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Tackling the Taboo Topic of Mental Health

Updated: Mar 1, 2019


Hi everybody! I’m Erin – here today to chat with you all about a topic that can be pretty difficult for us to have an open conversation about: overcoming struggles with mental health. Before we dive in, I want to thank my dear friend Cassandra for graciously sharing her platform with me today.



So here’s the truth: Mental health is so personal, and the stigma surrounding the topic just won't seem to quit. It’s not an easy conversation to have with loved ones -and if we're being transparent- with ourselves, as well.


CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING STATISTICS:

According to the National Alliance for Mental Illness, one in five adults struggles with mental illness. Even more eye-opening is the fact that nearly 50% of those individuals begin to experience symptoms by age 14. Sixteen million Americans suffer from major depression, and 42 million suffer from anxiety disorders. As a teacher of high school students, I see this more frequently than ever- students breaking down with intense and crippling anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. The first time I went to see a psychologist was in middle school. Then again in high school. And again in college. My family is no stranger to mental illness.


RECOGNIZING THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of mental struggles isn’t always easy. According to the National Institute of Health, you should seek help if you’re:


-Feeling sad or withdrawn for an extended period of time (more than two weeks); crying frequently for seemingly no reason; feeling entirely unmotivated


-Encountering intense emotions that prevent you from leading your daily life


-Experiencing severe mood swings that create problems in your relationships


-Exhibiting harmful, risk-taking, or destructive behaviors or contemplating self-harm


If you’re nodding your head yes to any of these, please know you’re not alone. I am by no means a mental health expert, and while I can share what works for me, it’s important to be in tune with your own body and mind. If you feel like you are suffering from a mental health disorder, please seek a professional for evaluation, and go from there. The following are some suggested ways to help overcome mental struggles like mild anxiety and depression, so I encourage you to take what works and leave the rest.


15 WAYS TO OVERCOME MENTAL STRUGGLES

SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP:

This was by far the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. Personally, I did not find medication helpful, so I found a therapist who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It was so powerful to hear an outside perspective from a third party unattached to the issue at hand.

SUNSHINE:

A complete game-changer.  The National Institute of Health suggests that deficiency in Vitamin D, known as the “sunshine” vitamin, is directly linked to depression. Try to get outside for at least an hour a day. Walk the dog. Go get coffee with a friend. Read a book in the park.

EXERCISE:

Thirty minutes is all you need. Get on the treadmill and listen to a podcast. Do a circuit workout in your living room. Book a Pilates class. Get those endorphins going and watch your mood improve drastically.

NUTRITION:

Nutrition and mental well-being are inextricably linked. There’s no way around it, friends. Limit added sugars, and try to stick to ingredients you can pronounce. 



SELF-CARE BOOKS AND PODCASTS:

As a lover of all things self-care related, I encourage you to find a voice that speaks to you and what you're going through. If you haven't already, check out Cassandra's podcast on iTunes. She gets real with the struggles, the grief, and the sadness. If no one else, she is your army.

JOURNAL:

If you're uncomfortable with the thought of divulging your history to a professional, or circumstances limit you, I recommend a journal. I use The Five Minute Journal.


MENTAL HEALTH DAYS:

It's worth your time to look into whether your company has a mental health policy. Additionally, many companies now offer employee assistance programs where you can speak with health professionals by phone. If you don't have access to these benefits, consider the use of PTO for a mental health day to re-align.

JOIN A SUPPORT GROUP:

If you’re feeling like you’re in a never-ending rut, consider reaching out to others who feel the same. Ask your primary care doctor for recommendations, or check out This Is My Brave, an organization that works to end the stigma of mental health issues through open and honest story-telling.

TO DO LISTS:

In my life, panic attacks are brought on by the feeling of overwhelm. This is how I began using to do lists – making sure to focus only on what was achievable that day.  Check out my favorite memo pad here, complete with inspiration and mindfulness.



SMALL VICTORIES: 

Buy yourself flowers, throw on some silk pajamas, or watch a show on Netflix. Anything that makes you feel like you’ve accomplished a small victory.


ELIMINATE CLUTTER:

Our external space reflects our internal space. Look around you and begin to identify items for donation or discard.


PRACTICE MINDFULNESS:

Being more in tune with myself, and focusing on the simplicity of my surroundings (even my skin care routine) has allowed me a greater clarity and focus. 


CREATE BOUNDARIES:

Creating boundaries between ourselves and negative influences can be so tough. Be kind to yourself, and limit your time with people who drain your emotions, or bring out anxiety or dependency. 

INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE:

This is defined as “an approach to care that addresses the full range of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental influences that affect a person’s health”. Simply stated, an integrative specialist can help you to determine a number of influences that might be contributing to your lack of well-being.


GET MORE SLEEP:  Get a full eight hours. No, really

MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES

The beauty of the world we live in today is that we have a wealth of knowledge at our fingertips. If you’re unsure of how to overcome mental struggles or where to begin on this mental health journey, I recommend beginning with your primary care physician. Have an honest conversation about what you’re experiencing, so your doctor can appropriately identify what’s going on.


And if you’re simply looking for ways to beat the winter doldrums, or build an arsenal of tools for personal happiness and satisfaction, I hope you, too, found something useful in the above suggestions. Above all, please know that you are strong, you are capable, and so loved. I can’t wait to hear the powerful ways in which so many of you tackle your own struggles with strength, grace, and resolve.


Sending gratitude and positivity your way,

Erin / @erinrwelsh


--This content was originally posted on The Calm Collective, a space filled with personal stories and inspiration centered around mindfulness.




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