May is Mental Health Awareness Month.
Mental Health Awareness month was started all the way back in 1949, as a way to increase awareness about the significance of mental health. Originally it started out as just a week, but eventually expanded into an entire month of raising awareness. You can see a timeline of the history of the organization that established it (Mental Health America) here!
Every year, Mental Health Month has a theme, and this year that theme is “Tools 2 Thrive” which is all about providing practical tools that everyone can use to improve their mental wellness. When you go to their home page, you’ll see their pop up which says that while 1 in 5 people live with mental illness, it is still 5 out of 5 people who deserve care and tools to manage their mental wellness! By making tools for mental health openly available and discussed for everyone, the shame or stigma that can come with seeking support lessen. If it’s something everyone can relate to, then what’s shameful about that?
Mental Health America, in alignment with this theme, has a free Mental Health Toolkit available for download on their website.
However, it’s important to recognize that historically the wellness industry–including mental health care professionals–have not prioritized mental health issues specific to Black, Indigenous, or clients of color. Officially, July is recognized as BIPOC Mental Health Awareness month–and while it should definitely be recognized then, it should also be a priority perspective in May for Mental Health Awareness month. Especially as the social and political conditions we currently live under put more extreme stress on Black, Indigenous and people of color, making them more vulnerable to stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns. It is also much harder for BIPOC to access care due to structural barriers.
This article includes a list of mental health resources (inclusive therapists, community organizations, educational resources, etc.) that are specific to Black, Indigenous & clients of color.
To go along with this theme, Urban Wellness has put together this list of 3 practices you can pick and choose from to try out this month to help support your own mental health:
Wellness Reflection Journal:
Do you have a practice to check in with your mental health regularly? If you go to therapy regularly, that might be your habitual check-in. But what about the other 6 days a week, where you don’t have that one hour devoted to your mental health? Having a journal you can use a few minutes every day can help keep you in tune with your own emotions, and help you notice patterns or signs that you’re needing more support. Some journal prompts to start with could be:
- How am I feeling right now?
- How have I been feeling all day up until now?
- Am I holding tension in my body or mind?
- Is there something I need to express so that I don’t hold it in?
- How can I find a way to release or express these feelings?
We’ve talked about meditation quite a bit on our blog before! That’s because meditation is a great way to incorporate mindfulness practices in your life, which can help reduce stress, anxiety, spiraling thoughts, etc. It sounds like an intimidating practice, but there are actually a lot of beginner friendly ways to dip your toes into meditation. Check out our post here on five simple ways to begin adding mindfulness into your life. You can also find beginner friendly guided meditations on youtube, or download a mindfulness app to help get you started!
We’re all on our phones all day anyway, so you might as well start using them for your own wellness! Take some time to think about when in your day you are usually the most stressed or overwhelmed–then set a recurring alarm for sometime around then. When that alarm goes off, as soon as you’re able, take a short break! This can include things like:
- Some deep breathing exercises
- Getting a snack
- Calling a friend to vent about what is bothering you so that you don’t carry that weight with you (and given them an opportunity to do the same as well–we always want to be mindful of how we give and take!)
- Getting outside for a few minutes
- Using a meditation app
- Getting some water
When you start to make wellness (emotional + physical) check-ins a regular practice, it starts to become second nature to you. You’ll strengthen your ability to recognize when you need support, rest, etc. and in doing so make your own wellness a bigger priority in your life!