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Reviewed by Mary Lucas, RN
Written by Our Editorial Team
If you’re feeling a bit under the weather mentally right now, we’ve got some good news for you. Bad days are normal, and if you have them, it turns out you are too. However if you’re thinking to yourself: “My mental health is bad” — keep reading.
We all have bad mental health days — those times when our mental health seems off, hindered, or otherwise negatively affected. And mental health risk factors can vary, from your socio-economic background to genetics and more.
Bad mental health days can occur when we experience break-ups or have problems at work or at home — and surprisingly, they can happen for no reason in particular.
A bad mental health day isn’t anything to worry about — in fact, it’s a good excuse to indulge in some self care. But when the bad mental health day turns into a bad mental health week, a bad mental health month, or when you can’t remember how long you’ve been feeling this way, it’s time to do something about it, before bad becomes worse.
Here’s how to handle bad mental health days, so you can feel better.
To begin, bad mental health is another way of describing mental illness, and mental illness is a condition that affects a person’s behaviors, moods and thoughts.
Why some people experience mental illness is still being studied by the scientific community — and despite a growing understanding of risk factors, there’s no definitive answer as to why some people develop depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or other mental health disorders while others do not.
What we do know is that certain risk factors such as a stressful job, erratic home life, toxic relationship or traumatic events — can make you more susceptible to developing mental illness.
We also know that these things are not your fault — your unique experiences, brain chemistry and ways of coping with trauma are not factors you can control, and yet they can have a serious impact on your mental health.
It’s concerning that society sometimes talks about mental illness as a foreign concept, because many of us deal with it. In fact, one in five American adults are confronted with mental illness each year, and one in six people under 18 also struggle with some mental health issue per year.
What causes all these mental health issues? Well, there are a number of things the medical community has identified as extrinsic or intrinsic risk factors.
Extrinsic factors might include:
Traumatic life events
Alcohol and drug consumption
Histories of abuse or neglect
Intrinsic factors meanwhile might include anomalies in brain chemistry and function that can later lead to disorders.
Bad mental health can be defined as mental health that is taking a toll on your happiness, relationships, job performance or generally your quality of life. You may feel sad, hopeless, anxious, overwhelmed, chronically stressed or fatigued, irritable or burnt out.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), signs that your mental health struggles are bad enough to warrant action may include the following mental health symptoms:
Feeling overwhelmed by sadness or a sense of hopelessness
Difficulty concentrating or focusing
Sleep issues including patterns of insomnia or oversleeping
Chronic worry or anxiousness
Difficulty performing everyday tasks
Struggles with transitions in major life events like death and divorce
If you’re experiencing (or may be experiencing) any of these risk factors in your own life, it may be time to do something about your mental health.
If your mental health is bad bad, then it might be time for more structured types of support, and the assistance of a mental health professional.
A mental health condition requires treatment so you can avoid long-term dangers to your emotional and physical health, like an increased risk of suicide.
Whether you’re seeking anxiety or depression treatment, the process starts with a conversation between yourself and a healthcare professional.
This person’s job is to help you find effective treatments for whatever is harming your mental health, and depending on your circumstances, that treatment might take one (or more) of three forms:
Antidepressants work by modifying the levels of certain brain chemicals to better regulate and balance your moods, and they commonly work on neurotransmitters like serotonin and norepinephrine.
The most commonly prescribed antidepressants include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which help your brain balance its supply of serotonin so that your moods become more stable.
SSRIs have been found to be the most effective and least likely to cause side effects in a comprehensive study, and they’ll typically be the first medications your healthcare provider recommends, while others will usually only be employed if SSRIs aren’t effective.
Many mental health conditions benefit from one or more forms of modern therapy. Both anxiety and depression are disorders that can improve via one modern staple in the therapy world: cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
CBT helps individuals suffering from mental health issues to begin recognizing disordered patterns of thought — which are thoughts that prevent you from being productive or enjoying your daily life.
This type of therapy can teach you how to stop overthinking.
CBT also helps provide tools to begin correcting these troublesome thought patterns and replacing them with healthy ways of thinking.
With cognitive behavioral therapy, the end goal is not to eliminate negative thoughts necessarily, but to learn to acknowledge them without giving them power or control, thus reducing their effect on your mental health.
While medication and therapy can be extremely helpful, certain lifestyle and habit changes can also yield surprising results for your mental health.
Lifestyle and habit changes are a great way to build in some extra momentum in your journey through mental illness. The National Institute of Mental Health highlights several things you can do on your own, including:
Regularly eating a well-balanced diet
Exercising for just 30 minutes a day
Making sure you get enough sleep every night
Using your free time for creative “restful” activities like puzzles and journaling
Spending time regularly reflecting on things you’re grateful for
Expressing your feelings to trusted friends and loved ones to reduce feelings of isolation
While none of these things are necessarily considered cures for mood disorders, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that taking better care of your physical and mental health with your routines may have significant impact on your mental health, and push you closer to your goals.
Besides, there’s nothing but benefits when it comes to a healthful diet, exercise, hydration and a little mental rest. Even taking one mental health day off could show some serious benefits.
Mental illness isn't a paper cut. It won't heal itself, and it won't go away after a few days.
If you're struggling with a mental health crisis, it's time to seek support from a professional.
We all deal with stress and anxiety from time to time, but when you're seeing symptoms of depression or another disorder, it's time to take action.
There are many avenues available to you for support. It might make the most sense for you to consult your general practitioner for help, or you could consider online therapy, which is a convenient way to get the support you need without leaving home.
Whatever you do, take your mental health seriously — you deserve happiness, joy and meaning.