy. Please feel free to contact Laura via social profiles.