Relationships can be complicated at the best of times. From family members and friends, to lovers there are many ups and downs with those who we have created bonds. As humans, we naturally deal with many emotions over a short amount of time and we tend to be reactive to situations – both positive and negative. Whether we are having a good or bad day can affect many aspects of our life, including our relationships. When it comes to our overall mental health, the individuals we spend the most time with and those we love the most can be greatly impacted by us and vice versa. In this blog we discuss the basics of mental health, the affects of mental health on relationships, and how we may work together to support each other.
You’ve heard it discussed by your peers, professionals, and social media influencers – but what exactly is mental health? Almost every single blog that our team has written mentions mental health in some form or another. Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, social, and spiritual well-being. When we discuss mental health, we aren’t always talking about mental illnesses or diagnoses.
Individuals experiencing positive mental health have the capacity to enjoy life and deal with the challenges they face on a daily basis. Mental health can also change day to day, week to week, month to month, and so on. Individuals who experience mental illness may also have a positive mental health baseline but have moments where their anxiety, stress, or depression take over. Most individuals have either personally experienced a mental illness or know someone who has experienced a mental illness – that means we all are affected by a loved one’s mental health.
EFFECTS ON RELATIONSHIPS
So, how exactly does our mental health affect our loved one’s lives? Thanks to the cinematic dream, it is easy to picture the perfect family in the perfect neighbourhood. Yet we know that perfection is not reality and, as humans, we make mistakes. We let our emotions control our words and our actions and, while there is nothing wrong with expressing emotions, sometimes emotionally charged words and actions can hurt others. Some of the ways that our mental health state affects relationships includes but is not limited to miscommunication, isolation, and codependency.
Great communication is the key to a healthy relationship, but if we are experiencing anxiety, stress, or having an episode of depression our communication with friends, family, and partners may begin to suffer. It can be difficult to express how we are feeling and to feel understood in our emotions, so we may either fully stop communicating with others or our words become defensive and angry. Our loved ones may not understand what is happening and distance themselves from us during this time, or vice versa. This can have a lasting effect on relationships because our loved ones may misinterpret our behaviour as acting out and may not understand that we actually need them the most during that time. By closing ourselves off from communication with others we isolate ourselves. Our mental health can also isolate our loved ones in their own relationships. If, for example, we are asking too much of a family member or friend they may grow distant from their own friends and family members. If we allow this isolation to continue, the pressure may grow from each individual in the situation and could lead to anxiety attacks, depression, and codependent behaviours.
Codependency occurs when an individual is dependent upon approval from another. You may find that you are codependent with someone else if you rely on them to assist you in completing your daily tasks, or if you are not comfortable leaving the house without them. There can be a high cost to supporting a loved one to the point of codependency. When one is always needing to be there for another, their own mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health declines. They are giving too much of themselves to ensure their loved one is comfortable and healthy.
If you are noticing the negative impact your mental health is having on your personal relationships, there are ways to help you navigate through these tough times. It is not always easy, but in order to ensure a healthy relationship we need to practice self-awareness and continue to communicate our feelings with our loved ones. One way to keep communication open is to learn about mental illness together. By gaining knowledge you may start to recognize when symptoms and warning signs start appearing.
Another great communication tool is to set boundaries with each other. “No” doesn’t have to be a negative word. Boundaries allow us to set rules and limits with loved ones so that we are not taken advantage of – even if we feel obligated to help. Setting boundaries is also a great way to ensure that you do not become dependent on someone and they do not unknowingly become the dependent.
If communicating your emotions, educating each other, and setting boundaries isn’t working between you and your family, seeking assistance from a professional can help you all navigate the complications in your relationship. A professional counsellor can provide you and your loved one with tools to grow your communication. They are able to listen without judgement, bias, or taking sides in a safe and supportive environment.
Our mental health affects more than just ourselves. If you are living with anxiety, depression, an eating disorder, or any other mental health difficulties, navigating relationships can be more complex. The important thing to remember is that you are not alone and there is help. With communication, education, and professional assistance your relationships will improve. If you would like to discuss mental health, relationships, or would like to talk to a professional, please contact us HERE.