Yesterday, October 10 2021, was World Mental Health Day, an international holiday recognized by both the World Health Organization and the World Federation for Mental Health. Its objective is to “raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and to mobilize efforts in support of mental health”. Naturally, this day should be used to advocate for mental health awareness and solutions to problems facing society; but also, it is important that we take advantage of this week for our own mental health.
Recently, life has been a never-ending chain of tasks to check off and goals to accomplish. It often seems like there is no time to take for ourselves, and, even when there is a free moment, it is incredibly easy to turn to ‘easy stress-relievers’ such as TV or scrolling on social media. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with these things. After a long day of school or work, sometimes a quick distraction is all we need. Nonetheless, taking care of our mental health goes so much deeper than these activities and sometimes, self care is more than doing the things that are easy or relaxing. Sometimes self care is asking yourself what would really benefit you in the long run, more than going on Instagram or watching Youtube, and then implementing that into your daily life.
To preface the tips and ideas I am going to present in this post, I would like to say that everyone’s self-care and mental health needs are completely individual. Taking care of mental health is not a ‘one-size fits all’ approach and what may be helpful to one person can be harmful to another. I would always suggest that you reflect on your own mental health at regular intervals and ask yourself: ‘how have I been doing recently– with my school/work, with my relationships, with my physical/emotional/mental health?’ More than likely, you will find that some areas of your life require more attention than others and that this itself will change constantly. Once you reflect on your personal life, you can then go through and figure out remedies to improve your mental health.
My journey to learning how to take care of my own mental health has been a long and somewhat arduous one. It has taken me a long time to figure out what I needed and how this could never be compared to what others needed. It’s always important to remind yourself that focusing on you, especially when it comes to health, is much more productive and beneficial than worrying about what other people are doing. The truth is that, most of the time, people don’t take care of their physical or mental health: spreading themselves too thin, eating/drinking in ways that do not serve them, not getting enough sleep, and so much more. As I have spoken about in the past, these behaviors can at times be glamorized. However, it is necessary to stick to what you know is good for you and recognizing that the majority of people aren’t putting themselves first.
Today I would like to share with you some simple tasks you can do this week to take care of your mental health. Of course you can always tailor these exercises to fit your needs or schedule, but these are the kinds of activities that will help you re-connect with yourself and find deeper roots in your mental health struggles. More so, they will hopefully also act as natural stress-relievers and bring you back to a state of peace when you may be in one of inner-turmoil. I put together this list based on things which I feel I have been neglecting to do. These practices incite a flood of endorphins and make me feel as though I am doing something nice for myself. Whatever it is that incites this same reaction in you, that’s what I hope you will implement this week.
Here are some ideas to try:
- For one week, journal every night. The easiest way to do this is before bed, to set a time for about five minutes, and just sit down with nothing but a blank page, a pen, and your mind. Stream of consciousness writing has been proven to reveal hidden thoughts and emotions that you may have been suppressing. So, replace your nightly routine of scrolling on TikTok with five minutes of journaling and try getting to bed a little bit earlier.
- Take a tech-free walk. It is no surprise that taking a walk is a great stress-reliever as it pairs physical activity with mental clarity. Still, today, many people find themselves spending their walk listening to music, talking on the phone, or sometimes even on social media. The goal this week is to take one tech-free walk. As you stroll, pay attention to what you see and hear around you. Take note of the change in the air as it transitions from summer to fall. Be mindful and allow your mind to wander and diffuse.
- Prioritize sleep! Especially for teenagers, sleep is usually the last thing many people are prioritizing. Generally, if I happen to get in a few extra hours, sleep is viewed as a treat rather than a necessity. This week try to get to bed ten minutes earlier each night. I know it can be difficult, but, if you spend a little more time noticing the way you spend your time before bed, you may find that getting to sleep earlier is not as hard as you may think.
- Take yourself on a date. This one may seem extremely cliché or cheesy, but still, when I say take yourself out on a date… I mean it! In a world obsessed with outside validation, the prospect of not having anyone to go out with can feel lonely and bleak. But, even if you have plenty of friends or a boyfriend/girlfriend, there is something introspective and kind in treating you — and only you– to something nice. Some ideas include: buying yourself a coffee and browsing your local bookstore, watching a new movie in the theatre complete with a comfy outfit and snacks, having a solo beach day and going for a swim, or even just getting your favorite dinner on Uber eats and binge-watching a comfort show. It honestly does not matter what you do, but that you are making the time for yourself to do something that you enjoy without draining your social battery or compromising for anyone else.
- Talk to someone about mental health. To end this list on a practical note, talk to someone about mental health. The other day, my mom and I took a long walk on the beach during sunset and we got the chance to discuss life lessons we have learned. I told her about some of my recent struggles and she helped me work through ways I could find help for these things. Opening up to someone about anything that’s been bothering you, whether you feel like you need to take action or not, is never a bad idea. In fact, even if it doesn’t have a resolution, talking to someone always results in a more clear head and a feeling of support. In many cases, it may even lead to the other person feeling more comfortable with talking about things they may have been bottling up. Getting a conversation started is the first, and easiest, step you can take in both advocating for your own mental health and raising an awareness in others. (If you ever need to talk, I am here to help! Please send me a message through the “Contact Me” page on www.chocolate-and-politics.com or DM me on Instagram @chocolateandpolitics).
All in all, mental health is always something I will be passionate about. While the stigma around it is being broken, it is clear that there is still a long way to go in terms of awareness and education around how to take better care of ourselves and those we love. I urge you to continue being open and honest about struggles, wins, and questions you have surrounding mental health. Take the opportunity of World Mental Health Day to focus on you. Learning how to care for yourself is an ongoing process, one that doesn’t end after October 12th or even after this week. Each decision you make affects your wellbeing, and although sometimes we cannot always control what happens to us, we can control how we let it affect us and how we treat ourself afterwards.
HAPPY LIVING 🙂
“One small crack does not mean that you are broken, it means that you were put to the test and you didn’t fall apart.” — Linda Poindexter
** If you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness, please reach out to a healthcare professional. Mental illness is not just a phase or mindset, it is a serious and debilitating issue that decreases quality of life. There are plenty of resources out there and no matter what point you are at, you deserve help. **
- National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for English, 1-888-628-9454 for Spanish, or Lifeline Crisis Chat
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522
- National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or Online Chat
- American Psychiatric Association Foundation
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA)
- International OCD Foundation
- SAMHSA Treatment Locator
- S.A.F.E. Alternatives
- National Eating Disorders Association