May is Mental Health Awareness Month
Since 1949, the month of May has been observed as Mental Health Awareness Month. With Find Your Steady’s mission being to help people increase their wellbeing by reducing their stress, we wanted to make sure to help spread the word. Not only that, we wanted to make sure we provided actionable advice for you to walk away with.
So here are five things you can do today to help take care of your mental health.
This is one of the simplest things we can do for ourselves, and often one of the most overlooked. Especially with how Covid-19 has impacted everyone the past two years.
Going outside provides a number of benefits to our mental health. From the Vitamin D and all the warm and fuzzies we get when the sun washes over our skin, to the sense of ease we get from taking in a deep breath of fresh air. Studies have even shown that just getting outside can reduce cortisol levels in our bodies, which in turn lowers our feelings of stress.
Try this: Walk outside for at least 10-15 minutes today and pay attention to how you feel. What do you see, smell and hear? If you can, take your shoes off and walk barefoot in the grass. How do you feel?
So this is more of a continuation of going outside. Countless studies have shown the benefits of being in nature, specifically around trees and forests, are incredibly robust.
Here are just a few:
- Lowered stress levels
- Increased overall life satisfaction
- Increased immunity
- Improved concentration
- Higher levels of creativity
Try this: Call up a friend and plan a day to go for a hike. Nowhere to hike close by, find your nearest park that has lots of trees and grass and post up with a good book.
Exercise is nature’s cure all. It does amazing things both for our bodies and our mental well-being. The best part is, there are so many ways to move and reap the benefits. Going for a walk, riding a bike, lifting weights, swimming, hiking, jazzercise or marathon joggling (it’s a real thing) all get your heart pumping.
Another amazing benefit is when we exercise, our bodies release hormones that help us relax and naturally reduce stress.
We all know that exercise is good for us, but still it is hard to fit it in sometimes. And that’s okay. Going for a 10-15 minute walk once a day offers immense benefits, so if you’re pressed for time, start there. The key is to move around, no matter what that looks like.
Try this: Go for a 10-15 minute walk everyday. Plan it as part of your schedule, whether it is in the morning, right after lunch or to wind your day down. This also gets you outside so you’re checking off two items from this list at once. Want to go for the trifecta? Go for a walk in the woods!
For a lot of people, this one can be the most difficult to implement. But fear not brave soul, there is hope for you yet. Meditation is simply the act of focusing on the present moment. When we can focus on the present, we’re able to quiet the non-stop dialogue in our heads and constant shifting of attention that can create stress, anxiety and feelings of overwhelm. In turn, we create a sense of feeling content, a sense of understanding and a sense of ease.
There are countless ways to meditate, but for this we’re going to keep it super simple. We’re simply going to focus on our breath. If you would like a guided breathing exercise, there is one included with the Find Your Steady web app that comes with every Find Your Steady candle. Otherwise, give the exercise below a try.
Try this: Sit upright in a chair in a comfortable position. Not rigid but not slouched over. Relax your shoulders and try to let out any tension you’re holding onto in your body. Lay your hands in your lap and close your eyes. Breathe in through your nose focusing on pulling the air in with your belly as opposed to your chest. Inhale for 5-7 seconds, whatever feels comfortable. Pause for 3 seconds, then exhale for the same amount of time you inhaled. Do this for 2-3 minutes.
As you breathe, your attention will wander to random thoughts. When you notice this, simply redirect your attention back to your breathing. How do you feel when you’re done? If the same, that’s normal. See if you can string together several days in a row doing this at least once a day. Compare how you feel after doing this for a few days in a row to how you felt after the first time.
Talk to Someone
Oftentimes when we are struggling with our mental health, it can feel like we’re alone, isolated and on an island of our own experiences. But the truth is, millions of people in the United States experience some form of challenge with their mental health. When we hold all these thoughts and feelings in it can build up, making it even more difficult to get back to a good place mentally.
One of the best ways to work through this is by talking with someone. Whether it be with a professional such as a licensed therapist or a good friend who can listen without judgment. Just the act of talking through what we’re experiencing can be immensely helpful.
Try this: If you feel like you’re holding a lot in, find a friend or family member you can talk with that you feel can listen to what you’re going through. Let them know if you just want them to listen or if you’re looking for advice. If you can’t think of anyone who fits this bill, consider speaking with a licensed therapist.
If you or anyone you know has a mental illness or is struggling with their mental health, there are resources that can help. Please see some of these resources here at the National Institute of Mental Health’s website.