May is Mental Health Awareness Month and it is more important than ever that we intentionally take care of our mental health. On top of all the stressful things going on in the world, many people are also struggling internally with things like eating disorders, anxiety, depression, and more.
We are honoring Mental Health Awareness Month by asking some Emily Program employees about mental health, including what mental health means to them and how they take care of themselves while working in this field. Check out their responses below:
To me, mental health means taking care of yourself even when it’s difficult, scary, or vulnerable. It’s making the choice to prioritize yourself and your wellbeing, even in small ways, throughout the day. This could look like asking for help, setting a boundary, establishing a routine, taking a break, or having a difficult conversation.
I like to take care of myself by practicing yoga, going for hikes with my husband and dog, reading, spending time outside, taking days off, and not working when I’m not at work! I also see my own therapist regularly.
This might sound cliché, but mental health means everything to me. I truly value mental health in myself, my family, my coworkers, and my clients. I grew up in a lower socioeconomic status and African American household. Culturally, mental health in my community is not typically valued or recognized. I grew up hearing phrases such as, “Just pray about it,” “Don’t show that you’re weak,” and “Stop crying so much.” All of these statements had a negative impact on my mental health because I did not truly know how to cope with my emotions. I thought I was a “cry-baby” until my first Psychology class in my undergrad. I realized that mental healthcare was an important puzzle piece that I was missing from my childhood.
Since my freshman year of college, I’ve been a big advocate for mental health and seeking mental health services. Mental health means saying “no” to others when it’s detrimental to your health, mental health is randomly taking a day off and going to the zoo, mental health is not folding the laundry due to feeling out of it, mental health is collecting acorns on a walk because it helps you stay mindful. Now, as a mom, I place my daughter’s mental health at the forefront and value it over education. My daughter has a huge feelings vocabulary, knows various coping skills, and practices deep breathing. As long as she’s mentally happy and healthy, I feel a sense of accomplishment.
It’s hard to take care of myself while working in the mental health field. I’ve been in this field for almost nine years and I learn new tricks as I get older. One of my most important rules for taking care of myself is having some time to decompress. I mentally avoid having certain conversations with friends and family after work to help give myself a break. I randomly take days off to go to the zoo or spend time with my daughter. While at work, I take random walks to help clear my mind. I always seek opportunities to do things that don’t involve listening to others or talking so that I can decompress. I always make sure my cup is full.
Just as physical health is not the absence of disease, I also see mental health as encompassing everything from balancing periods of active engagement with times of rest and renewal. Mental health also includes time for inner reflection as well as seeking out advice and connection. Similarly to physical health, mental health is improved and sustained through mental exercise, such as problem-solving, puzzles, and looking for activities that challenge my abilities.
I try to do a mindfulness meditation exercise every morning as a way to set my intention for the day. I am also a big fan of rituals that act as transitions throughout the day and provide a “breather” before going on to the next thing.
Copyright © 2019 - Emily Program. All rights reserved.