Mental Health Awareness Month
By: Rochelle Perper, Ph.D. | May 12, 2023
May is Mental Health Awareness Month! This month provides an opportunity to discuss the importance of mental health, break the stigma surrounding mental health concerns and to encourage anyone who struggles to seek help. The topic of mental health and mental health treatment is now part of the mainstream conversation, which is not surprising, since trauma, depression, anxiety, and stress-related issues increased during the pandemic. When we act openly and honestly about our own experience with mental health, we break down barriers and remember that we’re not alone.
Help is available, and there’s no shame when we seek treatment for ourselves.
Make Self-Care a Priority
Most of us would advise a friend to “take time for themselves” but don’t prioritize caring for ourselves. Chronic stressors, inadequate support, lack of needed rest and recovery time, and unhealthy habits take their toll on our physical and emotional health. Self-care helps protect us from the harmful effects of stress, helps to improve our relationships, and be our best selves for our families, friends, and at work.
Self-care is not a luxury. It’s a necessity.
If you are in the process of a major life transition or change, live in isolation, experience illness or grief, have problems with substance-use, or feel overloaded, overextended, or overwhelmed, now is the time to prioritize your mental health.
Signs that point out a problem with the state of your mental health:
- Depression, fatigue, sadness, social withdrawal, or loss of interest
- Anxiety, irritability, worry, insomnia, or trouble relaxing
- Low sense of self-worth, self-esteem, or personal accomplishment
- Strained relationships
- Perceived absence of meaningful support
How to Create a Self-Care Plan
Self-care isn’t a reward, a coping strategy, or a right you must earn. It’s not glamorous, and Self-Care Doesn’t Always Feel Good. Rather, self-care is about meeting your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs and embracing healthy habits to live a more full and meaningful life. And it starts with helping yourself.
Elements of a self-care plan:
Meet your physical needs
- Ensure proper nutrition and hydrate adequately
- Incorporate healthy movement into your daily routine
- Practice good sleep hygiene for a healthy night’s sleep
- Use mindfulness and meditation to manage stress and reduce physical strain
- Visit health care providers routinely
- Spend time outdoors and get enough Vitamin D
Meet your emotional needs
Meet your spiritual needs
- Practice gratitude
- Take regular breaks away from work during the day to reflect
- Do activities or practice rituals that create positive feelings
- Practice mindfulness
- Go to church or your place of worship
You’ve Got This!
Now that you know the elements of a self-care plan, you can take steps to integrate self-care habits into your daily routine. Take it slow, try one new thing at a time and Get Comfortable with Being a Beginner. You can re-evaluate and adjust your self-care plan as much as you need to or want to.
Small steps make a big difference, so start slow and give yourself permission to fine-tune your self-care plan over time.
Prioritizing your self-care is the best thing that you can do to protect your mental health. Remember that your needs are valid, from the basics like healthy food and sleep to the higher-order needs like finding meaning and purpose.
It’s easy even for me as a therapist to succumb to the misbelief that “I should be able to manage it all” myself, even though I know it’s an unrealistic expectation for any human being. If you feel stuck, weighed down by critical, negative thoughts or struggle to implement strategies to help you reach your goals, get help from a professional San Diego Psychologist. While you may find some comfort from friends and loved ones, your therapist will provide a safe and non-judgmental space to learn more about yourself and develop custom-made strategies that work for you. Read our article, How Therapy Works and What to Expect to learn more about how therapy can help you achieve success.
You don’t have to do it alone. We are here to help you now.