What does “wellness” really mean?
It can sound like a buzzword, but wellness has real meaning. Of course, that meaning is in part defined by you. As a concept, wellness is a state of optimized well-being, based on an individual’s potential. There’s no one recipe, as the ingredients are your own.
One thing is for certain: it doesn’t just happen. It’s an ongoing process, and a conscious effort, based on what is important to you. When you think about your own wellness, what comes to mind? Here are some things that might be a part of your own secret sauce:
- How you will take responsibility for your own quality of life
- Your physical health, including knowing your HIV status
- Your spiritual health
- Your emotional health, and how to seek help when needed
- How you find balance in your life
- Who you can turn to for support (both friends and professionals)
What does “mental health” really mean?
Your mental health plays an important role in overall wellness. Being emotionally healthy helps you make good decisions, including knowing who in your life supports you and who invites the drama. Your mental health can also shape behavioral decisions, such as practicing safe sex, or knowing when to walk away from the creepy guy that keeps hitting on you.
For some, maintaining good mental health means paying attention to existing mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder. For those without an already-diagnosed mental health condition, it means being self-aware and noticing if you sense any changes in your mood or ability to do your normal activities.
People who are mentally and emotionally healthy generally:
- Can adapt to changes
- Can balance work, play, and rest
- Can build and maintain fulfilling relationships
- Can laugh, and have fun
Sometimes no matter what we do to cheer ourselves up, we still feel blue. When that feeling just won’t go away and starts interfering with your daily life (work, sleep, study, eat, relationships), it could be a sign of an illness such as depression. You might be asking yourself, “How do I know if I really have depression?”
Here are some of the signs and symptoms of depression from the National Institute of Mental Health
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
- Irritability, restlessness
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
- Overeating, or appetite loss
- Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
- Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
Feeling depressed? An important first step is to talk with a mental health specialist such as a therapist or psychologist, social worker, psychiatrist, or other provider. If you don’t know of one, check out some of the services listed here. Also, if you already have a doctor or other healthcare provider you’ve seen, he or she might be able to refer you to someone.
Depression is likely caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. So when you see a mental health provider, he or she may do a physical exam, interview, and/or lab tests. If he/she doesn’t find a medical condition which may be the cause of the depression, he/she may do a psychological evaluation and ask you a bunch of questions. Often people with depression are treated through a combination of therapy and/or medications. You can work with your provider to find the best treatment plan for you.
Sources: National Institute of Mental Health