Here's How To Practice Mental Health Awareness Month All Year Long
While today marks the end of Mental Health Awareness Month, mental health is an ongoing, year-round priority that does not need to be limited to one month out of the year.
In fact, mental health is one of the key focuses for MusiCares: Our Mental Health and Addiction Recovery Program recognizes those issues unique to music professionals and offers support via financial assistance and resources for treatments and programs. Looking to support music people with mental health and addiction issues who lack the access to or means for treatment, MusiCares also offers multiple free weekly online support groups and events open to anyone interested in participating.
As always, MusiCares remains committed to supporting mental health awareness and action through our programming and resources, which we'll continue to unveil throughout the year.
In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month and the continued drive toward mental health action, MusiCares has outlined eight tips to help you practice mental health all year long.
Write A "What Makes Me Feel Good" List
Managing your mental health is all about feeling good. When we're in an anxious, depressed or stressed state, it can be tough to think about the things that actually make us feel good.
To help, create a "what makes me feel good" list to remind you of all the things that boost your mood, which can range from taking a bath to petting your cats and can include activities like journaling, meditating, reading poetry, and watching TV.
The task here is relatively easy to do: Create a list of simple activities that genuinely bring you joy. Put it on your fridge. Do something from the list when you're feeling a bit down or off.
While the "feel good" list is not a cure for clinical depression or anxiety, it's a way to manage the unpleasant feelings that can arise and to help you feel a bit better.
Commit To A Sleep Hygiene Routine
Getting enough shuteye is more important than you think. It's recommended that you get seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Many things disrupt our sleep and can affect our overall sleep quality. That's why it's important to commit to a sleep hygiene routine.
For example, commit to turning off work mode and not having any food at least two hours before bedtime. Say no to screens one hour before bedtime and keep your phone in another room. If you need it for an alarm, consider going analog.
Create A Morning Routine That Puts You First
Similar to a sleep hygiene routine, it's important to create a morning routine that prioritizes you. So many of us immediately look at our phones and emails in the morning and start the morning work rush. This practice can put you in a heightened reactive state instead of a proactive one.
"Diving immediately into electronic stimuli straight out of bed drags our mind away from the present," Austin Hunter, a psychotherapist at Avalon Psychotherapy, told Sleep.com. "This essentially activates your 'preparedness alarm system' of the limbic system, telling your body that danger is ahead. Going immediately to the phone when we wake up trains the mind to activate our alarm system, getting ready for danger, when none is present."
Instead of rushing to your phone or social media first thing in the morning, try going for a walk or reading instead. By prioritizing yourself and your mental health, you allow yourself the space and time to ease into your day without responding to other people's priorities.
Your morning routine can look different, but make sure it includes something you enjoy doing, even if it's just for five or 10 minutes. That thing you never have time to do? Prioritize it and do it first thing in the morning. That way, whatever happens in your day, you put yourself first.
Speak Up About How You Really Feel
It's normal to have feelings. Sometimes those feelings are unpleasant, so we keep them buried. But not speaking up about how you feel can make things worse. For example, when you're angry or resentful, that's a clear sign a boundary has been crossed and needs to be addressed.
When you're sad, you might be disappointed with yourself or someone else. You can speak up about your feelings to others in a kind and constructive way. Use "I" statements like "I feel" as opposed to "you made me feel." Accusations can lead to fighting and defensiveness. But being calm and clear and stating how you feel can help you work toward a resolution rather than let the issue or situation fester.
Move Your Body
Sweating it out in the form of moving your body can help boost your mood. The key is to find something you actually enjoy. Moving your body for at least 20 to 30 minutes a day can help. Whether that's a gentle walk, a yoga routine, high-intensity interval training, or biking, or something else, moving into your body and out of your head can help.
Sit In Silence
We're constantly bombarded with notifications, information and sensory input, which can make us feel overloaded. Whether you want to call it meditation or mindfulness, sitting in silence can provide some relief.
To start, commit to sitting in silence for five to 10 minutes a day. Sit in stillness with your eyes closed. Just sit. It can help you get back in touch with yourself and create some much-needed "me time."
Get Professional Help
Sometimes, all the tips in the world won't help if things are much deeper and more serious, as is the case with clinical cases of mental health conditions. If your feelings or issues persist and start to interfere with your life, reach out for professional help.
You can seek counsel with a therapist at Open Path Collective or through your health insurance, and, if needed, seek support from a psychiatrist who can help with medication if that is a route you're considering.
There's absolutely no shame in seeing a therapist or being on medication. If you had a broken arm or foot, you'd see a doctor. In the same vein, if you're having mental health issues, you can seek a doctor for help. If you're in a crisis, text HOME to 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line.
Focus On Your Gut
Focusing on good gut health can have an impact on your mental health. Have you ever felt so anxious or nervous you felt sick to your stomach? Perhaps you have had digestive issues that make you feel depressed or anxious. That's not a coincidence—there's a brain-gut connection. In fact, over 90 percent of serotonin, a happiness chemical, is created in the gut. Many people who have mental health conditions struggle with digestive issues, and vice versa.
Focus on your gut health by eating your fruits and veggies, limiting your sugar and alcohol intake, and getting healthy probiotics from things like yogurt, kimchi and other foods.