Mental Health Awareness Month was established in 1949 to raise awareness and educate about the importance of mental health and wellness in America. Mental Health Awareness Month also aims to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues and asking for help. This year’s theme, “Look Around, Look Within,” encourages people to examine how their environment affects their mental health and to seek help when needed.
How do you know if you are doing well, need to make life balance changes, or need professional help?
- A good exercise is considering where you are spending your time and energy in four key life balance areas related to a) physical health, b) achievements surrounding work, school, money, and other accomplishments, c) relationships with family, friends, coworkers, and the community, and d) a meaningful future that includes values and goals.
- Recognize areas in your life that you may be neglecting in these four life balance areas and consider changes you can start implementing.
- How are your moods?
- We will always have good and bad days but consider the patterns of your feelings. How much have you laughed? Are you generally upbeat and “go with the flow,” or are you discouraged, anxious, or angry?
- How have you been sleeping?
- The average amount of sleep for an adult is 7-9 hours. When you don’t get enough quality sleep and are not fully charged, it affects how you process information and may have harmful physical effects.
- How well do you take care of your body?
- Are you eating healthily, or are your eating habits in a rut of eating the same foods you consistently eat, whether it’s good for you or not? Are you using foods to cope and “stress eating” sugary or salty foods?
- How much exercise are you getting? The trend of remote working has been an opportunity in so many ways. Still, physical activity has dramatically decreased, and we spend much more time in front of computers. Spending the day in Zoom or Teams meetings can leave you feeling totally spent at the end of the day.
- How have you been feeling physically?
- The mind and body are connected, and poor mental health can show up in physical signs, such as feeling tired or so exhausted at the end of the day that you don’t feel like cooking healthy or exercising or getting out to socialize.
- Other negative physical symptoms are tension headaches, nausea, stomach aches and muscle aches, neck tension, etc.
- Who is your support system, and are you connecting when you need to do so?
- Who do you turn to when you need help or feel down? It’s essential to ask for help and communicate with your support system. Find the people who are on your side and listen to you, and make you feel good when you are in their presence.
- What are you doing that gives you joy?
- We may not be able to control all the areas in our lives, but we can try to balance them with activities that make us happy. Those activities don’t always have to be extensive, like a vacation to Hawaii, hiking, or volunteering in the community. It could be as simple as taking a walk and appreciating nature in your neighborhood, binge-watching your favorite show, playing with your pet, or even engaging in your favorite or a new craft. Everyone needs some downtime daily to experience the pleasure of something you enjoy.
(Excerpts from “7 Questions to Ask to Check your Mental Health” by Dr. Tracey Marks, Psychiatrist, www.youtube.com/@DrTraceyMarks)
Some ideas on how employers can improve the workplace to help improve mental health and work-life balance are:
- Create an environment of trust.
- Provide opportunities for meaningful connections.
- Create conditions for people to feel that they belong.
- Give employees flexibility and autonomy about how to do their work.
- Design proper workloads.
- Train leaders and managers on how to support their teams better.
- Show gratitude for efforts and results.
- Offer professional development and support.
- Encourage employees to take breaks and time off, disconnect from work, and establish healthy boundaries.
- Share mental health resources regularly.
- Remove the stigma about mental health conversations and asking for help.
(Tips from HackingHR’s LinkedIn post)
If you feel like your mental health has declined to the point where it’s causing severe problems in your physical health, relationships or your work is suffering, or you are feeling so much distress that it’s hard to manage each day, then it is crucial to seek professional help with a therapist. Removing the stigma around asking for help and mental health assistance is important. Some options for finding mental health assistance are:
- Utilize your company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
- Talk to your doctor, who can help assess your situation and find mental health care within your health insurance network.
- NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. They provide a wealth of resources for mental health in communities nationwide and information to “Remove the Silence” and stigma surrounding mental health issues. (nami.org/get-involved/awareness-events/awareness-resources).
- SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, is a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. They promote mental health awareness and have many resources available to increase awareness about the vital role mental health plays in our overall health and well-being. (https://www.samhsa.gov/programs/mental-health-awareness-month).
- Some online programs that also offer resources and tools to help find mental health assistance are:
- BetterHelp is an affordable online option for therapy (betterhelp.com).
- Psychology Today is also a resource where you can search for a therapist or psychiatrist in your state (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us).
- Another resource is Mental Health America (mentalhealthamerica.org) has good free information on their AI site with mental health screening tools.
Below are links to informative articles about Mental Health Awareness Month that you might find helpful and interesting:
- I struggled to find proper care during a mental health crisis. During Mental Health Awareness Month, here’s what I wish other people like me knew, which is a personal account of someone who experienced difficulties in accessing mental health care and shares what helped them recover.
- 5 Easy Ways To De-Stress During Mental Health Awareness Month, which provides some simple strategies for reducing stress and improving mental well-being.