By Jill Fratto
In case you didn’t know it already, Mental Health Awareness Month is this month. Full confession, I didn’t know it until recently myself. Mental Health Awareness Month is always in May and started in 1949, which was surprising to me. Perhaps they have said this every year since 1949, but it seems we need mental health awareness and support now more than ever.
So what is “good” mental health? You can visit many reputable websites to get the academic descriptions, but today I am putting my own layperson’s spin on it.
Good mental health means you have a balanced approach when responding emotionally and mentally to the situations, circumstances, and stressors around you. Having good mental health can mean a lot of things and may be different for each of us, but these are some things that come to my mind as I work for Project AWARE with children and adults who don’t always have these luxuries. Project AWARE provides support, training, and resources for Harrison County school staff and students related to mental health issues.
- Freedom from excessive fear and anxiety. Many people live with past and current trauma that perpetuates constant stress, fear, and anxiety in their lives. These experiences may cause them to always be looking for the next big catastrophe, real or perceived. Strategies that can help overcome this include therapy and coaching. It’s also helpful to build strong supports (family, friends, school, work, community) and learn coping mechanisms to better handle difficult feelings when they arrive. Learning to overcome fear and anxiety can be not only mentally freeing, but also better for physical health as it is all connected.
- Knowing how to respond vs. react to stressors. One of the biggest steps we can take to improve our mental health is to learn to step back, take a breath, and think before we engage in a stressful situation or drama. Giving yourself the time to reconnect and process before responding to a person or event can make the difference in feeling stressed out and resentful vs. satisfied with your response to the situation. By responding vs. reacting, you can avoid saying things you don’t mean, taking action that you regret, or getting upset about something that is out of your control.
- Recognizing when you need help and finding it. Everyone deals with depression, anxiety, difficulty processing life events, and other mental stressors at some time or other. The stigma is lessening in our society as more people talk about mental health. If you are struggling with how you’re feeling, start by reaching out to someone you trust. From there, you can work together to figure out what you need and what steps you can take to get it.
Finally, and you won’t be surprised by this if you read my column regularly, take time for yourself. Your mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional health all work together. Get outside and take a walk every day, sit on your porch and enjoy spring, and eat real food! Everything that you do for yourself matters – it all impacts your mental health. You deserve the gifts that good health brings, but those gifts only come when you take steps to love your body, mind and soul.