As discussed in previous articles, mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which an individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a meaningful contribution to their community.
Having a mind at ease or peace of mind can help us on our journey towards good mental health and wellbeing.
What is peace of mind and how does it benefit our mental health?
Peace of mind is:
- an internal state of calm
- a sense of harmony and emotional stability
- an ability to acknowledge but regulate one’s emotions
- mental serenity and tranquillity
- being comfortable in ‘one’s own skin’
- being content without being complacent
- the ability to still experience joy even in the presence of challenges
- a quiet mind
Peace of mind is beneficial to both our physical and mental wellbeing as it:
- reduces our stress hormone levels
- helps us sleep better
- protects us from cardiovascular and other stress related health conditions
- helps us recognise and regulate our emotions
- helps us to not overthink, ruminate and worry
- helps to experience joy and contentment even if we are facing challenges
- lowers our risk of anxiety and depression and other common mental health problems
What is the impact of mental ill health on our peace of mind?
There are some mental health challenges that can make it difficult to maintain our peace of mind.
Stress, worry and anxiety: Chronic stress can steal our peace of mind. When we are excessively stressed or if we are struggling with anxiety we will be restless mentally and ill at ease.
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Anxiety is a common experience for many of us and we often worry about relationship or family tensions, work challenges, finances, our health, our future plans, wishes, hopes and unfulfilled dreams.
Worry usually involves repetitive negative thoughts around our problems, often focusing on how big the problems are rather than on any potential solutions.
Worry can make us fearful and scared and we often react in fear if we feel our problems are threatening our sense of safety or security.
All this can make it difficult to get and maintain our peace of mind.
Depression: Depression will result in someone feeing very low or sad or irritable and easily angered.
Depression will result in a loss of interest, motivation and drive for life.
Depression can cause debilitating fatigue, poor sleep, poor appetite as well as difficulties interacting with others which can affect our relationships.
Depression can make us feel helpless and powerless and hopeless. All this will weigh on the mind and steal our sense of peace.
Alcohol and substance use: excessive use of alcohol and recreational use of drugs of abuse will have mind altering effects that can result in mental health challenges that will disturb our peace of mind.
Alcohol and substances can, however, also be used to escape the challenges that are stressing or worrying us in search of peace of mind.
This self-medication will sadly only give temporary relief from our troubles and may create more mental, physical and social problems that will further steal our peace of mind.
What can I do to find greater peace of mind?
- Acknowledge and express difficult emotions in a healthy way: Acknowledge the painful or difficult emotions we are experiencing that may be causing mental or emotional turmoil and find trusted people to talk to. Reach out for professional help if needed.
- Manage your thoughts: The person you talk to the most is yourself and constant self-criticism and negative self-talk can result in a lack of internal peace. It is critical to guard our minds and thoughts, confront unhealthy negative self-talk in our journey towards peace of mind.
- Mind your perspective: How you see the world and the challenges you face will have an impact on peace of mind. The proverbial glass can be seen as half empty or half full depending on how you choose to see it. A hopeful, positive outlook on life is mentally protective and will help us as we seek peace of mind. May we have serenity to accept what we cannot change, courage to change what we can and wisdom to know the difference.
- Be adaptable and mentally flexible: we cannot eliminate stress and challenges from our lives but we can change how we respond and react to these challenges. Mental flexibility and having a problem solving approach to life will greatly help us in challenging circumstances and help preserve our peace of mind in the midst of calamity. Blessed are the flexible, they will not be broken by the challenges of life.
- Simplify your life: mental and physical clutter will challenge our peace of mind. Being more present and mindful as we live life and de-cluttering even our physical spaces can help us regain our peace of mind. Spending less time on our technological devices will help us connect better with our friends and families and will give us a chance to connect with nature as well.
- Seek peace with others: one common cause of internal lack of peace is being in conflict with others or having important relationships that aren’t in a good state. Healing of relationships is can be the start of internal healing and finding peace of mind.
If you think that you or someone that you know maybe struggling with mental or emotional turmoil or mental health problems, please contact your nearest health care provider and get help.
*Dr Chido Rwafa-Madzvamutse is a consultant psychiatrist. Feedback: WhatsApp: +263714987729