May is Mental Health Awareness Month
May is Mental Health Awareness Month.
The purpose of Mental Health Awareness in May is to create opportunities to advocate about mental health and why it’s important.
I cannot say enough the importance of building more awareness, education, and compassion around various aspects of mental health.
Mental Health Matters!
Every person has mental health. Mental health does not only matter for those who fit into specific categories in the DSM. For many years, mental health and therapy have been stigmatized in our society resulting in inaccurate information and harmful stereotypes.
Many of the clients I work with are focused on deconstructing these narratives that there is “something wrong with them” for seeking therapy. We often explore where these beliefs came from, where they learned it, and provide education around what mental health is.
Mental health matters!
And if we ignore our own mental health there are higher likelihood of engaging in maladaptive strategies to deal with our emotions, within our relationships. And usually increases likelihood of physical health issues.
When we do not acknowledge the person as a whole (mind, body, and spirit) we miss opportunities for healing and growth physically and mentally. May reminds us of the importance of focusing on our mental, emotional, and psychological needs rather than just our physical selves.
Mental Health and Trauma
A large component of mental health is trauma. Trauma is “an emotional embodiment hangover” where an event or events occur resulting in the stress being stored in your body. And brain resulting in a variety of symptoms (re-experiencing, avoidance, depression, anxiety, nightmares, paranoia, hypervigilance, etc).
Trauma is NOT just extreme events like car accidents, death, gun violence, war, etc. Although these events certainly are traumatic, trauma is much more broad than what we have stereotypically acknowledged before. Acknowledging the depth of what trauma can be is necessary to engage in supporting people’s mental health. With the limited definition our society has worked within, it minimizes and dismisses how trauma has impacted much of the population thus minimizing our ability to recognize and acknowledge mental health in each individual.
As a therapist who does much of my work through a trauma lens, I see how significant trauma impacts people’s mental health. If we look at Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) we can see how trauma is a public health issue.
Our brains and bodies get stuck in these events and often cannot differentiate between what is currently happening and the trauma that we experienced. This lights up pathways in our brain to tell us something is not right. When someone has experienced chronic trauma or has lived in “fight, flight, or fawn” for an extended period of time. People’s brains are more apt to respond as if the trauma is occurring again.
Tips to Help Your Mental Health
- Drink lots of water, staying hydrated actually helps you mentally as well as physically
- Sleep the appropriate amount for your age (usually somewhere between 7-9 hours for the average adult). Sleep increases our emotional resources and functioning
- Meditate! Meditation or other mindful activities has been shown to greatly aid people’s ability to self-regulate. Improve their mental and emotional well being. Increases Mind/Body connection
- Deep breath… if you can practice deep breathing (diaphragmatic) you are finding the most accessible coping skill you can use anywhere. Breathing helps us calm our bodies in order to calm our minds
- Move your body… emotion requires motion… moving our bodies allows us to move energy and emotion within us
- Set boundaries for yourself around time to focus on your emotional and mental needs
- Set boundaries in relationships and identify ways to communicate your needs to those around you
- Find a therapist, life coach, or religious or spiritual support to aid you on your journey of healing and/or growth
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