How mental health can make your 2018 resolutions a 2019 reality

Mental wellness is one of the most critical but most overlooked aspects of our physiology, which is largely a result of widespread societal misunderstanding of mental health.

Every January marks the opportunity for a fresh start: new year, new you. It’s the time when we promise ourselves that we will be healthier than we were the year before: we’re getting rid of that stubborn extra 20 pounds and hitting the gym after Feb. 1. But if your 2019 resolution is the same one you made unsuccessfully in 2018 (and in 2017 and in 2016), maybe this year ask yourself why you haven’t been able to achieve your goals. Maybe your annual failed commitment to physical health can be attributed to something less obvious than a waistline — your mental health.

“A lot of people think, ‘I don’t need to see a counselor because I’m not crazy,’ but seeking mental health services doesn’t mean that you’re crazy,” Central Wyoming Counseling Center Open Access Coordinator Kat Shumway said. It’s actually very rational, and she’s hoping that it’s a mindset that all of Wyoming can adopt.

Shumway likens Central’s services to those of a traditional primary care doctor. We don’t just go see them when we’re sick; we also need regular check-ups to make sure that we’re healthy and our bodies are functioning properly. In addition to offering peace of mind, these routine visits will identify and address problems before they get unmanageable, so that when there is something wrong, you already have a doctor ready to find the best solution for you. Mental health is no different.

“Everyone should have annual check-ups. So often when people experience depression or anxiety, it just becomes part of the norm, but it’s actually unusual and unhealthy. Most of us don’t even realize that we’ve undergone any sort of change and just accept this new ‘normal,’ so we don’t even know there’s a problem,” Shumway said.

Conditions like depression and anxiety tend to be subjective and vary from person to person. This lack of uniform manifestation is one of the leading contributors to our misconceptions about mental health. Some symptoms include but are not limited to changes in sleep, appetite or routine as well as low interest in doing things or motivation to participate. Shumway stresses that it’s not normal to regularly think about how it would be better to not be here anymore, even if those ideations aren’t necessarily suicidal. Hopelessness isn’t a typical experience. Seemingly ordinary or small maladies like these can escalate into debilitating illness, like losing the ability to function, incapacity to enjoy life or suicidal thoughts and actions, which is why early detection and treatment is so critical.

Whether your 2019 resolution is to hit the gym three times a week, quit smoking, earn a promotion or be a better dad, a visit to Central could be your best first step. Shumway says the easiest way to get started is during Open Access hours Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9:00-11:00 a.m. or Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2:00-4:00 p.m. You’ll fill out a questionnaire, then meet with a professional to develop a plan on how they can best serve you moving forward. Central actively works with patients to find financial solutions for treatment including sliding fee scales and accepts insurance. If possible, bring proof of income to your first Open Access visit. No appointment is necessary.

Similar to your annual check-in with your primary doctor, not everyone will qualify for a diagnosis from their mental health professional. There is a “normal” amount of stress, but someone’s mental health depends on how that individual responds to it. And isn’t it a good idea to know where you stand?

“We’re here to support you through family stress, relationship stress, professional stress. Our job is to make sure that the people we work with are empowered to live their best lives,” Shumway said.

To learn more, visit Central during Open Access or call Kat directly at 237.9583.

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