May is Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. It is a month where people all across the mental health community join together to help spread awareness around mental illness to let people know they are not alone. The stigma around mental illness makes it hard for some people to open up about the mental health issues they are dealing with. This is the reason that Mental Health Awareness Month is so important.

History of Mental Health Awareness Month:  Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed in May in the United States since 1949 and was started by the Mental Health America organization. Each year in mid-March Mental Health America releases a tool kit of materials to guide outreach activities during Mental Health Awareness Month. During the month of May, Mental Health America, their partners, and other organizations interested in mental health put together a number of activities which are based on a different theme each year. This year’s theme is #Tools2Thrive, which according to Mental Health America means “providing practical tools that everyone can use to improve their mental health and increase their resiliency regardless of their personal situation.” With 1 in 5 adults struggling with mental health issues, it is an important topic that needs resources readily available. This is why Mental Health America has come out with their series Tools 2 Thrive which provides information, tips, and practical tools that everyone can use to improve their mental health and increase resiliency regardless of the situation they are dealing with.

Some Tips For Success:

  1. Create the routine that is right for you. We don’t all have the same schedules or responsibilities and some of us struggle with certain parts of daily life more than others. All healthy routines should include eating a nutrition-rich diet, exercising, and getting enough sleep, but no  two  routines  will  be  exactly  the same. In fact, your routine may not even be exactly the same every day.
  2. Start small. Changing up your day-to-day routine all at once probably won’t end up with lasting results. Pick one small thing each week to work on. It could be adding something new and positive, or cutting out a bad habit. Small changes add up.
  3. Add to your existing habits. You probably already have some habits worked into your routine, like drinking a cup of coffee in the morning. Try adding new habits to existing ones. For instance, if you want to read more, you could set aside ten minutes to read while you have your coffee (instead of drinking it on your drive to work).
  4. Make swaps. Think about the things you do during the day that aren’t so healthy and swap them with better behaviors. For example, if you feel sluggish in the afternoons and eat sugary snacks for a quick pick-me-up, try taking a brisk walk instead to get your blood pumping and endorphins flowing. Or if you find yourself having a few alcoholic drinks after a long stressful day, try sipping hot tea instead.
  5. Plan ahead. When life gets hectic, you may be tempted to skip out on the new parts of your daily routine. By doing things like prepping meals ahead of time, picking out an outfit the night before work, or having an alternate home workout option for the days you can’t make it to the gym, you help set yourself up for success even when you’re hurried.
  6. Make time for things you enjoy. Even if it’s just 15 minutes a day, set aside time to do something you find fun or relaxing—it will release chemical messengers in your body that are good for your physical and mental health.
  7. Reward yourself for small victories. Set goals and celebrate when you reach them. Have you added exercise to your weekly routine and worked out every day as planned for the last couple weeks? Treat yourself! Watch a movie you’ve been wanting to see or try out that new video game.
  8. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day. Making life changes can be hard and you might forget to do something that is new to your routine every once in a while. You don’t have to be perfect, just try to do better the next day.

For more information visit Mental Health Awareness or Mental Health America’s “Tools 2 Thrive”.

Finally, people who struggle with mental health need to know they are not alone.  Many people who have struggled with suicidal ideations have commented how a stranger smiling or asking about their day or the unexpected call of a loved one helped them feel less alone.  We never know who may be struggling and too ashamed to ask for help.  Be kind and don’t assume!  We are all here to walk each other home at the end of the day.