May is Mental Health Awareness Month. The purpose is to raise awareness about mental health; The goal is to fight stigma, provide support, educate the public and advocate for policies that support people with mental illness and their families.
Each year millions of Americans face the reality of living with a mental illness. NAM knows that hard times and difficult circumstances can take it's toll causing stress, depression, and fear. That's why NAM works closely with behavioral health providers and has trained staff members on hand that are here to listen and provide assistance.
In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, Veronica Barron, a licensed therapist at NAM, shared some very helpful tips to cultivate your mental wellness during this public health concern. Now more than ever, we need to find ways to stay connected with family and friends. You are not alone. NAM is here for our community.
Cultivate your Mental Wellness
Take Care of your Body
Eat Well – create a meal plan weekly using the items in your refrigerator and pantry. It does not need to be formal or fancy, just decide how you will nourish your body. This will save time when it is time to prepare your meals and will make you more conscious of what you are putting into your body daily.
Drink lots of Water – Most physicians say to drink half of your body weight in water, and while that is a great goal to have, just putting water in your body will increase the oxygen flow to the brain, loosen your muscles and improve digestion.
Move your Body Daily – There is no need to join a gym, determine a workout program, or even get into gym clothes. Simply making a conscious decision to move your body at least 30 minutes daily is enough to create positive change in your mind about your wellness. This can include walking to get the mail or around your neighborhood or backyard. Where it is safe, park far from a building to get in some extra steps. You can also do small stretches sitting in place to get your blood moving throughout your limbs. Many times, we hold stress in our still bodies and movement, even while seated, induces positive effects on our mood and temperament.
Sleep Well – All too often we do not see sleep as essential because of everything else that is much more important. In reality, sleep is as essential to our physical and mental health and food and water. Sleep is how we reset and rest our body so it can repair all the energy we have used throughout the day. It is a time for our organs and blood vessels to recuperate from the work they did throughout the day. Lack of sleep is linked to increased risk in heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, high blood pressure and stroke.
Take Care of your Mind
Meditate – We all have an idea of what meditation looks like and usually involves sitting, eyes closed, soft music, and maybe some candles burning. In reality, meditation is the practice of focused mindfulness and relaxation. There are plenty of mediations that are geared toward the traditional meditation practices, but they do not need to be so deliberate and lengthy. Quieting your mind by being mindful and present in the current moment whether you are working on an important project or washing your dishes are just as productive as a full meditation session. Other opportunities for meditation can be during prayer times, your bath or shower, listening to music, and/or spending some quiet time with another person. Meditation is a practice and can be tailored to your own needs, time frame and space.
Learn to manage stress – Managing our stress sometimes seems impossible. It is important to remember that managing stress is not the same as not having stress. Just because someone appears calm does not mean that they do not have stress in their life, they simply manage it rather than allowing it to manage them. Find an activity that brings you joy such as reading, listening to music, playing with your kids, or creating something and do it. Steal away moments where you can add some of what you want to do in along with all that needs to be done. Many times, we see taking these moments as selfish, when in fact they are the most important things we can do to manage our stress. Inserting joy and laughter in our daily routine helps to reduce the effects of stress on our bodies. Note: It does not remove the stress from our lives, it reduces the effects that stress will have on our mind, body and life.
Prioritize your Day
Create a Schedule – This, again, does not have to be a formal event. You do not have to go out and purchase a planner or agenda, simply decide how you want your day to look tomorrow. Be sure to include the things you want to accomplish. Creating your schedule can be as large or small a task as you choose. You can choose to plan daily where you simply jot down the to do list for the next day, weekly where you delineate the activities that need to happen daily within the next week, or you can choose more long-term planning. We all do a bit of long-term planning when we write loved one’s birthdays in a calendar to ensure we remember to send a card, buy a gift or call. The beauty of prioritizing your day is that it is up to you and the season of life you are in at the moment. Suggestion: Start small and adjust as needed.
Daily Task – In order to add a bit of productivity to prioritizing your days and life you can add a daily task. This is the one thing that absolutely needs to be accomplished within the day. Be careful when deciding your daily task as we need to ensure that we are choosing something that can actually be accomplished within the time frame. For example, you probably cannot write a book in a day, but you can probably complete a chapter. The way to achieving the tasks we give ourselves is to ensure that we are breaking them down into manageable pieces so that we can get things done and not overwhelm ourselves with too much to in a day.
Surround yourself with Good People
Reach out to loved ones – It is hard to connect with people we love sometimes as time and miles grow between the people that bring us joy and ourselves. It is important that we surround ourselves with positive people that lift us up and help us through when we reach out. Staying in communication with loved one’s can be easy as we can always send a text or email when we are thinking of them. For a more personal touch, we can choose to send a hand-written letter, call them on the phone or via a video chat forum. There are several ways to connect with people and adding some variety to how we communicate can be uplifting for the people we care about and especially for ourselves.
Community Involvement – There are many ways to get involved with your community in a positive way. Choosing to volunteer your time and talents to something that speaks to your heart is a great way to build a community of positive, like-minded people. Building our tribe of positivity is the greatest gift we can give ourselves as it is a way to both give and receive support when needed. Some ideas for building community is through your church, community organizations, or simply by doing a search regarding a chosen mission.
One important thing about life to remember is that happiness is not always readily available, most times we need to work at our own happiness. While it is not a hard task, it does require purpose. If you are not actively seeking out happiness there is a possibility that you may not find you when you most need it and we make the mistake of believing it is not ours.
Practice Gratitude – One great way to cultivate happiness and joy is to practice gratitude. If you make gratitude a habit, you will find that you are seeking out ways to be grateful all the time. All too often, we can only identify what did not happen in our plan instead of identifying what did work. Just like with working to keep a fire burning, you need to nurture your happiness to keep it alive and burning.
Count your Blessing – We often say this, but do not always take the time to numerate the good in our lives. The times we see our plans work, our prayers answered or our hard work put to good use. Taking a moment to appreciate all those small details lets us carve the space for happiness to live our lives. Making a habit of thinking on the good things will usually keep us wanting to seek out more and soon we see that we can find happiness every day. We must remember that we are not promised to be happy all day of every day, but we will see that there is some happiness every day.