6 questions to boost your mental health (plus psychologist tips)

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Major life events can significantly impact mental health. Whether it’s financial stress, family conflict, a health issue or bereavement, any type of life change can bring mental health challenges.

Recognising the signs and symptoms can help you take proactive steps towards feeling more positive. In this Q&A article, provisional psychologist Lily Gibson advises on the emotional and behavioural changes to watch out for. She also shares some coping strategies to reduce stress and create a greater sense of wellbeing.

Q: What are the common symptoms of poor mental health?

The symptoms of poor mental health centre on behaviour, mood, and functioning. Changes typically include:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Persistent low mood
  • Avoidance of previously enjoyed activities
  • Social withdrawal
  • Fatigue
  • Decreased personal hygiene

Recognising the symptoms of poor mental health is important for several reasons. Firstly, early detection allows for timely intervention and treatment, which can prevent the symptoms from worsening. Additionally, understanding these signs can assist individuals to seek appropriate support and resources. Lastly, identifying the signs of poor mental health promotes self-awareness. This empowers individuals to take proactive steps towards self-care and, overall, can lead to improved wellbeing.  

Q: How can tooth loss affect mental wellbeing?

Studies (Kudsi et al, 2020) show that tooth loss can have various psychological effects, including:

1.     Impact on self-esteem and loss of identity: Losing teeth can lead to low self-esteem and confidence due to negative perceptions of one’s appearance. 

2.     Social withdrawal and negative impact on relationships: Individuals may feel embarrassed about their dental condition leading them to avoid social situations or interactions. 

3.     Anxiety and depression: Tooth loss can contribute to anxiety and depressive symptoms, particularly if it affects speech, eating, or smiling. 

4.     Denial and anger: Individuals may experience denial and anger due to tooth loss. This anger may be directed towards themselves or others, feeling resentful about their situation. 

5.     Impaired quality of life: Tooth loss can impact daily functioning, completion of activities and overall enjoyment of life. 

The final emotional stage of tooth loss is acceptance, where the individual begins to come to terms with their tooth loss. Acceptance may involve seeking dental treatments, which can help alleviate the common physical and psychological effects. 

Seeking additional support from mental health professionals can also be helpful. This provides individuals with coping strategies and emotional support during the adjustment process to ultimately improve their overall wellbeing.  

Young lady withdrawing from social situations, sitting alone at home.
It’s important to remember that reducing symptoms of mental conditions and maintaining persistent hygiene levels is a gradual process that won’t occur overnight. Be patient with yourself or others and praise progress along the way.

Q: What strategies can prevent mental illness from impacting oral and personal hygiene?

Decreased personal hygiene, such as neglecting grooming habits particularly showering and brushing teeth can indicate a decline in self-care which is one of many predictors of possible poor mental health.

Likewise, symptoms of mental conditions, such as fatigue, lack of motivation, and feelings of worthlessness, can contribute to decreased personal hygiene. However, the following strategies can be implemented to help overcome these symptoms.

1.     Establish a routine: Create daily routines that specifically include times for personal hygiene activities such as showering, brushing teeth and grooming. For children and adolescents, it is recommended to use visual scheduling that provides visible cues to help establish proactive habits. 

2.     Set realistic goals: Set achievable goals for increasing and maintaining hygiene. Goals can include breaking tasks into smaller more manageable steps to make them feel less anxiety provoking. 

3.     Utilise coping strategies: Use coping strategies such as deep breathing, positive self-talk, or progressive muscle relaxation to reduce and manage symptoms of stress and anxiety. 

4.     Seek support from significant others: Reach out to family and friends to help support and provide encouragement or helpful reminders, as this can develop positive accountability and motivation to prioritise self-care activities. 

5.      Consider seeking professional help: If symptoms persist and significantly impact daily functioning, consider seeking professional help, as this may help to manage the symptoms and improve overall wellbeing.

“It’s important to remember that reducing symptoms of mental conditions and maintaining persistent hygiene levels is a gradual process that won’t occur over night. Be patient with yourself or others and praise progress along the way.”

Q: What are some effective ways to manage dental anxiety? 

Overcoming dental fear can be challenging, but it can be achieved if effective strategies are implemented. Here are five psychological tips to help individuals manage dental anxiety: 

1.   Open communication: Communicate openly with your dentist about your fears and concerns, as this allows them to understand your needs and tailor the dental experience to make you feel more comfortable. 

2.   Seek support: Consider seeking professional support from a psychologist, as they can provide coping strategies, emotional support, and encouragement throughout your journey. 

3.   Gradual exposure: Individually or with guidance from your psychologist, gradually expose yourself to dental settings and procedures to desensitise yourself to dental related fear and anxiety. Start with simple visits before gradually progressing to dental procedures. 

4.   Cognitive behavioural techniques: Challenge negative thoughts and beliefs about dental visits by reframing them with more realistic and positive perspectives. 

5.   Relaxation techniques: Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or visualisation to calm your mind and body before and during dental appointments. 

Dr Ed Olrich discusses patient’s concerns with a patient at EO Perio.
Communicate openly with your dentist about your fears and concerns, as this allows them to understand your needs and tailor the dental experience to make you feel more comfortable.

Q: What self-care tips can support mental wellness?

​​Rather than adopting negative coping habits, such as smoking, consuming alcohol or adopting poor eating habits, there are healthy alternative practices that can cultivate positive emotions and optimism.  

1.     Practice self-care: Take time for self-care activities that nourish and heal your mind and body. 

2.     Physical activity: Engage in regular exercise to boost your mood and energy levels, as physical activity releases endorphins which can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. 

3.     Healthy eating and sleeping: Remember to fuel your body with nutritious foods and high-quality sleep to support mental and physical wellbeing. 

4.     Mindfulness meditation: Practice mindfulness meditation to encourage awareness of the present moment, as this can help reduce stress, increase self-awareness, and foster a sense of tranquillity. 

5.     Connecting with others: Engage in meaningful social connections by spending time with family, friends, or community groups. 

Q: How can goal-setting positively impact mental health?

Setting goals is an effective way to increase motivation. Setting small, challenging but realistic goals can help you to create the changes needed to improve your mental health. Following the SMART goals guidelines, which was first introduced by Doran in 1981, can be particularly beneficial for people with poor mental health. 

When attempting to make positive changes in your life, make sure your goals are:

  • Specific: Be specific and set clear goals. 
  • Measurable: Ensure your goals are measurable and can be tracked to allow you to see your progress.
  • Achievable: Create actionable goals to ensure that the steps to get there are within your control.
  • Realistic: Avoid overwhelming goals by making the goal realistic. 
  • Timely: Set an appropriate end date to help stay focused and motivated. 

 

Illustration of SMART goal setting guidelines.
Setting small, challenging but realistic goals can help you to create the changes needed to improve your mental health.

Through implementing SMART guidelines, individuals with poor mental health are supported to navigate challenges, build resilience, and cultivate a sense of hope and optimism for the future.

Final word…

There are many acts of self-care that can be included in your daily routine to boost mental wellbeing. This includes ​​personal hygiene activities, exercise, healthy eating, quality sleep, relaxation techniques like mindfulness and yoga, engaging in hobbies and interests, connecting with others, and self-compassion. 

These self-care activities can help make it easier to cope with stress and enhance overall mental wellbeing. Yet, it’s important to note that not all strategies will be beneficial for everyone. Discover what works best for you and ensure that you prioritise self-care in your life.  

 

Useful resources

BIO:

Lily Gibson is a provision psychologist based in Brisbane. She is passionate about working with children, adolescents and young adults with ADHD, ASD and/or anxiety and depression disorders. She is also interested in working with schools and parents to support children throughout all environments in their life. Lily currently works at a private practice, delivering multidisciplinary integrated therapy services to children and young people aged 0-24 years. 

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