As another Mental Health Month is upon us this May, our work at Comprehensive Healthcare continues to focus on uplifting and supporting those living with mental health challenges. While it’s always important to support our community members, Mental Health Month presents a meaningful opportunity to continue reducing the stigma of mental health, just as the month was designated to do 73 years ago by Mental Health America.
This year, Mental Health America’s theme for the month is “back to basics.” After a turbulent few years of a pandemic, continued workforce shortages and economic concerns, it’s not surprising that this month’s theme focuses on providing foundational knowledge about mental health. Through the nationwide campaign, the goal is to provide information about what people can do when experiencing mental health challenges to help relieve stress and to access the help they need.
Sometimes getting back to the basics serves as an important reminder of what truly matters. When life, work, school or relationships get overwhelming, that is the perfect time to turn your attention to the basics. Here are a few tools to add to your toolbox:
- Go through “The Basics” checklist of food, water, sleep, air and shelter. When these basic needs are unbalanced, we have a greater risk of escalating into a state of panic or feel negative health effects. Simply eating a snack, drinking a glass of water or taking a nap may be helpful to at least get you to a better baseline to approach any other challenges you may be experiencing.
- Express yourself with words or movement. If you like to write, journaling can be a great way to release thoughts that may feel like a burden. Keep a journal nearby and spend some time each week free writing. Your journal is just for you, so you can write whatever you want as a way to process things and increase your awareness. A quicker way to do this is to use the voice memo feature on your cellphone. Just record yourself talking and you’ll be amazed at how great you feel afterward. You can keep what you’ve written or spoken for later, or just tear it up or delete it. The main point is to safely and comfortably express your challenges and your joys so that you can move forward with greater awareness.
- Spend time outdoors. Few things make us feel better than getting some fresh air outside and noticing our natural world. Try to spend at least two hours outdoors each week and see if you can work up to 30 minutes of outside time each day — whether that is throwing a ball for your dog, sitting in your yard or a park, taking a walk in your neighborhood or going on an outdoor adventure. You are guaranteed to feel better after you slow down, stay present and feel your senses taking in the world around you.
- Connect with others. When we spend time with others, we often feel better because we turn the focus away from ourselves and practice listening, empathy and care. So, set a regular date with your friends, family, community members or pets and have some fun together! It can be helpful to discuss your feelings to realize you are not alone, and to carve out time for individual and community self-care so your loved ones can embark on the intentional journey together.
At Comprehensive Healthcare, we know the importance of mental health in our overall wellness. When we take the time to check in with ourselves and really become aware of our thoughts, feelings and emotions, we can take an empowering step toward our well-being.
Personally, as the leader of Comprehensive Healthcare and in my own life, it’s always helpful to focus on the basics. When life gets overwhelming for me, I tend to hunker down and forget that a good walk, time with my family, my animal pack, friends and gallons of water are good for me. Even if our brains may think that pushing ahead to be productive and get one more thing done may be the right thing, sometimes pushing can create more challenges if the basics aren’t covered first.
Lastly, it can be challenging to commit to your mental health. One way to stay committed is to make your commitments public. I am going to start by committing to walking my dogs four times a week, before work, at their favorite hiking trail. Now you, dear reader, are part of my commitment to lessen my stress and increase my mental health capacity.
Check in with your loved ones and team members to ask how they will be focusing on the basics to show you care by reminding them to also take stock of their mental health. Caring for others is integral to the process of healing — and we certainly do care about each and every one of our team members and clients.
Thank you for your commitment to supporting yourself, and for playing a part in creating more vibrant communities.
Jodi Daly, Ph.D., is the president and CEO of Yakima’s Comprehensive Healthcare.