Health Blog

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

We’ve all heard about the importance of attending to our mental health, of the need to be mentally and emotionally healthy. But, what does this mean? What exactly is mental health? And how do we improve our mental health?

What is Mental Health?

When we talk about mental health, we are talking about emotional, psychological, and social wellness. Our mental health includes how we think, feel, and act. It determines our success and ability to handle life’s stressors, adapt to change, relate to others, regulate our behaviors, and make decisions and choices.

How Do We Improve Mental Health?

Improving and promoting mental health comes down to taking care of yourself, showing up for yourself in difficult times, positive times, and with consistency and regularity. There are many ways to do this. The details of caring for ourselves looks different for each person. Here are some ways to approach and practice improving mental health:

  • Practicing resilience (bouncing back) and using a positive mindset – Recognize your good deeds, progress, and accomplishments. Be accountable and then forgive yourself. Forgive others once it’s okay to do so. Don’t hold on to negative thoughts about yourself or others. Spend more time connecting with friends and/or family. Take time to think about your life, your beliefs, your goals, what is important to you. Name and notice the positive things in your life.
  • Reduce and cope with stress – Acknowledge your feelings, even when they are negative. Recognize stressors. Determine what you can control and what you cannot. Set realistic goals for yourself. Develop and practice healthy habits to manage stress such as getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, building (and using) a support system, and eating a healthy diet. Try out and use relaxation methods. Practice noticing when you need help and then ask for help. Use resilience.
  • Build your support system – Build strong relationships with your family if you have one. Develop a chosen family if you don’t have one. Spent time with family and friends. Do activities together. Learn new hobbies and interests from our friends. Share yours with them. Take a class to keep learning. Volunteer for the things you care about and are important to you. Experience and engage in your community.
  • Cope with challenges and loss – Challenges and loss are both part of our lives. Remember that there is no right or wrong way to cope with loss or challenge. Take the time to listen to yourself, to think about what you need. Use your support system by talking to friends and family, asking for advice. Open up and share your thoughts and feelings. Join a support group. Consider therapy or counseling. Talk to your medical provider. Be gentle and patient with yourself. Getting through a challenge and grieving a loss take time.
  • Be mindful – Mindfulness is practicing awareness of the present moment without judgement. Use your senses to notice what is happening around you and inside of you. Notice your thoughts as they come and go. Practice focusing on your breath as you breathe in and out. Take a mindfulness walk. Practice mindfulness while eating or during any activity!
  • Take time to focus on yourself – Pause and take breaks to breath, stand up, stretch, and notice how you feel. Take time and space to think about your goals, your interests, your purpose in life. Prioritize doing things that will help your meet goals. Share your thoughts, feelings, dreams, and goals with others. Do things that you enjoy and bring your pleasure. Enjoy time alone as well as with others. Participate in your interests and hobbies. Have fun!

Mental health involves your thoughts, feelings, and actions. It is all about taking care of your needs and participating fully in the life you help to create. You are important and deserve care, from yourself as well as others!

By: Fiona Smith, LMSW – Outpatient Therapist

Sources:

MentalHealth.gov – https://www.mentalhealth.gov

The National Institute of Health – https://www.nih.gov/health-information