Learn to Thrive for Mental Health Month
May is Mental Health Month, which makes it a good time to check in between the ears. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle goes beyond the physical. Luckily, since Mental Health Month has been observed in the US since 1949, we have a treasure trove of resources.
One in five people will experience mental illness in their lifetime, according to Mental Health America (MHA). While everyone has personal struggles, the truth is our experiences are not completely unique. As a reader of this blog, you’re likely a Pride Mobility user or you care for someone who is. You’re part of a community of people who have some understanding of what you’re going through. You are not alone.
To mark Mental Health Month, we looked through expert insights and compiled some ideas that speak to this community.
Each year for Mental Health Month, MHA releases a toolkit packed with strategies and suggestions. The report is always built around a theme. For the second year in a row, MHA is using the theme “Tools 2 Thrive.” Sharing practical tips to improve everyone’s mental health is a fitting principle, considering how COVID-19 has isolated so many of us. In 2020, 79% of the nearly 500,000 people who took the MHA anxiety screening online had moderate to severe anxiety. It’s clear that a lot of us are stressed and anxious, but what can we do about it?
Practice Radical Acceptance
The art of radical acceptance allows us to face reality. It is what it is. We can’t change the past. It’s not easy, but with some practice, you can come to terms with the present. Practicing radical acceptance can reduce anxiety, distress and guilt. The first step is to notice when you aren’t accepting your situation. This can manifest in feelings of resentfulness or bitterness. The act of noticing your feelings is key to acceptance. You can find more on this tip and others from MHA.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on many people’s mental health. While vaccinations are now widely distributed, we’re far from getting back to normal. There is no disputing that the past year has been trying.
At the peak of lockdown in 2020, the ADA Live! Podcast presented a three-part series called, “Protecting Your Mental Health During the Coronavirus Outbreak.” Each episode includes a different mental health professional along with the hosts from the Southeast ADA Center at Syracuse University.
If you check out any of them, make it episode 1 featuring Doreen Marshall, vice president of programs at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). Dr. Marshall discusses tips that she laid out in a AFSP blog titled, “Taking Care of Your Mental Health in the Face of Adversity.”
Control and Safety
It’s human nature to seek control. We want to be in charge. Times of uncertainty, even if not initiated by a global pandemic, can exacerbate these feelings. In these times, it’s helpful to separate what we can and can’t control. Do the things you can do and set aside things you can’t. Ask yourself if your worrying is helpful. If it’s not, try your best to move on.
One thing you can often control is the situation you put yourself in. Dr. Marshall suggests that people make their choices based on how safe they feel. If you’re not ready for a crowded, indoor gathering, that is perfectly fine.
When it comes to feeling confident and secure, only you can make those decisions. Pushing past the urge to compare yourself to others will ensure that you’re looking out for yourself, and not just bending to others’ preferences.
Mental health is not just the absence of mental illness. The National Institute of Mental Health explains that the term actually encompasses our social, emotional and psychological well being. With that in mind, the organization has a useful toolkit promoting self care.
Treat your body right
We’ve talked a lot about caring for your mind, but don’t forget about your body. You can fuel your body with nutritious food and plenty of water. Working in some exercise is also preferable, but make sure you consult your doctor before jumping into an extensive workout routine. Additionally, restful sleep is a huge self care win.
Doing any of these things can help boost your mood and health. Don’t beat yourself up for missing a workout, staying up late or eating a cookie. You can complete your journey by taking small steps.
See the bright side
Our final tip is easier to recommend than it is to do. If you’re feeling depressed or anxious, it’s likely that positive vibes are currently out of reach. But, look harder! Try to tease out the positives in your life. Think about the people, places and experiences that give you joy.
When you’re ready, you can move from feeling positive to being grateful. A solid gratitude practice — namely writing down or reviewing what you’re grateful for every day — can cultivate an empathetic, positive mindset.
The tips we shared above are good strategies, but they certainly aren’t a magic wand. You may need additional help from a professional. There are lots of resources out there for you. You can find a licensed therapist in your area or use new online counseling tools like Talkspace or BetterHelp. If you are in need of immediate assistance, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers free and confidential support. Just call 1-800-273-8255 to be connected to someone.