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

YES, IT’S TRAUMA: 5 Tools for Coping with the Trauma of Covid-19, Police Brutality, and Racism

Breathe…I know it’s hard and I know you’re tired. The world is different and the same; all at the same, damn, time.

All the lives. All the loss. People were coming together fighting their fears of an external force of nature that does not discriminate. A disease that takes lives and livelihoods, uproots families, and shut the world down. Covid-19 has taken and it has given. The impact of Covid-19 has illuminated what is outside of us, and even more importantly, it has illuminated what lies within, forcing us to take a look at our lives, the relationships we have created, our world, and our selves.

The last few months have been filled with uncertainty, one transition after another. No more office settings, no more gyms, no more school, and no more human contact! Change. Distance. Isolation. Finances impacted, relationships strained, reevaluation and adjustment of what needs to be prioritized, all while trying to get to know this “new world” we are existing in. It is no wonder why people are experiencing anxiety and depression. Take another breath.

Some were beginning to feel like we are all in this together. While others experienced a disparity around resources available and not available to them mainly based on socioeconomic status. Enter in the next, not new, but highly visible demonstration of racism, police brutality, and continued ignorance around the one simple fact that color of skin does not make one person more human than another and what do we have? Uncertainty, anger, hopelessness, exhaustion…So what do we do next?

What happened to what seemed to be the simple world we lived in just 6 months ago when we all made our New Year’s resolutions?

What happened?

What has been happening externally and internally has been illuminated. Our humanity. Yes, OUR HUMANITY has been impacted (yet again) by hate and division. We have experienced a trauma with the impact of Covid-19, an external force of nature which we all feared and still fear. We have also experienced a trauma from within. Within humanity and within ourselves. The trauma around how one person could have a complete disregard for the life of another person. Have you ever had complete disregard for the life of another person? (something to think about).

How can we possibly measure the depth of that wound?

The events around the arrest, treatment, and death of George Floyd have triggered many around both racism and police brutality. The image, video, and discussions have led many Black American’s to experience retraumatization of what they themselves or those closest to them have experienced. Black America has been traumatized AND HUMANITY IS TRAUMATIZED…

IS IT TRAUMA?

  • Acute trauma results from a single incident. (can be an abrupt change due to Covid-19, job loss, riots, dropping a loved one at the hospital when they were overcrowded due to the pandemic, etc…)
  • Chronic trauma is repeated and prolonged (examples: Covid-19 and its resurgence and racial trauma (information on racial trauma – https://www.thecut.com/2017/06/the-little-understood-mental-health-effects-of-racial-trauma.html)
  • Complex trauma is exposure to varied and multiple traumatic events. Such as a pandemic, police brutality, overt racism, civil unrest, etc…

Now that we have named what is happening for many people. What’s next? Dealing with the emotional impact.

Which one is it? ANGER, FEAR, SADNESS, ANXIETY

Are you angry? Furious? Enraged? Please check in with yourself around which of the following primary emotions you may be feeling…

Fear (anxiety and worry) are you angry that you are afraid? Angry that you are experiencing anxiety? Do you fear for the world your child is growing up in? Are you worried about getting Covid-19? Are you afraid to visit a loved one? Do you have concerns around how you will make ends meet?

Sadness (disappointment, loss, discouragement, mental exhaustion) – are you angry because you are experiencing disappointment in others? yourself? Discouraged with society? Humanity? Are you exhausted from listening to one tragedy after another? Did you loss your job?

What does this all mean? Anger can be a primary emotion, however it usually masks another emotion. It means that usually beneath that anger there is deep hurt. As you watch people who are angry, as you check in with yourself around your own anger I encourage you to dig deeper and get to the emotion that makes you uncomfortable enough to experience anger. If anger is the primary emotion, you can validate it as well, ask yourself specific questions so you are aware of exactly what you are angry about. Having the self awareness around the primary emotions you are experiencing will support you with finding ways to cope.

HOW TO COPE:

  1. Validate your emotions, whatever they are. If you are experiencing anger, ask yourself how come? What are you angry about? Are you experiencing any other feelings? If so, what are they? Are you nervous? Are you having trouble sleeping due to racing thought/feelings of anxiety? Write them down. When we write things down, they become more manageable. Getting it out of your head and onto paper/note app, can empower you to do something about it.
  2. Nurture and Nourish yourself aka self-care. Hold space for the feelings that you do have. Once acknowledged, gently walk yourself through the emotions. If you need to rest, rest. If you need to get off of social media for a while, get off. If you need to stop talking to a negative friend, start creating boundaries. Handle yourself tenderly as you learn what your needs are and meet them. Your form of self-care gets to be tailored to meet your needs, it is different for everyone. Take care of you.
  3. Find support. Reach out to like minded friends, family, and support groups. Talking to others reminds us that we are not alone. If you are in a quiet space and rather not engage with others directly, you can join on online support group, or read stories of other people who are feeling the way you feel and discover what steps they took to feel better.
  4. Get Grounded by focusing on the things you can control. There is a ton of uncertainty in our external and internal world right now. Many have lost their grounding. Get grounded. You can do this by creating rituals/practices that are in your control. Examples would be exercising, writing, meditating, tending to plants, cooking, praying. Do something everyday that supports your growth in some way. Sometimes, just having something you can count on such as 15 minutes of yoga, meditation, listening to music, sipping tea, or sitting in silence and setting an intention can make all the difference.
  5. Lastly, BE EMPOWERED as you SHINE YOUR LIGHT. Your light, which is authentic to who you are and how you choose to show up in life. What does that mean? It means do something! We all have unique gifts and passions. How can you use your gift, passion, position, and/or platform to contribute in a positive way. You already have that power. Be empowered by the uniqueness of you! Everyone does not have to contribute in the same way. Figure out what your way looks like and then do it!

The world has seen darkness. Many of the events of the last 3 months have been traumatizing. Division among us is being reinforced at a time where we should be coming together. This is all true.

Another truth; nature is thriving, the air is cleaner, families are growing closer, parents are supporting their children, individuals are getting to know who they really are, and although it may not look like it, people are coming together. People are using their voices and their eyes differently.

If you are tired of talking about it and ready to be about it, here are just some of the things my clients of ALL RACES are doing:

  • Peaceful protests – NE, SE, HT
  • Using their art to capture images of what current day U.S./N.Y looks like as well as supporting groups and organizations that uplift others through their art. – AB
  • Speaking to their HR departments around training for racial sensitivity, inclusion, and diversity which can support both black and non-black employees and decrease tension/anxiety – MPA
  • Through their music and radio platform- MR
  • Mixed race clients (one black parent), talking to their siblings, parents, and friends around how this in impacting them. KT, AB, MA, NC
  • Through their media presence and open-mindedness around seeing people as people and being appreciative of the genuine gestures of others- BJ
  • Asking questions regarding inclusion during a company Town Hall and holding upper management accountable for creating change – SB
  • Educating themselves and speaking to friends and family members and providing resources to support educating them around racism – BP, BK, JW
  • Using their Linkedin platform to share information with organizations around how to begin diversity programs, as well as extend support and grace to their black employees at this time. NE
  • Putting out self-care content on social media emphasizing the value of taking care of plants and creating a safe haven in your home – RD
  • Speaking to their children about what they can do and encouraging them to be the best versions of themselves – MI, JW
  • Donating money (nearly every client)
  • Instilling hope and inspiring a group of High School students by having a public figure they admire drop in to their virtual classroom, telling them to stay focused and keep working hard. – SN
  • New York based client using his own money and social media presence to create awareness and support raising money for businesses damaged during the riots in Minnesota, as well as providing food to families in neighborhoods where local supermarkets were destroyed. – MT
  • Lastly, many of my clients are trying to navigate this from a place of peace and love and doing their inner work to fight past their own negative emotions and fears. If nothing else, be a kind human.

Thank you all for your courage, for spreading love, and working towards supporting all of humanity during this time.

Bury the fear, the hate, and the violence. If I keep not trusting you and you keep not trusting me, how will we ever change Humanity?

Sit up straight and breathe…

Remember, you are not alone. If you feel overwhelmed or are experiencing thoughts of self-harm, please reach out to a mental healthcare professional.

Here are some resources to either call or text for immediate support:

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/talk-to-someone-now/ https://www.crisistextline.org/

With love, Tamara