When I worked in the field and before moving to New Jersey, I used to blog more about mental health. As I wrote in the newsletter this week, it’s a topic passionate to me. Since May is mental health month, it’s the perfect time to talk more about it.
My degree is in community health and I’ve had both anxiety and depression that comes and goes. Awareness about the importance of mental health is the first way to end the stigma. Like any chronic disease, it’s important to talk openly because mental health disorders live and grow in silence.
Did you know May is Mental Health Awareness Month?
By sharing our stories and educating others, we can all raise awareness and help spread the word about the importance of mental health. Plus the more people that talk about mental health, the easier it is to end the stigma. Chronic mental health diseases such as anxiety and depression are no easier or worse to deal with than physical diseases.
If you’re looking for mental health resources, Mental Health America is a great place to start. Mental Health America helps support and educate the public through media and local events.
As always, this blog isn’t intended for medical advice and there is no substitute for seeing a doctor, therapist, or medical professional.
A Few Mental Health Facts (Taken from the National Council)
- 1 in 5 adults in America experiences a mental illness.
- Nearly 1 in 25 (10 million) adults in America face the reality of living with serious mental illness.
- One-half of all chronic mental illness begins by the age of 14; three-quarters by the age of 24.
- Approximately 10.2 million adults have co-occurring mental health and addiction disorders.
Unlike many diseases and disorders, mental health can be difficult or uncomfortable to discuss. Sometimes we don’t know a loved one or friend has a mental health issue until something drastic happens. Most mental health issues live in silence. The more we continue to talk about them, the more we can end the stigma.
How the Coronavirus and Social Distancing Has Contributed to More Mental Health Problems:
We all had problems and issues before the pandemic hit. It wasn’t if the old normal was perfect. When the pandemic hit, many of us were forced to deal with our own thoughts. With extra time, thoughts we suppressed by being busy were now in the open.
Which is why we should and need to prioritize mental health for ourselves and loved ones.
What Affects Our Mental Health?
- Suppression: The stigma of mental health can lead to fear and judgment, which leads to suppressing feelings. We all have problems and it’s important to work through them.
- Stress: Stress is stress. It can come from anywhere from personal life, work, running, or anything.
- Social Isolation: Most people don’t want “social isolation” forever. The feeling of loneliness is challenging for anyone.
- Trauma: Trauma can come in many different forms: being a victim of a crime, neglect, military experience, or any serious incident.
- Physical Health: Lack of Exercise, proper nutrition, and even sleep play a role in our mental health. Sleep is one of the most overlooked factors!
- Social Media Overload: Most of us have found ourselves on screens more. Take breaks from social media and allow yourself to be disconnected. Social media makes it easy to compare ourselves to others, but it also can cause you to be bogged down by bad news.
Here Are a Few Ways You Can Help Your Mental Health:
Since this a running blog, many people are already finding their routine with working out. Finding a routine that gets you out the door or gets some movement is essential for mental health. The key is finding something you like. If walking with your family is enjoyable, do that! If you like running or lifting weights, do that.
Nutrition plays a role both mentally and physically. It’s important to eat well, but it’s also important not to be strict. You don’t want to deprive yourself, but you do want to have a well-balanced diet to provide nutrition.
Sleep is the most underrated physical and mental aspect. Throw out social norms and if getting to bed at 8 pm works for you and your family, do so. If you take anything from this blog post, it’s getting more sleep. Something I prefer to do is turn off social media by 8 pm. I don’t answer texts; I don’t scroll through social media; I just relax.
Fresh air and Vitamin D can help mental health is a big way. If the weather allows, make sure to spend some time outdoors each day. Even just 30 minutes a day can help your mental and physical health.
Even if you aren’t able to see relatives and friends in person, make sure to reach out. Staying connected digitally is easier than ever. Know the signs and reach out if you or a loved one needs help.
With many people social distancing alone, it’s more important than ever to maintain contact with loved ones. You never know who is living with a mental illness. No one should suffer alone. If you find yourself uncomfortable talking about your mental health, find someone who makes you feel comfortable.
Remember, no one’s life is perfect and we all have things we are dealing with. Many therapists are doing virtual meetings. It’s okay to seek help.
Ask for Help:
Finding the right therapist for you can be tricky. Like a running shoe or coach, there is no best therapist for everyone. Finding someone that meshes well with your personality can take time, but having an unbiased person to help work through your feelings and emotions is one of the best things you can do for yourself.
If you don’t know where to start, here are a few places to start:
Finally, You Possess the Key to Your Own Happiness:
We are our biggest fans and supporters. No one has access to our thoughts 24-7 and we are all working through something. The sooner we accept that we all process the power for our own change, the more we can develop and grow.
Just because May is “Mental Health Month” doesn’t mean this isn’t a critical topic every day of the year. Now more than ever, we need to take time to focus on our mental health.
Question for you: How are you working through your own mental health?
Maintaining good mental health is so important. I’m glad the stigma is starting to go away too.
Thanks so much for your recent (maybe returning) focus on mental health. I use running as one tool in my mental health tool kit and I don’t think folks talk enough about exercise as “medicine” for all sorts of things. I still use other “tools” (meds, therapy, etc.) but running is a key part. The stay-at-home orders in many states are driving the gym folks out to the streets and it’s been lovely to see so many people find a new mental health groove in running. Take care and be well!
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