Mental Health (Self-)Awareness: 6 Tools and Insights to Support You with Yours!

Are you Aware that…ASKING FOR HELP IS COURAGEOUS? It is.

Here’s what you will get in this blog in a nutshell: Mental Health defined, questions and journal prompts that will help you identify the current state of your mental health, lots of affirmations, validation, some information regarding how self-judgment can lead to anxiety and depression, a list of 6 things you can begin TODAY to support you with your mental wellness and links below if you are interested in learning more!

When it comes to being consistent around mental health, many are still struggling. There are more people than ever, reaching out for therapy, wanting to learn coping skills to deal with life transitions and world events, explore past trauma, connect with their inner child, understand self-care, and acquire tools to support their relationship. The recent world events from the global pandemic of Covid-19, racial tensions, and escalating violence worldwide has led to an increase in the diagnosis of anxiety and depression. People who never experienced anxiety are having full blown panic attacks and experiencing depressive episodes without realizing what they are. Information on mental health is all over social media, which as a licensed psychotherapist and lover of all humans makes me very appreciative of the movement towards increased self-awareness. Our mental health impacts everything in our lives. It plays a part in all the dimensions of our health. Our mental health impacts every relationship, every interaction, and our overall state of wellness. What have you done to support your mental health lately?

Mental Health Defined: The World Health Organization (WHO) defines Mental Health as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”

Now that you know the definition, grab a pen and get ready to write. I am about to ask you some questions about your own mental health:

  1. Do you realize your own abilities? If yes, what are they?
  2. Do you have and use coping skills to support you with the normal stresses of life? If so, what are they?
  3. Are you productive and making gains at work? If yes, what is the evidence/what are the gains?
  4. Are you making a positive contribution to your community? If so, what is your contribution?
  5. How are your relationships with others (close, distant, conflictual, etc.)?
  6. Would you say that you are currently experiencing a state of well-being? Please elaborate on your answer.

How do you feel about your answers?

The reality is, most people struggle with writing down concrete answers in regards to their mental health. Some believe that if they do not have a prior diagnosis, they do not have to do a wellness check in with themselves. The thought of needing additional support or not having control of our emotions can be scary and avoidance can seem like the best way to cope. The truth is we get to check in with ourselves daily around our mood, our emotions, and why we are feeling the way we do. When was the last time you checked in with yourself, asked yourself these questions, and actually gave yourself the time to think about them? If any of your answers concerned you, I am hopeful that you will continue to read and get information that may support you.

Balance looks different for everyone, have you found your balance? All dimensions of health matter: emotional/mental, spiritual, intellectual, physical, environmental, financial, occupational, and social. They all impact one another, perhaps it’s time to check in with yourself around what your balance looks like. You can always move things around and create something different.

While I believe that being aware of ourselves and our state of wellness gets to happen every single day, it is great to have an entire month dedicated to creating mental health awareness (thank you Mental Health America for starting this tradition in 1949). We are currently reinforcing and amplifying the need for more support around maintaining mental wellness and understanding mental illness as a collective.

Are you Aware that…MENTAL ILLNESS DOES NOT DISCRIMINATE? It effects all cultures, all ages, all genders, and all races.

Every person deserves to lead a fulfilling life. We all have a mind, we all have been hurt, we all have felt grief, we all have faced change, no matter the age group, socioeconomic group, culture, race, political and/or religious belief, we all have life experiences. If we are alive, we are experiencing. The fact of the matter is that sometimes we do not feel okay, sometimes we get mentally exhausted and frustrated, and that gets to be acknowledged. Not feeling okay gets to be validated. We get to not judge ourselves, our struggles, and/or our reactions. Unconditional love, acceptance, and understanding of self are required to be able to show up that way for others. How wonderful it would be to live in a world where we are able to accept ourselves in all ways, on all days, and be able to hold that space of love and acceptance for others! Even if you are not interested in the collective, you can learn a lot about yourself by observing how you think and talk about others.

Are you Aware that… WHEN YOU JUDGE OTHERS, YOU ARE REALLY JUDGING YOURSELF? Self-love and compassion are vital to your happiness and outlook towards yourself and others. Your pain, hurt, trauma, and mental illness do not need judgment, they need you, in the form of love and compassion.

Are you aware of the judgments you have of yourself and others? It is challenging to catch ourselves each time we are judging other humans, it is even harder for us to catch ourselves engaging in self-judgment/negative self-talk. When we judge ourselves, we limit ourselves and get in the way of our own happiness and state of well-being. Judgment shames, blames, and criticizes. What you can do instead is observe your thoughts and behaviors and if there is something you do not like, change it. If you can not change it, work on changing your perspective. Judgment towards ourselves and others creates a divide/separation at a time when we get to focus on love and acceptance. Self-judgment can ultimately lead to depression, anxiety, and isolation. It can separate us from our authentic selves because we are not allowing ourselves to be free flowing. Judgment confines. Judgment restricts. How can you be in an organic flow while practicing judgment? The answer is, you can not. Working towards quieting the negative chatter in your mind, can support you having a greater sense of connectivity to self and therefore increased mental wellness. Replace judgment with observation. You do not have to judge something about yourself to make a decision to do it differently!

Are you Aware that…..There are Things you can do RIGHT NOW? Here are 6 Tools that May Help: Pick at least one and do it today!

  1. Go Out in Nature and Get grounded through Earthing and/or Breathwork: Go out in nature, take off your shoes and walk barefoot or simply sit in the grass. There have been many studies that have shown grounding/earthing therapy to be beneficial. Thousands of people have claimed to experience elevated mood/decreased stress by connecting to the Earth’s natural electric charge. You can also get grounded by walking on the sand at the beach, walking in the grass at a local park, or swimming in a lake. Face the sun and get some natural Vitamin D. Studies have shown a link between a deficiency in Vitamin D and depression. While growing and keeping potted plants in your space is not considered earthing, there are many benefits to keeping plants/nature in your home. If you have an appreciation for nature and are not able to get out as much as you would like, consider keeping plants in your home.
  2. Start Drinking Plenty of Water: Dehydration May be Contributing to Your Anxiety and/or Depression: According to Medical News Today, as well as the Dent Neurologic Institute, our brain is comprised of at least 75% water. Serotonin is known as “the happy chemical,” in the brain is literally blocked when we are dehydrated. Serotonin is considered the most important or “key” hormone in our body, it impacts our mood, happiness, digestion, and sleep, along with other pretty important components to our health and well-being. Dehydration is one of the least talked about and/or known contributing factors to low mood and anxiety. When we do not drink enough water, our brain does not make enough energy or get enough oxygen which leads to less productivity and struggle with focusing. When we do not drink enough water our body sends signals to the brain that heighten emotions by making us feel anxious.
  3. Validate your Inner Child: According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, Inner Child is defined as “the childlike usually hidden part of a person’s personality that is characterized by playfulness, spontaneity, and creativity usually accompanied by anger, hurt, and fear attributable to childhood experiences.” Many of us have wounds that stem from childhood and adolescence. We also have dreams, hopes, and a sense of self that sometimes gets forgotten when we have become so influenced by the thoughts and opinions of others that we struggle to access our authenticity. Be good to yourself today, talk to yourself with compassion and give yourself the validation, warmth, and even the physical touch you wish you would have received as a child. Take care of your inner child and they will support you feeling better now. Inner child work is growing in popularity, I have done it personally, and use it in my practice. It may feel uncomfortable at first, I encourage you to stick with it as it supports healing the wounds of origin therefore decreasing the likelihood of operating out of your wounds present day.
  4. Start Writing, Visualizing and saying Affirmations out Loud: What do you want? How do you want to feel? What makes you smile? What makes you want to laugh? Write those things down and then visualize yourself getting what you want, envision your beautiful smile, perhaps even laugh out loud, just to hear your own laughter. Sometimes we need a reminder that no matter how drained or overwhelmed we may feel in a given moment, we still have the power to dream, strive, and hope. Below I have shared some affirmations, you can begin with one of them or create your own. Write it down and post it someplace you can see it, visualize yourself being courageous, exuding love, radiating joy, etc. and then speak your affirmation out loud every day to reinforce it!
  5. Be Present: Sit quietly and/or meditate and breathe deeply. After a few minutes of sitting in silence, ask yourself this one question: What do I need in this moment? (A glass of water? Are you hungry? Is your body tight and would a stretch help? Would you like to listen to your favorite song? Do you need a nap? Would you like to go for a walk? Do you need to forgive someone? Do you need to forgive yourself? Do you simply want to continue to sit quietly and breathe?) Only you can answer that question. In this moment, what is something that you appreciate. Start teaching yourself to listen to the needs and desires you have in any given moment, then give yourself permission to do/get/experience it (I love to paint, so after I write this blog, I will create art). Now you try it…what do you need in this moment?
  6. Get Support and/or Start Supporting Others: Call a friend or family member and have an open, honest conversation around mental health. You can share ideas around self-care and how to experience a better sense of well-being. Let your friends be there for you, do not cheat the people who care about you out of the opportunity to be there for you. If you are in a relationship, talk with your partner and let the topic of mental wellness be something that you support one another with just like an annual physical check-up. Partnering around your mental health may support you as individuals as well as support your couple relationship. Support can also come in the form of a Podcast on mental health, picking up a self-help book, and/or scheduling an appointment with a mental health professional. If you have tried all of the above tools and are still struggling, I encourage you to reach out to a mental health professional.

Are you Aware that…DAILY POSITIVE AFFIRMATIONS CAN CREATE A MORE RESILIENT BRAIN BY GOING INTO YOUR SUBCONSCIOUS AND CREATING NEW NEURAL PATHWAYS? Start affirming yourself today!

AFFIRMATIONS:

My diagnosis does not define me.

I am love, and deserving of love.

Today I will hold space for myself and all of my emotions without judgment.

I am healing my inner child, I am loving my inner child and therefore I am healing and loving myself.

Today, I choose to have a positive attitude.

I have made it this far, and I will continue to carry on.

Each time I fall, I have the courage to get back up.

Today, I will observe myself without judgment and grant myself love, compassion, and acceptance.

Asking for help is courageous, and I embrace the courage within.

I believe in myself and my ability to heal.

I am not my mental illness, I am ( ______ ), and I am living with and managing my mental illness.

My mental health and well-being matter because I matter!

I accept myself completely and I love myself unconditionally.

Where there is love, there is no place for judgment, they simply can not co-exist and I chose love.

I am strong, I am courageous, and I will persevere.

Are you Aware that…YOU ARE WORTHY OF LOVE? You are absolutely worthy of love. Say it out loud… “I am worthy of love and offer love to myself fully and without conditions.

There has been an increase in people seeking therapy and many are having a difficult time connecting with a mental health professional. Many therapists are filled to capacity as more and more people are reaching out. If you, or someone you know has been trying to connect with a therapist, I encourage you to keep trying. I know it is not an easy road and I am hopeful that you will be able to connect with a therapist soon. Keep being courageous, please do not give up. If you need support, please consider talking to a friend or family member who may be able to support you by lending an ear or doing some of the outreach around finding a therapist with availability. You can also reach out to your insurance provider and they may be able to support you with connecting with a therapist. If you have any thoughts of harming yourself, please call 911 immediately. Please see the following links for additional support and information:

For the latest information, support, and statistics on Mental Health conditions and Mental Illness:

https://www.nami.org/mhstats

https://mhanational.org/issues/state-mental-health-america

https://www.nami.org/Get-Involved/Awareness-Events/Mental-Health-Awareness-Month

How much water should you drink a day?

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/water/art-20044256#:~:text=The%20U.S.%20National%20Academies%20of,fluids%20a%20day%20for%20women

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/what-percentage-of-the-human-body-is-water

https://idontmind.com/journal/youre-probably-dehydrated-and-it-can-affect-your-mental-health

https://www.drinkoptimum.com/the-connection-between-dehydration-and-depression/

Everything you need to know about serotonin (the happy hormone):

https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/serotonin

If you are interested in getting grounded through Earthing, you may be interested in the following article and The Earthing Movie Documentary (free on youtube):

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4378297/

https://www.earthingmovie.com/

Are you Aware that…YOUR LIFE MATTERS? YOUR LIFE ABSOLUTELY MATTERS.

With love always, Tamara

Valentine’s Day Revamped: 13 Self and Universal Love Tips!

Valentine’s Day. The controversy around whether or not Valentine’s Day is a “real holiday,” and how it “should be” celebrated continues. Some people are all about the hype, the gifts, the display of devotion, the romance, the sex, etc. There are an equal amount of people who believe it is a made up “holiday,” rooted in consumerism and societal brainwashing around how people in committed relationships show their love on February 14th every year. Regardless of your stance, the fact is that we as a society are inundated with advertisements, articles, blogs, social media posts, etc. around this day of red heart shaped boxes filled with chocolate, glasses of wine, sexy lingerie, and love. Question, what’s so bad about a day of celebrating love? Actually, nothing if we keep it all about the LOVE, and not just romantic love. This Valentine’s Day give yourself some self-love and for those of you who like challenges, how about a Universal-Love Gesture?

I have clients that are single and/or in relationships with people who do not celebrate Valentine’s Day and they share that they feel left out. Many people who are single are struggling with being quarantined and unable to date and are dreading this day that has historically represented romantic love.

How about you create a day of love that focuses on you being the love, sharing the love, and spreading the love?

The thought of existing as a loving being can be challenging if you are not feeling loved. Self-love is the answer (it usually is). How will you be showing yourself love this Valentine’s Day? I recognize that sometimes people have a mental and/or emotional block. They decide not to participate because they have an idea of what Valentine’s Day is “supposed” to be and the thought of making it an opportunity to show themselves love feels like admitting defeat. I challenge anyone with that thought to reframe it and feel empowered by the thought of making a choice to love themselves fully that day and show it in action. Yes, action! The action of love.

You can do this whether you are in a romantic relationship or not. I am sharing this concept because self-love is essential for loving others and gets to never be off our radar or saved for later. Self-love gets to be ever present and always practiced, not instead of loving others but rather, along with love of others. So even if you are in a relationship, you may want to consider spending a portion of your day, acknowledging and loving on yourself while putting some good ol’ positive energy out into the Universe.

The following are concrete ideas for how you can spend your Valentine’s Day 2021, however, these ideas of self-love can be practiced any day of the year!

INTIMATE SELF-LOVE VALENTINE’S DAY GESTURES

  1. Cook yourself a Meal from Scratch – Ask yourself, if the only way I could let someone know I love them was by making them a meal, what meal would I make for them? If the answer is their favorite meal, how about making yourself your favorite meal? Show yourself some love and make it just for yourself!
  2. Order a Meal from your Favorite Restaurant – Give yourself permission to be as indulgent or as simple as you would like. You can show yourself love by treating yourself to a meal, while also showing some love to a local restaurant, and tipping the delivery person generously for their service. You can take it one step further by leaving the restaurant an amazing review!
  3. Treat yourself to the Beverage of your Choice – Perhaps it is a cup of specialty tea, homemade lemonade, hot chocolate with marshmallows, a milkshake, a healthy smoothie with all your favorite fruit, a cocktail you usually go out to drink, a bottle of your favorite wine, or perhaps your preference is whisky? Whatever your pleasure, you may want to give yourself permission to enjoy it(in moderation of course).
  4. Bring Music Into the Equation to Enhance your Experience – Have a dance party all to yourself, create a playlist of songs that make you want to move and turn the volume up! If the music makes you smile, go for it! Feel good music is super uplifting and if you want to be in a more positive space, picking songs that evoke positive/light feelings can support you. Perhaps you prefer a more mellow experience? Consider songs that evoke feelings of calm and/or gratitude, such as instrumental jazz, gospel, Tibetan singing bowl, and/or classical music. Tip: If possible, create the playlist ahead of time to ensure you do not come across any music that may trigger negative emotions.
  5. Buy yourself a giftIs receiving gifts a love language of yours? If it is, why not treat yourself to something you may have had your eye on for a while or make a spontaneous purchase? A new bath gel or candle? Perhaps a new electronic like a foot massager, speaker, diffuser, or anything that makes life easier or more enjoyable? Maybe a sexy little something that makes you feel beautiful, whatever makes you feel your best! Many people are into crystals now, do you have a collection or have any interest in starting one? If so, a rose quartz is a nice place to start as it represents unconditional love. You can treat yourself to an online meditation, yoga, or language class. Take some time, check in with yourself, what is it you would like to treat yourself to this Valentine’s Day?
  6. Physical Touch – Get to know your body. Currently, touch is not as accessible as it was pre-Covid-19/quarantine. In an October 2020, New York Times article, “What All That Touch Deprivation Is Doing to Us” by Maham Hasan he quotes Dr. Field of The Touch Institute who shares the concept/action of “moving the skin,” as a treatment for touch deprivation. Dr. Field provides a few different techniques, two of which are scalp massages and brushing your skin in the bath. If you are spending time by yourself on Valentine’s Day, you do not have to go without touch, you can embrace touch to the extent you are comfortable. Whether it is massaging your legs or feet while putting on lotion, or more sensual self-touch as you bathe, rest in your bed, or view yourself in the mirror, you get to choose the option/method you feel is a good fit for you. Who knows your body better than you do? So, if you would like to get to know your body more intimately, this can be the perfect day to do so. .
  7. Do Something YOU Love to doWhat makes you smile? What do you love to do? Write? Sing? Paint? Workout? Meditate? Binge Netflix? Watch old sports footage? Paint your nails? Watch documentaries? Puzzles? Play video games? It is a day of love, give yourself permission to do what you love!
  8. Use your Words and Tell Yourself Something Sweet – Is your love language words of affirmation? It may be time to speak to yourself lovingly. Words do matter, in fact some believe that we manifest that which we speak and/or put energy into. When was the last time (if ever) you wrote someone a love letter? Writing a love letter to self can be one of the most empowering exercises you engage in. You can use prompts such as, I love you because…, I will show you love by…, what I find most lovable about you is…, I think the most beautiful quality you possess is…, etc. Another way you can use words is by creating an affirmation rooted in love. EXAMPLE AFFIRMATIONS: “Love is my beginning, middle, and end,” “All that truly exists is love,” “I am love, I am light, and I will exude both in all I do,” “I am beautiful everyday, I am beautiful in everyway.” “I am strong, I am divine, I am worthy, I am whole, I am love, I am you, because I am.”
Rose Quartz Crystals in Raw and Polished Form – Stone of Unconditional Self and Universal Love

UNIVERSAL-LOVE GESTURES THIS VALENTINE’S DAY

Make this a big deal. Challenge friends, family, and co-workers. You can put it in your social media feed and tell it to everyone who will listen. This Valentine’s Day, let’s all hold ourselves accountable for a Universal-Love Gesture…Donate Money and/or Volunteer Your Time. The great thing about volunteering is that you are giving to others and giving to yourself at the same time. There is no greater, more selfless and fulfilling gesture than to donate your time to a cause you believe in and that is helping others, nature, animals, the environment, etc. In a 2019 article, “Does the Warm Glow of Giving Ever Get Old? in Greater Good Magazine, Science based Insights for a Meaningful Life of Berkeley, by Elizabeth Hopper, experts share scientific evidence of how helping others/volunteering/donating provides more happiness than giving/doing things for ourselves, at least in the short term. What does this mean? Spread love this Valentine’s Day, it will feel good! Volunteering also supports social connection, so whether it is virtual due to quarantine or you are able to volunteer in person safely, it can expand your community. What can you do to help someone in need?

  1. Volunteer Your Time – Go out into the community. You can do so by hands on support with local charities, libraries, hospitals. If Covid-19 has you home and under quarantine, perhaps you can volunteer your time with a service you provide. You can make an organization have more recognition with your social media presence. You can offer a workshop/tutorial around something you are good at for a small fee or free. A cooking class, craft, do it yourself home project. Anything that is supportive and can help.
  2. Donate Money, Furniture, Clothing, Office Supplies, etc. – Donating feels good. Identify an organization and make a decision to take an action that will offer support. You can donate money or things your already have, especially if you have an abundance. How are you sharing? giving? showing up?
  3. Gifts/support for the Homeless– A friend of mine, SR, shared the idea of going outside and giving masks away to the homeless. You can also give food, warm tea, hats, scarves, or anything you feel comfortable with during these times.
  4. Treat Someone to Something – If you are going through a drive-thru, pay for the person behind you, just because. Sometimes when you do something kind it is contagious and people are inclined to pay it forward. You can treat a neighbor to lunch or a home cooked meal, the idea is to treat someone to something.
  5. Positive Feedback – Look up organizations you think are doing a great job and write to them to let them know you appreciate the impact they are having on the World. Expressing appreciation to individuals and organizations goes a long way. Sometimes words and acknowledgment matter to people more than you know.

Valentine’s Day with Children

  1. Family Dance Party – Gather everyone’s favorite songs and create a family playlist alternating every family members favorite songs ensuring that it is fun and fair for everyone.
  2. Family Meal with Everyone’s Favorite – Make a meal with everyone’s favorite included, even if they do not go together. You may be eating hotdogs and kale or fried chicken with eggplant! If not the main meal, maybe have everyone’s favorite dessert! If you have never cooked dinner together, how about many Chef’s in the kitchen? Make it fun!
  3. Family Movie Night – Pick a movie everyone agrees on, make some popcorn and spend the day loving and lounging.
  4. Family Volunteer Project (I personally LOVE this one) – Talk to the family about creating a love project. You can work together to create anything you like with the goal of giving back and being a good human! Pick a cause, educate one another, and find a way to support the cause. If you can find a documentary that provides more information, even better. Perhaps it’s a project where you are giving to the homeless with money or donating clothing, animal rescue organizations, local churches, etc. Ask your children, “Do you know anyone who needs help and how would you like to help them?” or “How do you think we can spread love this Valentine’s Day?” Let’s teach this generation how to be considerate and loving people. It all starts at home.
  5. Family “What I love About You” – Create an activity where everyone in the home shares, “What I love about you,” and why. Examples: I love that you are always telling jokes and the reason why is because sometimes when I am feeling down, your jokes make me laugh or I love that you ask me how my day was the reason why is because I like to know that you care and I get to share my experiences. You can also include extended family in this one. Do the rounds with family on Zoom, Facetime, Skype, etc. Whatever the virtual platform, have your love messages ready and invite other family members and friends to join. It is a fun, free, and uplifting activity that supports sending and receiving love.

Valentine’s Day – Couples

If you are in a romantic relationship, you can tweak some of the self and family suggestions to meet your needs. You can even do the Universal-love gesture together! There are so many wonderful blogs and articles with suggestions around things to do for/with your partner and I am hopeful that you are able to support your partner with feeling seen and special to you, not just on Valentine’s day, every single day you are fortunate enough to have a person that is trying to figure this all out with you. Good luck and have fun!

New Year’s Eve gives people an opportunity to reflect on the previous year and create goals for the year ahead. Let Valentine’s Day be the reminder to check in with yourself around how you are experiencing and spreading love.

We really do have the power to create a different experience of our lives and this world. I often hear people asking the Universe for things, praying to God, asking about why they are not getting the things that they want. We get to be the love we want to get. One love, really, truly.