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How to cope with stress and get mental health help

November 11, 2015
Mental Health Awareness Week logo

Don’t underestimate the connection between physical and mental health.

Poor mental health is a risk factor for developing a variety of physical illnesses, such as coronary artery disease, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, and some cancers, even contributing to a shorter lifespan. Similarly, poor physical health can result in a greater risk of developing mental health problems.

Nov. 9-15 is Mental Health Wellness Week, designed to promote mental health wellness and the benefits to the mind and body, as well as educating all ages from youth to seniors on how to implement mental health wellness into their lives.

Coping strategies to deal with stress

Dr. Stuart Anfang, chief of Adult Psychiatry at Baystate Medical Center, explains that sound mental health includes effective coping strategies to deal with life’s stressors. Depending on the individual’s clinical needs, that may sometimes include treatment such as therapy or medication.

“Good mental health wellness leads to good job performance, effective and satisfying interpersonal relationships, and good maintenance of one’s physical well-being,” said Dr. Anfang. “Poor mental health can negatively impact all those areas of life, leading to impaired ability to work or study, poor physical health maintenance, and difficult interpersonal relationships.”

The American Psychological Association offers the following tips for improving your mental health:

  • Let yourself feel strong emotions. Then, learn how to manage what you do when you feel them.
  • Don’t avoid your problems. Learn how to meet the demands of daily living. You should also learn how to take a breath and rest. Resting helps recharge your batteries.
  • Spend time with loved ones. They can be great for support and encouragement. At the same time, you must also take care of yourself.
  • Give yourself a pat on the back every now and then. This is very important. If you don’t tell yourself “good job,” who will?

How to get help

“When these techniques are not helping, and mental health issues are causing more significant impairment, it’s then important to seek out evaluation and potential treatment,” said Dr. Anfang.

A good place to start is with your primary care provider.

“Your doctor can begin to assess what is going on, make potential treatment recommendations and, if needed, refer you for further evaluation by a mental health professional. The good news is that mental illnesses are typically very treatable with appropriate intervention and follow-up. No one should suffer in silence,” said Dr. Anfang.

Mental health problems are common and nothing to be ashamed of. According to figures from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services:

  • One in five American adults experienced a mental health issue in 2014.
  • One in 10 young people experienced a period of major depression last year.
  • One in 25 Americans lived with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression in 2014.
  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and accounts for the loss of more than 41,000 American lives each year, more than double the number of lives lost to homicide.

Learn more

For more information about behavioral health services at Baystate Health.

For immediate assistance with a behavioral health issue, call Baystate’s Central Intake line at 413-794-5555.