One week ago today, Oct. 10th, was World Mental Health Awareness Day, declared by the World Health Organization. I want to bring to your attention and my attention the importance of keeping our mental health in check and practicing good "hygiene." My friend often referred to "mental hygiene" and how it's important to pay attention to it. I like that he said those words together. It makes sense to me. Sometimes we walk so deep into our own thoughts and minds, that we at times lose touch with the best way to treat ourselves and keep our mental states in its best condition.
It's at the utmost importance that this be at the top of the list in my opinion, especially at a time like now. Yes, I'm talking about you know what. The constant news and changes and pivoting the world has endured since the beginning of 2020. Our recent years have been a shock to the system that may not have taken hold completely in our consciousness yet but our muscle memory is absorbing it all. Whether it strikes out in quick emotional reactions or inactions, there's been not only a global pandemic but a mental health crisis that is doubly happening.
I especially am thinking about this now because an acquaintance of mine passed away a few weeks ago due to suicide. It was heart wrenching to find out. She left behind two young boys and plenty of us who loved her and saw her light up a room. What gets me the most is that in all my interactions with her, I never saw it. She was bold and courageous and sparked those attributes within me. I looked up to her and saw her as a put together professional, which is the tragedy of mental health. It's invisible until one reaches out for help.
My own mental health has gone on its own rollercoaster for the past year. I am so fortunate to know and have the cognizance to remind myself to take action, if I feel in jeopardy of my own mental state. There are a few things I have been great at doing and some not so great. Here are the things that I do when that slippery road comes:
I call a friend and talk it out and seek advice if it's something very specific. Sometimes I just call people to keep myself connected to another person. Regularly keeping in touch with others has been a great detriment to being healthy for me. If schedules allow, we sometimes set up an outside meeting or lunch/coffee/dinner. My network of friends and family keep me sane. I'm regularly in touch with my family and definitely do not let more than a week go by without speaking to them.
One of the best and quickest ways for me to process and express any feelings or thoughts I go through is writing them down. I don't know if its just been a habit by way of my genes since my grandfather had an abundance of old journals when he passed away. My father also gave me many diaries growing up since I was a child. But the habit has stuck and I'm grateful for that, its a place I can turn to 24-7 and release all that is going on in my head. It's incredibly cathartic and soothing to know I always have somewhere to go with the noise in my head.
Not only does physical exercise do the body good, it does the mind good too. Fresh air, movement of limbs and a way to expend extra energy that might go towards worrying or feeling sad. It doesn't have to be a monumental walk, I often go for just a quick walk around the block and it does the trick. Longer walks or hikes are definitely my favorite. I love the feeling of peace I get being surrounded by nature and its calming effects.
At my lowest points, I'm grateful to be grateful. I remind myself that there is always something in my life to be grateful for and not to forget it. There have been nights where I tell myself to list at least three or more things for which I'm grateful. Lately at the top of my list has been my family, health and friends. There's many others I've listed in the past but those have been my cornerstones. Once I realize how fortunate I am, any blues I have start fading away.
Here is a global resource for mental health if you or someone you know is seeking help: https://checkpointorg.com/global/
Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional and this is not professional advice. This article should not be a substitute for any diagnoses or guidance given by a professional and/or licensed health care professional. The article is intended to bring awareness to the topic.