mental health

Improve your Mental and Emotional Health

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“Wellness, is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” – World Health Organization.

Wellness is an active process. A process of becoming aware of what is good health and making choices to achieve it. For most people it’s easier to focus on physical health. Problems with physical health are more obvious than poor mental or emotional health. It’s important though that you pay just as much attention to your emotional health. The mind-body connection is a powerful one and should not be ignored. Problems with physical health often have their origin in poor emotional health.

People who are emotionally healthy are:

  • Able to cope with and adjust to the recurrent stresses of everyday living in an acceptable way.
  • They handle their emotions appropriately and control their behavior.
  • They build strong relationships
  • They have a positive outlook to life that allows them to bounce back from adversity.

This ability to recover is known as resilience.

War and disasters have a large impact on mental health and psychosocial wellbeing. Economic downturns and difficult life events can also affect emotional health. For much of Sub-Saharan Africa, daily life is stressful. There is a lack of the basic services, benefits and rights that the developed world takes for granted.  Political instability, insecurity and economic recession worsen the situation. All these conditions cause an increase in anxiety, depression, substance abuse and community violence.

We all need to be resilient!


Good mental or emotional health allows you to cope with difficulties. You feel good about yourself and find meaning and joy in life. It helps you to remain focused, and work productively.  You’re able to maintain good relationships whether times are good or bad.

Research shows some key factors for improving mental and emotional health and building resilience:

  1. Connect with others– “share your burden”.  The best way to reduce stress is by interaction with people who care about you and are supportive. Your situation may not change but by talking about your problems, you lighten the load. Avoid social media “relationship building”. It is only a temporary distraction and is not a substitute for the real thing.
  2. Get active. Exercise not only boosts your mood by releasing endorphins in your brain but it has direct benefits for your physical health. It improves memory, alertness and productivity. 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily is all it takes!
  3. Manage stress. Deep breathing relaxation techniques are helpful; meditation; get enough sleep; spend at least 15 minutes daily on something you enjoy such as reading, playing a game, singing, playing with your children; Drop activities that waste your time and don’t improve your life in any way; make time for relaxation.
  4. Healthy eating. Avoid caffeine, alcohol and sugary snacks and other forms of stress eating. Choose healthy stress-busting eating options instead. Green leafy vegetables, fresh fruit, beans and fish are all good choices.
  5. Help others. Research shows that people, who help others feel enriched, have greater self-esteem and are happier. It also takes the focus off your problems for a while.


Tips on dealing with your emotions:

  • Express your feelings in appropriate ways – Share them with people close to you. Before they become overwhelming and difficult to control.
  • Think before you act – Take a deep breath, count to 10 or even 20; leave the room and get some fresh air; go for a walk.
  • Strive for balance in your life –Make time for activities you enjoy. Everyday, write down something that you’re grateful for. Focus on the positive things in your life.



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Did you know that depression is a serious medical condition that has both emotional and physical symptoms?

The exact cause of depression is unknown but like most mental disorders a variety of factors is involved such as:

  • Biological differences – People with depression appear to have physical changes in their brains. The significance of these changes is still uncertain, but may eventually help pinpoint causes.
  • Brain Chemistry Neurotransmitters are naturally occurring brain chemicals. Recent research indicates that changes in the function and effect of these neurotransmitters and how they interact with neuro-circuits involved in maintaining mood stability may play a significant role in depression and its treatment.
  • Hormones – Changes in the body’s balance of hormones may be involved in causing or triggering depression. Hormone changes can result with pregnancy and during the weeks or months after delivery (postpartum) and from thyroid problems, menopause or a number of other conditions.
  • Inherited traits – Depression is more common in people whose blood relatives also have this condition. Researchers are trying to find genes that may be involved in causing depression.

Although depression may occur only once during your life, usually people have multiple episodes of depression. It is estimated that by the year 2020 depression will be the second highest killer after heart disease.


Some of the emotional symptoms of depression include:

  • Feelings of sadness, emptiness or unhappiness
  • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities, such as sex
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or blaming yourself for things that are not your responsibility.
  • Anxiety, agitation or restlessness — for example, excessive worrying, pacing, hand-wringing or an inability to sit still
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Frequent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide

Physical symptoms may include:

  • Sleep disturbances, including sleeplessness (insomnia) or sleeping too much
  • Tiredness and lack of energy, so that even small tasks take extra effort
  • Changes in appetite — often reduced appetite and weight loss, but increased cravings for food and weight gain in some people
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain, other aches and pain, headaches, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment


More than just a bout of the blues, depression isn’t a weakness, nor is it something that you can simply “snap out” of. It isn’t demon possession or a spiritual attack. Depression may require long-term treatment. Most people with depression feel better with medication, psychological counselling or both.


Join us on The HealthZone today for an in-depth discussion on DEPRESSION



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Did you know that depression results in more absenteeism than almost any other physical disorder and costs employers more than per year in absenteeism and lost productivity?

A little over half of people surveyed (54%) believe that depression is not a true illness but a form of personal weakness.

Most people have felt sad or depressed at times. Feeling depressed can be a normal reaction to loss, life’s struggles, or an injured self-esteem. In fact, the process of sadness and grieving is an important part of recovering from a major life event.

But when feelings of intense sadness — including feeling helpless, hopeless, and worthless — last for weeks and keep you from functioning normally, it may be something more than sadness. It may very well clinical depression — a true medical condition.

Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest lasting more than 2 weeks. It affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems.

A person with depression may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and depression may cause feelings of guilt or low self-worth, feelings of tiredness or as if life isn’t worth living.

The human body is a very complex machine with the different parts functioning separately yet together, seamlessly as a whole organism. The brain, like the kidneys or the heart has many functions. One of those functions is to regulate our mood, our feelings and how we respond to life around us. When this function of the brain is compromised or disordered, depression, mania or anxiety can result.


Depression often begins in the teens, 20s or 30s, but it can happen at any age. More women are diagnosed with depression than are men.


There are many factors that seem to increase the risk of developing or triggering depression:

  • Certain personality traits, such as low self-esteem and being too dependent, self-critical or pessimistic
  • Traumatic or stressful events, such as physical or sexual abuse, the death or loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, or financial problems
  • Genetics – Blood relatives with a history of depression, bipolar disorder, alcoholism or suicide
  • History of other mental health disorders, such as anxiety disorder, eating disorders or post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Abuse of alcohol or illegal drugs – Some people with depression misuse substances when they feel bad, while for others, heavy use of alcohol or illicit substances can cause symptoms of depression.
  • Serious or chronic illness, including cancer, stroke, chronic pain, diabetes, hypertension or heart disease can trigger depression.
  • Childbirth – Postpartum depression occurs in some women soon after giving birth. Symptoms include sadness and hopelessness.
  • The elderly – possibly due to feelings of helplessness, vulnerability, lack of relevance, loss of vitality, increased dependence on others, isolation, chronic illness, etc.