Defining the Mental Health Continuum

The Mental Health Continuum

Mental health has been described in a continuum model, where people can measure their mental health in terms of Thriving, Surviving, Struggling or In Crisis.

  • Someone who is in the Thriving category will typically feel “normal”, have good sleep habits and energy. For these folks, it is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle, practice time management, and nurture your support systems.
  • People in the Surviving category might feel symptoms of irritability and sadness; have trouble sleeping or have low energy, muscle tension or headaches; and they might start decreasing their amount of social activity. In this category it is important to get adequate rest, food, and exercise; start engaging in healthy coping strategies; and start identifying stressors in your life.
  • Someone in the Struggling category might feel emotional symptoms like anxiety, anger, sadness, or hopelessness. They might experience restless sleep, fatigue, aches and pains. People in this category might see a performance decline in work or school and might start withdrawing. For people in this category, it is important to talk with someone about your difficulties, seek help from a professional, and reach out to your social supports instead of withdrawing.
  • People in the Crisis category might feel excessive anxiety, extreme emotions, and depressed moods. They might be unable to fall or stay asleep, but feel exhaustion and are often susceptible to physical illness. They might start avoiding social events and work or school. For people in this category, it is important to seek professional health as soon as possible.

What can people do to keep themselves well?

Self-care activities are things people can do to help themselves achieve a better life balance. Achieving this balance can help when times get stressful because a person's system is in a more optimal state before the high-stress time starts.

  1. Regular Healthy Meals: Eating regularly helps fuel your body and brain to help you get through your day-to-day commitments and gives you focus. Make sure you get three nutritious meals a day and pack yourself healthy snacks when you aren’t at home.
  2. Exercise: Giving your body a break from sitting while you are studying is important. Try to stay connected with the activities you've enjoyed in the past or take the opportunity to try something new!
  3. Sleep: Give your mind and body a time to rest each day. Getting a regular seven to nine hours of sleep per day is an essential part of self-care.
  4. Deep breathing and meditation: Meditation and guided relaxation exercises are easy activities you can do to promote stress reduction and fit self-care into your daily routine.
  5. Make connections: Set aside time to connect with friends and family.
  6. Do things that give you joy: Find whatever those things are that gives you joy and make sure you prioritize time to do it in your week. Whether it is sewing, painting figurines, playing a musical instrument, playing a board game with friends or family, or biking. Whatever that thing is, find time to do it consistently and often.