Mental Health Awareness Month
We have just finished celebrating Memorial Day Weekend and as much as the weekend is a symbol of summer beginning it also marks that the end of Mental Health Awareness Month is approaching. Even though we won't officially be focusing on bringing awareness to mental health issues, it is important to remember that it does not mean that your mental health should no longer be seen as a priority! I like to think of Mental Health Awareness Month as a time to build up your toolkit with resources, support systems, and guidance, while the rest of the year can be a chance to put into practice everything you learned. 2020 also brought us all into an entirely unique situation where the methods and the toolkit we each have built up in the past either no longer apply or are inaccessible. That is why this year, more than ever, it is important to take a moment and really reflect on what your current needs are and what resources are available to you know to best take care of your mental health. I wanted to take a quick moment and highlight 4 simple things that help refocus my attention and make these difficult times a bit easier.
Please note: I'm not a mental health professional and any advice I give is from my personal experience or that of close friends. If you are having an especially difficult time right now and are struggling more than usually please reach out for help! Contact your mental health professional or please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255 (they have a chat feature if you are more comfortable with that or unable to talk https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/).
I know this is such a cliche thing to say but it does make such a difference! In the first month of quarantine I completely forgot to drink water. I usually had a cup on my desk at work but now that I was working from home (and mainly from bed) I just forgot to drink. I noticed that I was feeling lethargic during the day and just plain gross, I needed to swap out caffeinated drinks for something more beneficial to my body. But as much I as tried, I just could not remember to drink more water. So I ended up buying myself a cute tumbler from Etsy (support your small businesses!) and as corny as it was, it really changed how much I drink. I now remember to drink every day and even end up refilling my bottle two or three times a day. If plain water doesn't sound appetizing, try adding in a few drops of freshly squeezed lemon. It adds flavor and makes your drink so much more refreshing while still being healthy. Switching to drinking more water has the dual benefit of 1) keeping you more hydrated and 2) lowering the amount of sugar, caffeine, and chemicals you would be drinking otherwise.
Start a new hobby.
You might find yourself with a lot more free time now (I know I have an extra 2 hours a day, now that I do not have to commute to and from work) and you know what they say about idle hands... they can lead your mind to overthink and wander into unhealthy habits. If you've ever wanted to learn a new language, skill, or catch up on that long To-Read list, now is the time! Many businesses are offering free trials of their classes (skills, certifications, fitness training) and they are tailoring their classes so that everything can be done from home. You'll be able to pick up something new with minimal financial investment. And seeing your progress becomes its own motivation to continue. I personally find that being productive helps give me a better sense of purpose in a time where I can't leave my house.
Write it down.
This morning I woke up with my mind running at 100 MPH. Between my job, volunteer work, personal projects, etc. I knew I was way behind on what I needed to accomplish. I just felt like I had a million things to do and had no idea where to begin. I finally confronted myself and made myself write down all the tasks that were due today (just the ones due today), and to my surprise, it was only three things! Because I was juggling so many different larger projects, all these small tasks were just floating around in my mind with no order. Seeing the tasks that were a priority made me realize that 1) my To-Do list is not really that bad and 2) it helped me keep track of what I completed and gave me a sense of accomplishment that motivated me to keep going. Had I not written it all down, I might have spent today focusing on a task due next week and completely overlooking what I need to do today, which would only increase my stress.
Keep in touch.
Just because we are all isolated does not mean we are alone in this. We are lucky to be living in a time where technology can help us keep in touch with one another. If you're already feeling overwhelmed from your mandatory Zoom calls (such as the ones for work or school) but still want to stay in touch try apps like Marco Polo. You leave short video messages for the other person and there is no pressure from the expectation to reply instantly or have to sit in on a long phone call. I have a chat going now with friends from college and sometimes we're all on it for hours going back and forth and sometimes weeks go by before anyone posts a new video. Be honest with your friends and family about how much communication you need and how much you can handle. This should be a benefit for you, not anther task you're avoiding.
This year's Mental Health Awareness Month came during a time where we could all be reminded that it's okay to take a step back and focus on your own needs, but we don't always know where to start. If you've been trying something new recently that's really been helping you, please share with everyone in the comments below. We'd love to help one another and spread what works!