Prevention: Caring for our mental wellness preemptively
As we begin to dig into this idea of mental wellness (and thus mental unwellness) as a spectrum of wellbeing, we begin to understand which pieces of this puzzle we can and cannot influence on our own. There’s no one right answer: mental health is not simply nature or nurture, but rather, a combination of many factors.
If you’ve struggled with mental health challenges, you understand quite well that much of it is beyond our direct control. Mental health can be influenced by neurochemicals, by imbalances in the physical body, by our genes, and by numerous other “uncontrollables.” In many cases, it can be helpful to conceptualize a mental health disorder as any other medical condition with symptoms, causes, and treatments.
And still, much like physical wellness, there’s much we can do to proactively support our mental wellness before we ever come to a time of crisis or experience significant distress. Because mental wellness is so multifaceted, we know that neurochemicals or physical imbalances or genes do not guarantee an outcome of mental unwellness all on their own. Our environment, habits, physical wellbeing, and many other factors are also at play here—we have agency.
In order to give ourselves the best chance at maintaining our mental wellness, we focus on the controllables. What we eat, how we sleep, who we surround ourselves with; all of these things (and more) are also part of the complex puzzle that creates mental health. When so many things feel out of our control, we return to what we can control.