Mental health issues are not new. However, Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed around the country since 1949 through the media and special events. Today, conversations about mental health have become more mainstream and much less taboo than ever before.
To continue the discussion, authors and experts across a broad spectrum of backgrounds and experience offer some tips.
Surround yourself with people who build you up.
This pandemic has been isolating for all of us. We spent less time with friends and family, and many people have been down due to the lack of structure in their lives. Negativity has been rampant. We can’t afford to spend our time around negative, “glass half empty” people. Limit your time around people who are constantly criticizing you or pointing out why you shouldn’t take a risk. Instead choose to spend time with friends and family who see your strengths and focus on the possibilities that you can achieve.
One way to add positive people to your life and also improve your mood is through volunteering. Whether it involves helping out at a homeless shelter, delivering food to those in need or volunteering to walk dogs at the local animal shelter your mood will improve along with you contributing to make the world a better place.
Often, local churches or synagogues have group activities in order to maximize the efforts of participants. Big Brother/Big Sister programs can also use more role models for kids in the community. Volunteering is also a great way to meet people too.
~ From Alyson Nerenberg, Psy. D., licensed psychologist specializing in relationships and addictions and author of “No Perfect Love: Shattering the Illusion of Flawless Relationships
Don’t be afraid to talk to someone.
Some people think that seeking help for mental health issues shows weakness. In fact, the opposite is true. All of us face difficult issues: job loss, quarrels with friends, the death of family members, etc. Pretending that these crises do not upset us prevents individuals from making progress.
Therapists can help us to understand ourselves better and to see patterns in our reactions to difficult situations. Trained counselors give us insights and advice that enables us to draw on our strengths and move more calmly through life.
~ From Janet Ruth Heller, retired college professor and author of “Nature’s Olympics”
Know who you aren’t.
Often, our fatigue comes from spending so much time with the weight of the world squarely on our shoulders. If you’re an empathetic human being, it can be tempting to feel obligated to change and fix every situation you become aware of, to saddle yourself with unrealistic expectations that you can’t and aren’t required to meet.
Yes, you are a once-in-history creation with an unprecedented arrangement of gifts that no one else has ever had or will have. But you’re not invincible and you’re not unlimited in your physical and emotional resources. Learn when to put down the superhero costume and be mortal for a while. Have the wisdom and humility to do what you can and know when to rest in what you can’t.
Share the load.
One of the greatest sources of exhaustion is the feeling that we are alone here: that no one else cares about what we care about or is fighting for what we’re fighting for. This is almost never true, but the more time we spend by ourselves, the easier it is to believe that.
Community is medicinal. When we share our life and work with like-hearted people in meaningful, interdependent relationships, we are far less likely to burn out quickly, which is the goal. This isn’t about you expiring early, it’s about a lifestyle of sustainable compassion that will allow you not only to care deeply, but to be here a long time while you do. Finding your tribe will make this far easier. Don’t go it alone.
~ From John Pavlovitz, pastor and author of “If God is Love, Don’t be a Jerk”
Let yourself off the hook.
Try mindfulness in tiny bursts and realize that you are going to “fail” at it every time. There is no “right” way to practice mindfulness. The job is to bring your awareness back to the present moment.
Some days that means pretending I’m a Buddhist monk while I sit on my deck filled with warm sunshine. That is, until the circus monkeys start banging their drums and I’m off into my very not-present-moment thoughts.
Even the tiniest respite from our shared insanity is the possibility of a sliver of contentment. Use grounding techniques. Above all, remember that the moment won’t always feel good, but it won’t always feel bad either. Be kind to yourself when you practice any new skill. Just kindness turned inward can radically change your life. One tiny moment at a time.
~ From Caitlin Billings, psychotherapist, licensed clinical social worker and author of “In Our Blood” (July 2022)
Mental Health Awareness Month is the perfect time to seek help or advice without feeling shame. Consider these tips for taking care of yourself, and find the best ways to manage and improve your stress levels, coping mechanisms and support systems that you can use all year long.