Mental Health Awareness Month: Five Healthy Coping Tips From Mental Health Professionals
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and there is no better time to start practicing healthy ways of taking care of your mental and emotional health. The National Alliance on Mental Illness states that about 1 in 5 of adults had a mental illness in 2020, and about 1 in 6 youth had a mental health disorder. These numbers likely increased in the last two years due to ongoing stressors, including Covid-19, more isolation, and loss of loved ones, among others. In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month and to promote healthy ways of managing stressors, we are highlighting five things you can do to increase your mental and emotional health.
1. Reach out to family and/or friends if you are feeling lonely.
Covid-19 left a lot of people feeling lonely and isolated, and continues to do so for many. When stressors, feelings, or daily activities become too overwhelming for people to manage, it can also create a sense of loneliness and a feeling that you are alone in your struggles. When this happens, try to reach out to a trusted loved one or friend. Spending time with someone who makes you feel happy and safe can dramatically increase your sense of feeling loved, appreciated, and valued.
2. Create a bedtime routine to improve sleep patterns.
Many folks who struggle with depression, anxiety, or overall feelings of being overwhelmed tend to have trouble with their sleep. Indeed, a common symptom of depression is sleeping too little (either waking up a lot during the night or not being able to fall asleep). One way to increase your quality of sleep is to develop a bedtime routine and stick to it every night. Somethings you can try are putting electronics away one hour before bedtime, reading a book before bed, and/or drinking a nighttime tea before bed.
3. Try to reframe negative thinking into a positive thought.
People’s emotions and actions tend to be connected to their thoughts, especially when it concerns themselves. When people think negative thoughts about themselves, it usually leads to feeling sad or down about themselves and then to acting on that emotion. While perhaps getting rid of all negative thoughts is impossible, try counteracting a negative thought with two positive thoughts. If you have trouble thinking of positive thoughts, use examples from the last time a friend, coworker, family (or other person in your life) complimented you.
4. When communicating a difficult feeling, try speaking from a place of vulnerability.
Everyone has times in their lives when they need to communicate something important in a healthy way to another individual. Sometimes it can be a difficult conversation with a partner, other times it can be resolving miscommunication with a coworker. Whatever the situation, you are more likely to be heard and more likely to reach a compromise when you speak from a place of vulnerability. Try using “I” statements and talking about how you feel and where you were coming from rather than telling the other person how they ought to change. Remember that the only person we can change is ourselves.
5. Talk to yourself like you would talk to a good friend going through a hard time.
For most people it is true that you are your harshest critic. Many people would not dream of calling their parent or best friend words like “dumb,” “lazy,” or “good for nothing,” but they use those words on themselves when a mistake is made or when feeling down. This only worsens how you feel. Next time you feel sad or make a mistake, try talking to yourself like you would a good friend. Use compassion and kindness towards yourself. A gentle word to yourself can go a long way in helping you feel better.
Article written by Rosana Nava, LCSW and Behavioral Health Clinic Manager at Families Together of Orange County. For more information on our mental health services, please visit our Behavioral Health page.