Updated: Nov 2
By Emily Mendez, M.S., EdS, psychotherapist and mental health writer
May is Mental Health Awareness Month! While finding ways to support mental health is the life work of us all, May is a special time to highlight the importance of prioritizing mental health. It's also a time to learn about the many factors that contribute to mental health, do work to destigmatize mental health, and learn about resources.
Are you looking for some inspiration for how to observe mental health month? Here are four ways to take care of your mental health that can help you feel more empowered.
1. Do an Online Mental Health Screening
Here's one you can do from anywhere whenever you have a few free minutes. Many people struggle with undiagnosed and unrecognized mental health issues because they go their whole lives without ever being screened. This can include:
● Mood disorders, depression, and self-harm
● Anxiety disorders, panic disorders, phobias, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
● Eating disorders
● Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
● Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
● Personality disorders
● Substance-use disorders
● Psychotic disorders
Seeing a therapist to discuss mental health may feel intimidating for you. A great "baby step" that can help you to learn more about yourself is an online screening. Many states currently offer free online mental health screenings for children and adults. Simply search for "State Name" + "online mental health screening."
2. Make a Support Cheat Sheet
You never know when you can help to save a life! Use Mental Health Awareness Month as a reason to compile a quick "cheat sheet" of important mental health resources. You can choose to either create a wallet-sized card with the information or save a digital copy in an easily accessible file on your phone. Include these:
● 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: Call or text 988. Provides free confidential support to anyone in serious emotional stress or suicidal crisis.
● Disaster Distress Helpline: Call or text 1-800-985-5990. Provides immediate and free multilingual crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress following human-caused or natural disasters.
All of the resources above are available 24/7 any day of the week. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Line also works directly with social media companies to support people who are at risk. If you're concerned about something you've seen posted on social media, you can use this portal to make a report.
3. Design Your Own Self-Care Plan
Is self-care a term that you tend to glaze over? While the concept can seem a little overdone, the truth is that the reason why everyone keeps talking about self-care is because we still aren't prioritizing it enough! Self-care is a core aspect of recognizing the importance of prioritizing your mental health. Of course, self-care looks very different for different people. The first rule of creating an effective self-care plan is to never compare your needs to someone else's needs.
While some people thrive with self-care that gives them the opportunity to challenge themselves with exercise, exploration, or new skills, other people need self-care that allows them to recharge in a quiet, pressure-free environment. This is why every self-care plan needs to be individualized.
You also have to zoom in and out when making a self-care plan. Start with "daily" self-care rituals that you want to start integrating into your routine. This can be as simple as carving out time for coffee on the front stoop before starting your day. Next, zoom out to choose some loftier self-care goals that might include a Saturday at the spa, a day off to visit the zoo alone, dinner in the park alone, or a travel experience.
4. Make Sleep Your Priority
Sleep is very important when it comes to mental health. Waking up in a bad mood is pretty much the norm if you aren’t sleeping well. Getting enough sleep is one of the keys to improving mood. If you have anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions, a lack of sleep can make your symptoms worse.
So, how can you improve your sleep? Try these tips:
● Develop a pre-bedtime routine. A calming bedtime routine can help you get ready for bed.
● Minimize light and noise. These can throw off your circadian rhythm.
● Turn down the thermostat. Research shows that the ideal sleeping temperature is 65 to 68 degrees.
● Wake up at the same time each day. Waking up at different times can make it harder to go to sleep at night.
Try it yourself!
Set yourself a goal to try these four ways to take care of your mental health for Mental Health Month. Now is the perfect time to get started on your journey towards better emotional wellbeing.
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