5 Surprising Factors That Can Affect Your Mental Health | Guest Post by Adrian Johansen
Greater than 50% of people will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point during their life. These disorders can include depression, anxiety, or any other mental challenges that crop up. Chances are, you have already dealt with some sort of mental health issue. There are well-known triggers for mental health issues, like going through a divorce or breakup, dealing with trauma, or simply being born into a bloodline that has them. However, you should be mindful of the lesser-known factors that can affect your mental health. Let’s look at five of them below and how to navigate them best.
Many people are attached to their daily coffee or energy drink in the morning. They may even resort to more caffeine to curb an afternoon crash. Unfortunately, caffeine can harm your mental health.
As wonderful as caffeine is for boosting energy levels, lowering your risk for Alzheimer’s disease, and protecting your liver, it’s still a stimulant. Too much of it can exacerbate anxiety and increase stress, heart rate, blood pressure, and restlessness — all of which are harmful to your mental health. Swap out your coffee or energy drink for tea, a juice shot, or a glass of water. They’re much healthier alternatives and can give you energy without compromising your mental and physical health.
Many people need a caffeine boost in the morning and evening to brave their long commutes. Along with caffeine exacerbating anxiety symptoms, lengthy commutes can also hurt your health — physically and mentally.
Long drives can be unbearable and unpredictable at times. Not knowing what could happen during a commute can trigger anxiety and cause many people’s stress levels to increase dramatically. When you have a negative commute experience day in and day out, your well-being suffers. The shorter the commute to work, the better. However, if you don’t live around the corner from your job, that’s understandable. Do your best to keep your commute below an hour so it doesn’t become unbearable.
Also, choose the transportation method that will help your mental health rather than hurt it. For example, opt for public transportation if driving makes your anxiety flare up. If you feel more comfortable in your own car or using a rideshare service for more privacy, go that route.
Where You Live
Where you live also influences your mental health. For example, there’s a relationship between poor housing conditions and increased levels of crime and violence. Living in such neighborhoods can exacerbate mental health challenges and impact the quality of one’s life. On the other hand, if you live in a thriving neighborhood that’s safe, secure, and full of positive activities, resources, and people, you’re more likely to be mentally and emotionally well. Even if you can’t afford to make the move to a pristine neighborhood, make thoughtful decisions about where you live. Consider the activities, businesses, people, and community resources available. Also, ensure there are holistic health resources within a reasonable distance to get the help you need when you need it. Living somewhere with limited access to vital resources can also affect your mental health.
Limited Access to Vital Resources
Your mental health can suffer significantly if you live somewhere with limited access to vital resources. For example, food deserts are communities with little access to affordable and nutritious food. Diets and mental states go hand in hand, often fueling each other to be healthy or unhealthy. In turn, food deserts affect the mental and physical health of their residents.
When you can’t fuel your body with nutritious foods, let alone afford them, your body won’t get the nutrients it needs to function properly. And when your physical body isn’t nourished, your mood worsens along with increased mental health issues, like depression. Further, you rarely know where your next meal is coming from when you live in a food desert. This kind of food insecurity can lead to incredible amounts of stress that result in chronic anxiety. Try to live in an area with access to healthy and affordable foods. If you live a ways away from nutritious food sources, set aside time each week to travel to your nearest grocery store. Stock up on healthy foods with a longer shelf life to ensure you have good options at home until you can make another trip.
Issues With Sleep
This may not be as surprising, but it’s definitely not thought about as often as it should be. Sleep issues can be a sneaky contributor to poor mental health. When you don’t get enough sleep, you can become emotionally unstable, unable to focus, and irritable.
Sleep deprivation can also make you anxious, depressed, and isolated. This can worsen suicidal thoughts if you already have them. On the other hand, healthy sleep can enhance your well-being. With a well-balanced sleep schedule, you’re positive, energetic, and able to take on each day. Prioritize getting adequate rest each night — preferably seven to eight hours. If you need help getting to sleep, try:
- Chamomile tea;
- Meditating in bed;
- Breathing exercises;
- Mood-shifting fragrances, like calming lavender;
- Turning off all electronics;
- Listening to rain or nature sounds;
- Lowering the temperature in your bedroom;
- Avoiding naps during the day so you’re more tired at night.
There are many well-known influences on your mental health. However, it’s essential to account for the surprising factors if you want to protect and nurture your mental and emotional well-being fully. Start with the five above and use our tips to navigate them successfully.