By Olabisi Amhanyabor

Mental Health Awareness is about making time to check in with yourself. Just like with any other part of your health, it’s always good to be mindful of what’s going on mentally and emotionally. 

Mental illness is not a weakness, a character flaw, or a punishment from God. The stigma comes from misinformation and fear; for when we don’t understand a thing, we create assumptions around it. And when we can’t control a thing, we lie and we cover it up. As a result of this pressure to look unbreakable, mental illness is a hidden chaos in many of our homes.

These are just a few things that can be helpful for improved mental health:

1) Do a month, year, and five-year evaluation.

Broadly speaking, how have you been feeling over the last month or so? How about the last year? Five years? Maybe you’ve been perfectly balanced and content and want to keep things going just like they have been. Or, perhaps, you’ve found yourself lost in routine and going through the motions, and didn’t realize that you’d lost that little sparkle. Identifying big picture trends can inform if or what small actions we can take to set us on a path toward better mental health. Sometimes those actions are small, like adjusting your sleep schedule so you can feel more productive and fulfilled. And sometimes those actions are large, like admitting that you’ve been overwhelmed for a while and that it might be time to reach out and talk to a professional. Whatever they might be, determining what they are is a lot easier when you’re asking the right questions.

2) Re-evaluate how you deal with stress

Of course, there are many factors that go into having good mental health. How we deal with stress and how well we bounce back from negative situations is definitely a big one. Be mindful and honest with yourself about how you’re doing. Can you shake it off quickly when someone is rude to you at the grocery store? Do you immediately spiral into a silent freak-out when you get handed a new project at home or work? How about your overall day to day? Obviously, this is just the tip of the iceberg, but figuring out our triggers and where we have room for improvement in dealing with them can be pivotal to finding balance.

3) Make more time for the things that make you happy.

Sometimes we can get into a rut, and we find ourselves neglecting the things that bring us happiness. It can be especially easy to do this as life gets busier and busier. When we have a million things to do, taking the time to do something that we enjoy can feel wrong and indulgent. But doing things that make us happy can be a pretty big part of maintaining mental health. So, it’s important to ask yourself: Am I doing enough?

If this seems like a vague question to you, you’re not alone. Breaking things down by both the immediate and the long-term tends to make things a little easier to evaluate. Did you do anything you truly enjoyed today? Are you working on something that will make you happy and fulfilled down the road? If the answer is “no” — which it all too often is — you might want to consider carving out some time to change it. Try setting aside an hour or two every day to remind you to take care of both. Set an alarm if you have to. Just figure out what you want to do and do it — it’s for your health.

to be continued 

*Culled from Sarah Militello’s article. She is a freelance writer and founder of women’s lifestyle and travel website Milk & Flowers.