Time to focus on your wellbeing
May is Mental Health Awareness month, and if you ask us, there couldn’t be a more urgent time to bring attention to our individual and collective mental health. We’re more than a year into a global pandemic that has destabilized nearly everything we usually count on to keep us grounded, balanced, and connected. And the truth is, it’s taking its toll.
Mental Health America (which started Mental Health Awareness Month in the U.S. in 1949), releases an annual report on the state of mental health in the U.S. Their 2021 report contains alarming news:
- Young people’s mental health is worsening.
- Even before COVID-19, the prevalence of mental illness among adults was increasing.
- Suicidal ideation among adults is increasing.
- There is unmet need for mental health treatment among both youth and adults.
What’s contributing to this worsening problem? The causes are many, from daily stress and uncertainty, to social isolation and loneliness, to lack of physical exercise and less-than-healthy diets.
While we can’t control all the circumstances and stressors of the world, there’s plenty that we can be proactive about when it comes to mental health. Mental Health America offers ten tools they recommend to foster strength and hope:
- Connect with others
- Stay positive
- Get physically active
- Help others
- Get enough sleep
- Create joy and satisfaction
- Eat well
- Take care of your spirit
- Deal better with hard times
- Get professional help if you need it
Here are a few ideas for how to put each of these steps into practice.
Connect with others: This has been a tough one for the past year. Social distancing and stay-at-home orders have made it hard to stay connected with our nearest and dearest, let alone engage in those fun little everyday interactions with strangers.
Zoom meetings have helped a bit, but many of us have also been suffering from touch deprivation — something no amount of screen time can fix. (Sixty percent of respondents to one survey last spring reported touch deprivation, though only 23% of them lived alone!) And touch is important for our wellbeing, calming our central nervous system, decreasing levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and fostering feelings of connection.
As the weather warms up this spring and summer, make it a point to ease back into connecting with others. Invite a friend to join you for a walk, or find an in-person volunteer opportunity with an organization whose mission you support. If you and your friend or family member are both comfortable with it, enjoy a nice, long bear hug. Your central nervous system will thank you!
Stay positive: No one can be all sunshine and rainbows all the time, but practicing positive framing and self-talk is a skill that can be built with some intention. Some time-honored tips for inviting more positivity into your life include:
- Keep a gratitude journal
- Talk to yourself how you’d talk to a friend
- Envision and describe a hopeful future
Get physically active: The days are getting longer, the weather’s getting warmer, and summer is shaping up to be a bonanza of reconnecting with our favorite people and places. Time to get a move on!
Exercise helps improve sleep, mood, energy, and even immune function. Who cares if you let your fitness slide a bit over the past year? There’s never been a better time to get back on top of it, whether that means heading out for a brisk walk, shooting hoops with a buddy, or reacquainting yourself with your local gym or yoga studio.
Help others: This is one of the most reliable ways to unleash a feel-good flood of dopamine. Helping others gets us out of our heads and puts our focus on how we can be of service to those who need what we have to offer. And we all have something to offer!
Check in with a friend going through a rough patch, volunteer with a local cause you support, put together a donation bag for your local church or mutual aid organization, or pay for the person behind you in line at the coffee shop. And enjoy the sense of purpose, meaning, and connection that follows.
Get enough sleep: Countless studies have shown that sleep is critical to our overall health and wellbeing. If your sleep situation could use a little TLC, try the following:
- Maintain a regular sleep schedule, going to bed and getting up at the same time each day
- Keep phones and other electronic devices out of the bedroom
- Create a bedtime routine, with soothing rituals (such as warm tea, a hot bath, or some light reading) that signal to your body that it’s time to wind down
Create joy and satisfaction: You know that saying, “Turn your frown upside down”? Easier said than done most of the time, right? When we’re feeling blue, trying to force a smile or a laugh can be the last thing we want to do. But when that blue feeling starts putting down roots and planning to stay for a while, then it might be time to get intentional about bringing a smile to your face.
Try watching a favorite comedy or streaming some funny or adorable animal videos. Put on some music and dance like no one is watching (and if someone is watching, make them join you!). Schedule a massage or a pedicure — any indulgence that makes you feel like a million bucks. And make sure to soak up every last second of enjoyment and satisfaction.
Eat Well: Come on, you knew we were going to be extra jazzed about this one. Eating well is kind of what we’re all about here at Manitoba Harvest. And we try to make it easy and delicious to do.
Eating whole, fresh, minimally processed foods has long been linked to supporting mood and mental health. Nuts and seeds in particular provide many of the critical ingredients for overall well being, including omega-3 fatty acids, amino acids, tryptophan, and magnesium.
It’s easy to work hemp hearts, hemp oil, and hemp protein powder into your existing diet for a boost of brain-supportive nutrients. Check out our Hemp Resource Hub for recipes and ideas!
Take care of your spirit: For some of us, taking care of our spirit means going to church and being part of a religious community. For others, the path is less defined, but no less important.
Nurturing the spirit is just as important as taking care of the mind and body, and connecting with something bigger than ourselves — whether through prayer, meditation, breathwork, or creative “flow” — is essential for a sense of purpose and meaning. Try downloading a meditation app, exploring books by spiritual leaders, or simply noticing the sacred in your daily surroundings.
Deal better with hard times: If there’s one thing the past year has shown us, it’s that hard times are a matter of “when,” not “if.” They’re coming for us all, no matter how positive we try to stay. The key is to have a sturdy toolkit ready to help you through it.
Here are a few things that can enhance your resilience when tough times descend:
- Write it out. Use a journal to express your thoughts and feelings, and give them a chance to be released.
- Channel your inner wisdom. Imagine the wisest person you know giving you advice on how to handle the challenges at hand. And take heed — that’s your inner wisdom speaking.
- Brainstorm solutions. Your creativity is your friend.
- Remember that all feelings and situations have a beginning, middle, and end. Change is the only constant; this too shall pass.
- Reach out to friends and family for support. Burdens are always lighter when shared.
Finally, and most importantly, do not hesitate to get professional help if you need it. Mental Health America has a handy FAQ on finding a mental health therapist, as well as info on different kinds of therapy, support groups, and more.
There’s no doubt we’ve all been through a lot this past year. You don’t have to shoulder it alone. This May, we’re wishing you and yours bountiful health in mind, body, and spirit.
The information provided is for informational purposes only. None of the information provided here should be considered medical advice or treatment recommendations.