As many of you may know, May is Mental Health Awareness month. I have always been a believer that people need to take care of their mental health as well as their physical health. In fact, poor mental health can affect your physical health. Depression and stress can cause stomach pain, back pain, headaches, and other unexplained aches and pains.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five Americans will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime. Mental health conditions are common and can affect anyone, regardless of age, race, or gender. About 1 in 25 U.S. adults lives with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression.
Making mental health a priority every day is possible in several ways. Here are some tips to help you get started.
Take Breaks – It is essential to give yourself time and space to heal mentally. Try taking a few minutes each day to practice mindfulness and relaxation. This will help you to regulate your emotions and reduce stress.
Some favorite mindfulness practices that I use every day are:
- Breathing exercises – There are many different mindfulness breathing exercises. I like to practice 4 – 4 – 4 breathing. Breathe in to the count of four. Hold it for a count of four and then exhale to the count of four. Do this for two to five minutes and check in with yourself to see if you are less stressed after you are done. There are other breathing exercises you can check out. Just Google mindful breathing exercises.
- Grounding – Breathe gently. Find five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. Using this technique when you are anxious will help calm you are reduce your feelings of anxiety. Here is an example – right now I see five things – my pen, my coffee cup, my keyboard, the sun in the window, and a tape dispenser. Four things I can touch – my soft sweater, my feet on the ground, the chair under me, and the air conditioning blowing on my neck. Three things I can hear – people talking in the conference room, a truck horn outside, and the phone ringing. Two things I can smell – my coffee, my perfume. One thing I can taste – the French vanilla creamer in my coffee.
Set Goals – Setting goals and working towards them is a great way to help manage mental health. Goals provide a sense of purpose and give you something to focus on when life feels overwhelming. Journaling is one method you can use to set your goals.
Exercise Regularly – Exercise is an important part of maintaining a healthy mental state. It releases endorphins, which help to improve your mood and reduce stress.
Connect with Others – Social interaction is key for mental health. Talk to friends and family, join a support group, or find an online community. Talking and connecting with others can help to establish healthy relationships and reduce feelings of loneliness. This is one area of mental health care that a lot of people struggled with during the pandemic shut down. With all of the restrictions, it was hard to gather together and share that connection.
Prioritize Self Care– Make time to do things that make you feel good. This could be listening to music, going for a walk, reading a book, or engaging in a creative activity. Being mindful of your mental health and actively taking steps to nourish it is one of the most important things you can do.
Get enough sleep – Sleep is essential for your body to repair and replenish itself. Try to ensure you get seven to nine hours of good quality sleep each night. This will help to reduce stress and fatigue and make you feel more energized and motivated.
If you’re struggling with your mental health, it is important to seek professional help. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s okay to reach out for help. There are many mental health professionals, including psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists specialized in certain areas, such as addiction, depression, anxiety, or trauma.
When it comes to mental health, professional help can prove beneficial in a number of ways. Mental health professionals can give you insight into your own behaviors and thoughts and make connections that you may not be able to see. They can also provide you with tools and strategies to help you manage your mental health in the long run.
Seeking professional help is not a sign of weakness, but rather an act of courage. It takes tremendous strength to own up to one’s mental health struggles and to find the help needed to handle them. Reaching out for help is a sign of self-love, as it shows that you are willing to do whatever needs to be done in order to take care of your own mental health.
I am not a mental health professional. All of this is based on my own experiences. For more information: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – https://www.cdc.gov/mental Mental Health America – https://www.mhanational.org and https://www.mhascreening.org or reach out to your health provider.
I hope you are well and thanks for reading.