Why don’t we prioritize self-care?

A good chunk of my life as a public official deals with mental illness as it impacts my constituents. One of the key issues, of course, is that far too many people have access to mental health care – some studies show that only 44% of the mentally ill actually get treatment. That’s a tragedy and a travesty, but it’s reflective of a larger issue:

We do not prioritize how we care for ourselves, or our minds.

And if you need any truer example of this, well…think of yourself. And I mean that seriously. I know everyone is different, but I bet that if you got a bad cough that you couldn’t shake, you’d go to the doctor. If you broke your arm, you run to the ER.

Now, should you run to a therapist every time you get sad? No, of course not. But I will say this: I think there are far too many people out there who simply don’t take the time to take care of themselves. And that may not mean seeking counseling. It may be as simple as taking a walk. Meditating. Building some time into your day to de-stress before your own sadness levels reach a crisis point.

Is that you? It almost certainly is. None of us – and yeah, I know this is me – adequately take care of ourselves. This is true across most sectors of society. How many of us are stressed? How many of us know we should be doing more to watch our for our emotional state of well-being, but don’t?

For example, check out this TED Talk from Guy Winch on emotional first aid, in which he discusses emotional hygiene:

Winch nails it: We know and teach remarkably little on emotional hygiene and well-being. Winch asks the question that I am asking to you now: “Why is it that our physical health is so much more important to us than our psychological health?”

One of the books on my reading list is The Depression Cure by Dr. Stephen Ilardi. The book essentially makes six recommendations for treating depression:

  • Eating more Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Engaging activity
  • Physical exercise
  • Get more sunlight
  • Strong social support network
  • Sleep

Now, serious question: How many of you looked at that and went, “Yeah, right, wouldn’t that be nice?”

I mean, I did. And wouldn’t it be nice to get more of these things?

We’ve got a long way to go in society to combat our rising rates of mental illness, depression and anxiety. Many of those changes have to happen at the cultural and governmental level. But there always has to be individual responsibility taken. And if all of us prioritized taking care of ourselves, I bet we’d be happier.

Just something to think about.

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