Understanding your mental vs emotional health and the importance of them is key to being able to live a healthy, fulfilled life. While mental and emotional health are related, they both can look very different.
Let’s talk about mental vs emotional health, the causes of negative mental/emotional health, common symptoms, and how to distinguish the difference.
Mental health and the struggles that come along with it will look slightly different for everyone.
It’s important to be aware that just because someone is emotionally healthy, does not mean they aren’t struggling with something deeper.
Many mental health disorders and personality disorders have underlying issues that individuals may not be aware of.
Mental health related to larger, more general groupings of well-being that include the wellness of someone’s behavioral and cognitive state.
It’s basically your ability to deal with daily life. When work feels overwhelming, family issues seem too overbearing, or you’re just having a hard time being happy and productive, your mental health is taking a hit.
Of course, it can be much more extreme than that, but for the average person, that is what mental health is typically referring to.
Mental health is how you are coping with various life experiences that come your way.
As mentioned, this could be daily activities or random occurrences.
A relatable example of this is the old saying “the straw that broke the camel’s back”.
This is referring to the various life burdens people seem to effortlessly carry and deal with as they’re in a good state of mental health.
Since we’re not robots and have to reach a breaking point sometime, that last little thing that sets us over the edge into a state of poor mental health would be that last “straw”.
It’s important to know that coming to that breaking point is completely normal and healthy in a way. After all, if you never released all of that tension by displaying yourself emotionally, you could very well lose your mind.
It’s how you cope with the negativity that helps determine the health of your mental state.
Emotional health specifically relates to how you handle your emotions – both positive and negative.
A person with good emotional health is someone who is aware and can control their emotions. This does not mean that they don’t experience or allow negative emotions.
They simply are able to cope with the various things life throws at them in a healthy way. For example, someone with good emotional health might have something negative happen in their life.
They will feel anger or sadness but overall they know that those feelings will pass and they are able to manage their emotions in a healthy way. It’s not that they “brush it under the rug” either.
They are able to lean into negative emotions just as they would with positive ones and exit the situation in a healthy state of mind.
It’s important to note that someone with good emotional health can still have other mental health issues.
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The Difference Between Mental and Emotional Health
You can be struggling emotionally, while still maintaining your mental health. On the other hand, you can maintain your mental health (focus and engagement) while struggling emotionally.
This is to say that just because you are experiencing poor health in one of the two areas, does not mean the other is automatically negatively affected.
Personally, I find that I can be experiencing poor mental health but good emotional health. For me, this typically involves poor mental health around family issues and my workload but my emotional health is strong and healthy.
I can always find ways to pick myself up and work through that pain. My favorite outlets are talking to someone, exercising, journaling and getting outside more.
It’s easier to distinguish between mental and emotional health if you think about your experiences as the mental part, and the way it makes you feel and your reactions as the emotional part.
In short, mental and emotional health go hand in hand and are not opposites. They are simply the two parts that make up your mental well-being.
Many people use these terms incorrectly when describing what is going on with them as the emotional part is often the most recognizable of the two.
Symptoms of Mental and Emotional Health Issues
There are many noticeable symptoms that can help you tell if you or someone you love is struggling with their mental or emotional health. Here are a few common ones…
Irritability – If every little thing seems to irritate you, it may be time for a mental health check-up. Becoming irritable over little things is a negative response to events in your life.
The truth is that there is an underlying reason why you lash out inappropriately. You could be physically fatigued and your brain simply cannot cope with all of your responsibilities.
Similarly, you could be experiencing burnout and have no energy to deal with any stressor of any size.
Depression – While some people are diagnosed with depression, it’s normal for those not diagnosed to experience depression from time to time as well.
Personally, I find that I briefly get depressed if I’m working too much or if my sleep has been suffering.
Lack of interest – This can be a sub symptom of depression but it can also exist by itself. When you’re in poor mental and emotional health, you may find yourself not caring about your work or hobbies as you typically do.
It’s important to exercise the right practices (like self-care or talking to a therapist) to get yourself “back in the game”.
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Excessive crying – While there are plenty of reasons where crying is a healthy reaction, sometimes it’s a sign that your mental/emotional health is not up to par.
Crying a great outlet for stress and if you’re crying all the time, it might be time to take your body’s hint that you need to take some time to rest and reset yourself.
Poor hygiene – If someone you care about always seems “put together” and all of a sudden they seem to stop caring about their appearance and hygiene, they may be struggling with their mental health.
This is also a symptom of depression and is a typical symptom with people under a lot of stress.
It’s important to be aware that some people hide their symptoms. We’ve all heard of a tragedy that happens when someone takes their own life because their mental and emotional health is so extreme, yet no one had a clue that they were suffering.
Watch out for people and show them you care. Showing the smallest gesture of compassion could show someone that their life matters and is worth living.
Causes of Negative Mental and Emotional Health
There are so many causes of mental and emotional health issues. We are all unique with our own struggles, strengths and backgrounds that contribute to what makes us “tick”.
Causes of poor mental and emotional health
- Traumatic divorce
- The death of a loved one
- Extreme stress from work
- Financial stress
Achieving Mental and Emotional Health
Ultimately, achieving mental and emotional health comes down to a lot of thought work. If you’re experiencing a lot of stress and always act inappropriately as a result, it’s easy to get stuck in that behavioral cycle.
Thought work is difficult at first and you’ll experience some resistance when you first start practicing it.
When you dig down into the cause of your mental/emotional health it can feel nearly impossible to get control of it. This is how you can use thought work to improve your mental and emotional health.
Observe the things “stressing you out” and intentionally decide how you want to react to them.
Particular stressors that most people struggle with (mental health) are:
- Past abuse or trauma
- Daily stress
- Difficult or complex decisions
Typical inappropriate emotional responses could be:
- Feeling unnecessary anger or resentment toward a friend or family member
- Lashing out on people around you if you do not understand your triggers
- Reacting to stress in negative ways such as binge eating, alcoholism, abusing others
Basically, when you do not know how to deal with negative occurrences with your mental health, you will project those feelings in harmful or hurtful ways that do not serve you well.
When you are able to process what is happening in your life and control your emotions (or at least not let negative emotions result in harm) you can achieve good mental and emotional health.
As previously mentioned, having good mental and emotional health does not mean that things never bother you.
It’s simply the healthy way in which you are able to process and react to those things in your life.
Emotional Health Practices
There are several things you can do to achieve emotional health. In another recent post, Understanding Emotional Health, I go more in depth on each suggested practice to achieve this.
Here is a high level view of what those practices could look like for you…
- Practice mindfulness – Being able to center yourself when your emotions are feeling a bit out of control is a great way to maintain your emotional health.
- Observe your emotions – If you take a step back and observe what you’re feeling and why it helps separate you from the pain/stress of it a little. It will help you think more clearly as well.
- Establish meaningful relationships – Connecting with loved ones is a great way to keep yourself in a healthy state of emotions. The more positive emotions you feel, the better you’ll be able to cope with the negative ones.
- Watch your stress levels – Being proactive about managing your stress will help you maintain emotional health. Less stress means less negative emotions.
Mental Health Practices
I wrote an article on 6 Tips for Mental Exhaustion that I think would help with the maintenance of your mental health. In summary, these top tips are…
- Avoid alcohol – In so many words, alcohol and poor mental health are not a good concoction. The physical effects that alcohol has on your brain will make your mental and emotional health worse when you’re struggling to maintain it. It might be challenging to avoid that quick “escape” with a glass or two of wine, but it’s key for quicker mental health recovery. Think of it like a cold. When you’re sick you feed yourself healthy things to get better. It’s the same thing. What you put into your body physically and chemically affects it.
- Sleep more – Plan for it. Rearrange your schedule and go to bed an hour earlier. We’re all busy but when there’s a will there’s a way.
- Take frequent breaks – Resting your mind is key for mental health. Humans are capable of amazing things but working non-stop is not one of them that we can do without some serious mental health consequences.
- Plan healthy meals – Back to what I said about alcohol. Feeding yourself intentionally will have amazing benefits for your mental health.
- Read a mentally empowering book – There are so many amazing books out there that help reshape the way you think and cope with things. One of my favorites is called There are so many suggestions out there. Take it slow and try out different methods and practices that you think will work best for you.
- Journal – I love journaling for my mental health! If you’ve never tried it it might feel silly at first but trust me! Stick with it and simply use it as an outlet. You’ll strengthen your emotional health too.
- Do “nothing” – Take a mental health day and do whatever you need to do to feel complete again. Sometimes that’s “doing nothing” on the couch all day. For me, being outside is grounding and I always feel lighter and stronger when I’m able to get outside (even for a little bit!).
In conclusion, it is important to be aware of the issues in your life that bring you any sort of strain or discomfort to your mental/emotional health.
Being able to identify things that can contribute to poor mental health can help you combat that. Being aware of emotional reactions will help you cope much better as well.
Achieving good mental and emotional health can be easier than you may think but consistency in your practice is key.
If you’re going to achieve then maintain it in the long run, having a set plan of what you know helps you and following through is important. Set yourself up for success by planning ahead.
No one is exempt from potentially developing some kind of mental health disorder.
By keeping your mental and emotional health high on your priority list and actively working on developing your personal coping skills, you will be able to maintain your health and not let it develop into a full blown disorder.
While mental and eating disorders are treatable, they are much more difficult to work through.
It’s not something that you should be obsessed with, but consistently being mindful of what is best for you and acting accordingly will serve you best.
I hope this post helped you better understand your mental and emotional health! Leave a comment below and be sure to let me know what your mental/emotional struggles are.
I’d love to hear from you and would enjoy helping out by creating content around your specific areas of concern.
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