May is Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States. Tending to your mental health is actually a layered process. We tend to think if we have a mental health issue that our only option is to start medication or attend therapy, and while both of those options are often helpful for folks, they’re not the only ones out there. Mental health is influenced by so many factors. Your genetics, your environment, your relationships, your career, and your self-worth all factor into your mental health. It’s no wonder that it often takes a multifaceted approach to tend to your mental health.
Reducing stigma around mental health is a big focus of Mental Health Awareness Month. In recent years, talking about mental health and normalizing therapy has been much more prevalent, especially on social media websites like Instagram. There are a ton of influential therapist accounts that are designed to make mental health education accessible for everyday folks. Of course, following a therapist on Instagram is not a replacement for therapy, but it speaks to the fact that our society is eager to learn about these topics. Learning more about mental health and wellness can only lead to better outcomes because the more we understand, the more we can offer help whether to ourselves or others.
It’s also important to remember to consume content from reliable sources. That means it’s okay to check into who is posting a resource – are they a therapist? What is their training? Who is paying them to post this information? These are all basic aspects of media literacy, but checking your sources is important. Lots of therapy practices, including ours, have a variety of resources available to support clients in and out of the therapy room. Here are some of our favorite ways to tend to our mental health that aren’t just therapy:
Make time for movement
Movement can be a great way to connect with your body and work out anxiety or tension. Movement can be anything from exercising to dancing around your living space for a few minutes. Many people have complicated histories with exercise and restriction, so sometimes reframing exercise as movement can be helpful. Some options for movement are online exercise videos, yoga on YouTube, going for a walk or hike, playing with a child or pet, cleaning your house, gentle stretching, or anything that feels good to your body.
Mindfulness is a skill that’s encouraged in many spaces, including therapy. We all spend a lot of time on screens or multitasking, so it feels unnatural to sit still and focus on what’s happening in the here and now. Learning how to tune in to the present moment is a skill that takes practice. Starting a mindfulness practice can help you manage anxiety and depression by reminding you to slow down and connect to what’s really going on instead of what you’re telling yourself is going on. There are tons of ways to approach mindfulness. You can try sitting quietly, focusing on the breath, for a certain amount of time each day. There are also a ton of helpful guided meditations out there that can help guide you through the process so you have support.
Journaling is a great way to intentionally check in with yourself. Sometimes the act of just writing down your thoughts and feelings can help you process things. You don’t have to write anything special or fancy, your journal is just for you, however, you need it. You can make lists if writing isn’t your forte or even fill your journal with doodles. The idea of this is to help you organize and process your thoughts to the best of your ability, and writing them down helps you see them in a new way.
The way you treat yourself matters. If you don’t make time for yourself, you will eventually internalize the message that you’re not important. You deserve good care, especially from yourself. Self-care can be fun and cute, like bubble baths and skincare routines, but it also includes things like making doctor’s appointments, paying your bills, and filling your prescriptions. All of these things contribute to your well-being, and it’s important to make time for them. If you’re looking for more ways to practice self-care, we have a guide on building a self-care routine here.
Get well-rounded support
Another key to tending to your mental health is making sure you’re taking care of yourself, even in ways that aren’t exciting or fun. Part of this is making sure you’re getting regular checkups with your doctor, seeing any specialists you need, and prioritizing your wellness. Many folks have a variety of medical or wellness providers – physicians, nutrition specialists, psychiatrists, and support groups can all play a role. If you’re looking for local support in Columbus, we have a list of local resources available at the office so you can get the support you need.
Explore new hobbies
Exploring a new hobby is a great way to get yourself out of your comfort zone. It’s also immensely validating to try something new and have a blast. You don’t have to be the best at whatever you try – in fact, you probably won’t be great at what you choose until you get some practice. Check out websites with tutorials (for free options you can’t beat YouTube, but if you’re interested in a paid option SkillShare has tons of classes on every topic under the sun). You never know what you’re going to like until you try! If you’re worried about the cost of starting a new hobby, see if you know anyone with supplies you can borrow first to see if it’s your thing. You can also find workshops online and in person on hobbies of all stripes, from collage art to plant therapy.
Read books on mental health topics
We all learn in different ways, so some people might prefer an educational video or podcast over a book. However, if you’re a reader, there are a ton of mental health focused books out there. Whatever topic you’re looking for support with, chances are a therapist has written a book about it. We often recommend books in session that are relevant to what our clients are going through, whether that’s anxiety, parenthood, or relationship issues. You can find our full list of therapist approved books here.
Taking care of your mental health is a complicated, life-long process. It might take some trial and error to find what works for you, and what works might change over time. That’s okay! Keep adjusting until you find what feels right for you at the moment.