Positive mental health doesn’t mean being ‘happy all the time’, but instead means having a balance of emotions. What is really great about feeling balanced is that when something challenging emerges in life, we feel as if we have the tools to cope with the challenge and are able to face the challenge head on.
Employing a few small techniques in everyday life can be really helpful in keeping our minds mentally healthy. We like to use the PERMA+ model as a good reference to some of these things, which include Positive and complex emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, Accomplishment and Sleep (the “+” part of the name!).
At Dr YES we like to present these ideas in a different order, which is shown below:
If you think about activities you like doing on a regular basis, you may start to realise that there are a few things that keep bringing you back to those activities. This includes feeling absorbed, interested and connected when you are doing the activity. This is the feeling of engagement.
What things in life do we feel passionate about? These might be things large or small that allow us to connect to something greater than just ourselves. These could be things such as family, religion, volunteering, environment, health, advocacy or many others.
The ability to set goals but still be open minded to change and adaptability is important too. We think goals can be big or small and can be about anything! We shouldn’t limit our goals to conventional measures of success either – like studies, work and money. The feeling of accomplishment is satisfying, rewarding, and a key element of positive mental health.
Acknowledging that we have a wide range of emotions is key to understanding our mental health. We are often told that “being happy is being healthy”, but the normal peaks and troughs of life create a spectrum of emotions and that is normal too!
Emotions can be complex too. Let’s say something bad happens in your day or life, you might feel confused, sad, frustrated, lonely and angry all at the same time. Similarly, when something good happens you might feel warm, content, happy and excited all at the same time. But we must not label these emotions as simply good or bad. We may experience a mixed bag of any of these emotions all at the same time! And it is this aspect of our emotions that is complex, as we may feel overwhelmed by the enormity of it all.
What is important is to recognise the different angles to it – engaging positively and constructively with your emotions is like looking at a diamond: there are many facets, angles and faces that make up this one small beautiful thing and it’s easy to disregard its complexity if you don’t take the time to appreciate it and let yourself feel.
What makes your best mate, your best mate? What is it about your relationship that makes you feel good? Maybe you like the same sport, have similar interests, or they are there for you when life gets a bit grey? Best friends, family members, or any person you feel this way about are a meaningful relationship in your life. Let’s imagine life is like a tightrope, and we are constantly walking along the tightrope. Events and situations that make us feel uneasy are like gusts of winds that destabilise our balance. If we get a few big gusts of wind we may find ourselves falling off the tightrope. Now imagine that just below the tightrope is a safety net that catches you every time you fall. This, to us, symbolises meaningful relationships. These people are honest, respectful, compassionate, and loyal. We reckon they are a key element of positive mental health.
Sleep is really important too. As young people we have many distractions and we tend to get less sleep because of it. As a minimum, folks in high school should be getting 7 hours as a bare minimum per night! What we know about being super tired is that it is quite similar to being drunk: you can’t think straight or focus, you have slower reaction times and your decision making is impaired. But you are also more likely to get sick and run down. So, sleep is very important!
Some tips for getting more sleep: limit screen time before bed, mindfulness, limit caffeine in the afternoon, or read a book before sleep!
What is stress?
Everyone experiences stress. It is a normal reaction to various circumstances, where our brain strains a bit in response to difficult situations. What we know about stress, is that a low to moderate amount can be good, making us more alert and helping us stay motivated. However, when we over-stress, it can have a negative impact on us.
Coping with stress
Many things might stress us out such as school, friends, family, relationships, work, etc. It is important that we have some tools to cope with these things in life that stress us out. But it is also important to understand that there is no one right way of coping – everyone has different ways of coping with stress and we will all use different strategies to help us deal with certain issues. Some helpful coping strategies include planning how you might solve an issue, talking about the problem with someone you trust, or to just take your mind off it for a while (such as music, sport, TV, or relaxation). Some less helpful methods of coping with stress include risk tasking (alcohol, drugs), denying the problem, and blaming it on yourself or others. We encourage you to avoid these less helpful strategies as they can be harmful.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness or unease about something with an uncertain outcome. Anxiety is also a normal reaction to certain situations in life and can occur at the same time as stress. However, anxiety becomes abnormal when it interferes with our ability to function in day-to-day life. Sometimes too much anxiety can become an anxiety disorder.
What are the common types of anxiety disorder?
- Generalised anxiety
- Social anxiety
- Separation anxiety
- Panic disorder
- Specific phobias
If you would like to have a deeper discussion about anxiety disorders, we recommend booking an appointment with your GP.
Simply, mental illnesses can be thought of an abnormal imbalance of our emotions. This can present in many different ways and can be caused by biological, social or conditional factors. It is important that we understand that mental illnesses cannot “just be gotten over”, but instead require treatment by a health professional.
If you are worried about yourself or someone close to you refer to the resources below or book an appointment with your GP. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness, but can take incredible courage.
24hr hotline counselling
- Lifeline WA: (08) 13 11 14
- Online chat and call service available 24hrs a day for those thinking about suicide or experiencing a personal crisis.
- Crisis Care: 1800 199 008
- Counselling service for people in a crisis needing urgent help
- You might be afraid or alone and need to talk something through with someone
- Or you are trying to escape domestic violence and need help with deciding what you are doing
- Kids Help Line: 1800 55 1800
- Confidential, telephone and online services that is aimed at supporting young people deal with issues ranging from suicide to sexual abuse.
Headspace is Australia’s national youth mental health foundation and contains info about what mental health is, how to stay mentally healthy and ways you can get help. They also have heaps of info on drugs and alcohol.
Depression is really common, and this site is getting out the message that it’s ok to talk about. There’s heaps of info on how to help your friends when you’re worried about them and where you can get help if you need it.
This free, anonymous and confidential 24-hour phone service is available to young people aged 5-25. Their counsellors deal with all sorts of issues, from relationship breakdowns to bullying, sexual abuse and drug usage.