Glossary of Terms to Support Your Mental Health Journey

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor, psychologist, therapist or similar. This blog offers ideas, tools, strategies and recommendations based on my experience with anxiety, panic attacks and mental health. I do not guarantee any results or outcomes as strategies that have worked for me may not work for you. For diagnosis and treatment of any physical and mental health condition, consult a licensed professional.

A mental health journey comes with a complete vocabulary of terms. And a clear understanding of these terms will assist you with the process.

Many glossaries for mental health provide definitions of disorders and conditions. So I want to focus this list on terms you will encounter during the self-work aspect of your journey.

This is not a comprehensive list. It is designed to provide a brief overview of these terms. I have also attempted to paraphrase the definitions/meanings so they may be more easily understood.

I plan to continue to add to the list over the next few months, so please feel free to offer suggestions in the comments below.

What are boundaries? Growth? Self-work?

Affirmations

Affirmations are short, positive statements we use to help retrain our brains to think positively. For affirmations to be effective, we need to say them aloud daily until we believe them to be true.

Read More| Generate Positivity with Affirmations

Boundaries

Boundaries are guidelines used to communicate what we need to feel safe, comfortable, supported and respected. Boundaries help us navigate our relationships by giving us the knowledge and ability to say yes and no to protect our well-being. There are seven types of boundaries: physical, emotional/mental, spiritual, financial, sexual, time and non-negotiables. Boundaries can change as relationships evolve.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

Psych Central – 7 Types of Boundaries You May Need

Calm

Calm is a generally positive term meaning a state when we are not experiencing strong, negative feelings. This could mean we are free of anger, sadness, anxiety or agitation. Most coping strategies aim to “re-establish calm” or release negative thoughts and emotions.

Comfort Zone

A comfort zone is a physical or mental space in which we feel safe, secure, content and comfortable. A mental comfort zone will dissuade us from partaking in activities that may be mentally or emotionally harmful. A portion of our growth journey may involve expanding our comfort zones. This work will allow us to practice “scary” activities in small doses to redefine what our comfort zones look like.

Read More| 10 Ways to Expand Your Comfort Zone

Comforting Activities

Comforting activities are any enjoyable activity that brings us focus, calm, relaxation and comfort. Many disorders will wear on the mind and body, leaving us exhausted. Comforting activities distract our minds in order to provide much-needed relief. A comforting activity may be sleeping, watching a movie, pursuing a hobby, taking a walk, etc.

Cope/Coping

Courtesy of Oxford Languages: coping means to “deal effectively with something difficult.” The key to coping is finding an effective strategy to manage our symptoms, provide comfort and work on healing. A worthy goal of our journey may be finding coping strategies to control and heal effectively.

Read More| 7 Strategies for Coping With Morning Anxiety

Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

Emotional intelligence is a psychological theory focusing on skills to identify, understand, control and successfully express our emotions. Most studies and books on EQ focus on the workplace, but the skills are helpful for all interpersonal relationships. Within a mental health journey, practicing EQ skills can help us better understand ourselves and the roots of our negative feelings and mindsets.

Empowerment

Empowerment is all about having control and power over our mental health journey. This includes access to support networks and resources that will aid and encourage us to grow strength, confidence and authority over our lives.

Personal Empowerment

Personal empowerment is the ability to be our personal source of encouragement and support for our mental health journey. It involves taking responsibility for our journey and holding ourselves accountable to do the work, make positive choices and track our progress.

(Mental) Energy

Courtesy of Healthline: mental energy is “a mood state where you feel productive, motivated, and prepared to get things done.” Low mental energy may present as boredom, inability to focus or frequently zoning out. Feeling mentally drained may or may not cause us to also feel physically exhausted. Some mental health disorders claim a lot of our mental energy, whether we are aware of it or not.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

Healthline – 8 Tips to Boost Mental Energy, in the Moment and in the Future

Growth

Growth refers to gaining knowledge and abilities to support and improve our mental health.  Growth can be measured by tracking goals or keeping a journal that can show how our mindset has changed. Growth can also be detected as we start recognizing when we are better capable of handling difficult situations than we had been at the beginning of our journey.

Read More| Why You Should Start Journaling

Personal Growth

Personal growth is also referred to as personal development or self-improvement. Personal growth is about developing positive behaviours, habits, mindsets, and skills to improve our mental, physical and emotional health.

Read More| 5 Personality Quizzes for Personal Growth

Healing

Unlike physical health, mental health does not have cures. Healing involves growing by learning how to cope and live with a mental health condition. A healing process begins with the desire to improve ourselves and includes seeking help, whether it be understanding our condition or pursuing therapy.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

Psych Central – Can You Cure or Heal the Mind?

Journey

Journey is another word for the process of learning about and taking care of our mental health. We can consider it a journey as there will be a start but no definite ending. There will also be many ups and downs, comprising bright days and challenging experiences. The journey is a worthwhile endeavour to benefit our overall happiness and well-being.

Limiting Beliefs

A limiting belief is a belief or state of mind that limits or prevents us from pursuing and achieving our goals. Limiting beliefs often present themselves as fears or in I can’t/I don’t have/I’m not statements. Affirmations help identify and minimize our limiting beliefs.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

Happier Human – 15 Limiting Beliefs Examples That Hold You Back in Life

Mental Focus

Mental focus involves making a conscious effort to concentrate on and work towards achieving our goals. Developing and improving mental focus takes time and practice. It will require us to limit distractions, create time for ourselves, take breaks for comforting activities and to practice mindfulness.

Mental Health

Mental health refers to the health of our thoughts, behaviours and emotions. We can have good mental health or poor mental health. Our mental well-being can influence our relationships, decision-making skills and how we experience the world. It can also simultaneously impact our physical health for better or worse. Poor mental health is not the same as mental illness.

Mental Health Glossary. Learn the terms you will encounter on your mental health journey.

Mental Health Awareness

Mental health awareness aims to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and mental illness. It provides a greater understanding of mental health to reduce misconceptions and increase acceptance. Awareness and acceptance offer greater access to information, diagnoses, treatments and support.

Read More| 5 Steps to Create A Safe Space to Discuss Mental Health

Mental Health Strategies

Mental health strategies are actions used to achieve our mental health goals. These strategies may include long-term and short-term plans or practical coping activities. Practicing mental health strategies is helpful for everyone to support good mental health or treat a mental illness.

Mental Illness

Mental illness is a mental health condition that negatively disrupts or changes our thoughts, behaviours and feelings. It can make functioning in daily activities and maintaining relationships difficult. It is an umbrella term to refer to all diagnosable mental disorders. Mental illness is treatable.

Read more (I have no affiliation with these websites):

American Psychiatric Association – What is Mental Illness?

Health Direct – Types of Mental Illness

Mindfulness

Courtesy of Greater Good Magazine: “Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens.” It is about focusing our attention on acknowledging and accepting our present thoughts and emotions without judgement. Mindfulness provides an opportunity to understand ourselves and our needs better.

Mindset

Mindset is our mental attitude that determines our ideas, beliefs, values, philosophy and worldview. Our mindset is typically established through our social and cultural settings. In some cases, our communities may lead our mindset to perceive mental health practices in a negative light.

Shifting Mindset

A mindset shift is a shift or change of our minds. It allows us to be more critical of our current beliefs and accept different philosophies to support, manage and heal our mental health. A shift in mindset is required for mental health awareness.

Read More| 5 Steps to Create A Safe Space to Discuss Mental Health

Motivation

Motivation is the driving force behind setting goals and persevering through the necessary work to achieve them. Beyond having a major end goal, motivation can be maintained by setting and achieving small goals along our journey. Being able to track improvements and using personal rewards are effective motivators.

Process

The process is a sequence of steps and stages we follow to achieve our goal of overall improved mental health. Some steps of the process will be difficult (mentally, emotionally and possibly physically). And some stages will feel frustratingly stagnant as if we are not improving or healing. Trust the process, as every bit of work we put into our journey will pay off at some point.

Safe Space

A safe space is an area (whether a physical or social environment) in which a person feels free to be themselves. This means the space is welcoming, accepting, and free from bias, criticisms and risks of physical or emotional harm. And can include acceptance of different values, sexualities, mental health, etc. 

Read More| 5 Steps to Create a Safe Space to Discuss Mental Health

Self-Care

Self-care is literally caring for the self. It is a combination of activities we follow to support our good physical, mental (or psychological), emotional and spiritual (religious or not) health. Self-care requires positive daily habits to establish a healthy environment and lifestyle. And includes activities to help us handle stressors.

Self-Discovery

Self-discovery allows us to learn about who we are, separate from the opinions and values of our family, peer groups and culture, in order to follow our own path. The process will allow us to understand our personal feelings, thoughts, needs and priorities to become who we want to be. Self-discovery can include learning about our personality, identifying our strengths and weaknesses, unlearning limiting beliefs and behaviours, and growing self-confidence.

Read More| 5 Personality Quizzes for Personal Growth

Self-Love

Courtesy of Brain & Behavior: “Self-love is a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological and spiritual growth.” At its core, self-love means showing kindness to ourselves. It encourages us to prioritize our happiness and well-being rather than be lost in the needs and expectations of others. Self-love involves using positive inner thoughts, setting boundaries, treating ourselves respectfully, and nurturing our growth. It is neither selfish nor vain as prioritizing ourselves leaves us with a better capacity to support others.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

Brain & Behavior – Self-Love and What It Means

Self-Work

Self-work is the work and effort we dedicate to improving ourselves. From setting goals to developing mental health strategies to seeking professional assistance, we must hold ourselves accountable to do the work before receiving the reward.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

Hello Giggles – Here’s How You Can Start Your Self-Work Journey

Soothing

Soothing relieves pain or discomfort to create a feeling of calm. Different soothing methods may be used to target physical, mental, emotional or spiritual pain. Effective soothing techniques will differ from person to person, so it may be helpful to test multiple options and suggestions.

Read More| How to Self-Soothe During A Panic Attack

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

Positive Psychology – 24 Best Self-Soothing Techniques and Strategies for Adults

Stigma

Courtesy of Better Health: “stigma is when someone sees you in a negative way because of your mental illness.” Stigma involves prejudice and discrimination that is often the result of misinformation, disinformation and deception. It may prevent people from seeking help, which will, in turn, cause mental illness to worsen. Always remember that mental illness is only one aspect of our identity, and everyone has a right to strive for good mental health.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

Better Health – Stigma, discrimination and mental illness

Therapy

Therapy or counselling is the process of meeting with a trained and licensed mental health provider in a series of sessions. Sessions may be completed privately, as a couple or in a group as needed. The term “therapy” is surrounded by stigma. However, therapy is a very healthy activity for our mental well-being and is similar to seeking physical healthcare. Therapy benefits everyone, whether seeking treatment for a mental illness or looking to improve their overall mental health.

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is therapy more specifically aimed at treating mental illness. A trained mental health professional may assist us in learning the cause of our condition and how to cope effectively. Psychotherapy is a clinical term we may choose to use while searching for an appropriate therapist. However, it is acceptable to refer to any form of therapy as therapy.

Glossary for Mental Health

Trauma

Courtesy of American Psychology Association: “trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event.” Physical or psychological symptoms may present immediately after the event or arise years later. Sometimes the traumatic response will be to forget specific details of the event, but our mind will still remember the danger. Psychotherapy can help unearth the details of the traumatic event to provide treatment.

Trigger

Courtesy of Healthline: “triggers are anything that might cause a person to recall a traumatic experience they’ve had.” Anything may trigger a memory of the event, including images, scents, sounds or someone discussing a similar experience. The trigger may cause minor to dangerous emotional or psychological pain. A minor reaction may be soothed with self-care and mental health strategies. However, a strong reaction may be dangerous to our safety and require help from a professional mental healthcare provider.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

Healthline – What It Really Means to Be Triggered

Trigger Warning (TW)

A trigger warning is often used on social media to indicate the content may be triggering. TW will be included at the top of the post and should be followed by the topic (i.e. TW: violence). The increasing use of trigger warnings is an example of the benefits of mental health awareness.

What other words should I add? Let me know in the comments below!