Resilience is similar to an elastic band. We all have our own resilience band and with each stress, busy schedule or tight deadline, the band tightens. Once we deal with the source of stress, the band bounces back and is relaxed again.
The tighter the band, the bigger the strain, and the greater the pressure on your mental health.
Some bands stretch further than others, but we all have a point where we can’t take any more strain.
When your resilience band is overwhelmed, this is the point where things can decline quite quickly.
Many people who experience declines in their mental health say they didn’t see it coming, or that they don’t understand why it happened to them. This is often because the signs of poor mental health were different to what they expected.
It’s important to recognise that your mind and body are extrinsically connected. If your mind is overwhelmed, it’ll be telling your body in some way. If these signs go on unnoticed, your mind and body will soon take over and force you to stop and pay attention.
As the saying goes: “If you listen to your body when it whispers, you won’t have to hear it scream.”
What Are the Signs of Poor Mental Health?
The signs that your mental health might need some support can look different for everyone. However, here are four common themes to look out for.
1. Changes in Mood
Changes in mood mean a change to what’s normal for you. Some of us have naturally higher mood and energy levels than others.
If normally you feel energised and upbeat and you notice you’ve lost your spark, this is a change to keep an eye on.
On the other hand, if you know you’re not naturally extroverted but your mood and energy are lower than usual, this is something to pay attention to.
- A change in mood that lasts longer than a few weeks or doesn’t seem to be improving.
2. Changes to General Health and Lifestyle
Changes to sleep, nutrition and exercise is another key sign to look out for.
Sleep is closely linked to mental health. Not sleeping well can have a negative impact on wellbeing, but equally symptoms of poor mental health can make it harder to sleep well, causing a negative cycle.
Motivation plays a key role in living a balanced and healthy lifestyle. If your motivation fades, it might affect your drive to eat well and exercise.
- Having trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep.
- Sensing a general drop in your motivation and energy levels.
- Changes to appetite (both eating too much or not enough).
Withdrawal can be tricky to pick up on, especially if you’re more of an introvert who enjoys their own company.
For people who would normally be out seeing friends and doing group activities, this sign of poor mental health might be easier to recognise.
Withdrawing from things you usually enjoy as well as everyday tasks and activities you’d normally do is a common sign that your mental health needs some support.
Distancing yourself from friends, partners, family and work colleagues is linked with the general lack of motivation and reduced feelings of happiness and satisfaction that many people experience when their mental health declines.
- Cancelling on friends and commitments you normally enjoy.
- Not wanting to engage in hobbies or activities.
- Feeling anxiety about having to see people or attend social events.
- Not getting satisfaction from tasks or activities.
4. Changes to Outlook or Self-Esteem
When your mental health is poor, your mind can tell you things that negatively impact your confidence and outlook on life.
Psychologists refer to these as cognitive distortions.
Your brain is a bodily organ with functions that help you survive. These functions include threat detection and energy conservation during difficult times. When your brain deploys these functions, it changes the types of thoughts you experience.
Lacking awareness around how your mind works can make you more prone to unhelpful thinking patterns. Becoming aware of cognitive distortions enables you to effectively interrupt unhelpful thought spirals before they start to impact your mood.
To learn more about your personal cognitive distortions, be sure to check out The Mental Wellbeing Toolkit.
- The start or an increase in cognitive distortions such as pessimistic thinking and catastrophising.
- Generally feeling anxious about the way you look, your personality or your abilities.
How to Improve Your Mental Health
Mental health support looks different for everyone.
The type and level of support often depends on how much of a decline your mental health has taken.
If poor mental health has significantly interfered with your daily functioning and quality of life, you might need to consider accessing professional support.
On the other hand, you might be interested in self-guided support such as The Mental Wellbeing Toolkit, social support networks outlined in The Social Connection Planner, or reaching out to friends and family.
Mental health is unique to each of us, which is why the signs of poor mental health vary from person to person.
Although warning signs are different, they have some common characteristics:
- Changes to your usual mood.
- Changes to your health and lifestyle.
- Changes to your outlook on life or self-esteem.
If you’ve noticed some of these warning signs, it could be helpful to seek support to improve your mental wellbeing, such as:
About SimoneI am a mental health nurse and owner of The Wandering Mind. Through The Wandering Mind I create copy, resources and articles on mental health. I also offer 1:1 wellbeing sessions to improve mood, mental wellness and reach goals/aspirations.
My credentials: Registered Mental Health Nurse, ATP Level 2 in CBT Essentials, Licensed Trainer in Outcome Star (goal and progression key working tool).
My instagram/facebook handle is @wanderingmindmentalwellbeing
My website is: www.thewanderingmind.co.uk