The month of May is Mental Health Awareness Month! For college students, April is usually filled with final exams, projects and papers. It’s only when May finally rolls around that it seems like all of that is finally over! I want to talk about mental health in the context of college. Also, I want to talk about the national Mental Health America campaign happening this month!
I’ve lost a friend to mental health problems. This month is an opportunity to educate people how to be kinder to yourself and to others in regard to mental health. I’ll admit, I haven’t always been the best friend when it comes to supporting others that are having a rough time. I’ve been quick to disappear once things get stressful in a sense. As a result, I didn’t stick it out with them like I should have because I just didn’t know how. It was selfish; when things became stressful, I deemed their behavior as “toxic” because it was affecting me negatively.
At the time, it was hard for me to understand because I didn’t experience feelings the same way they did. And, I’m sure, it’s just as hard for others to understand how and why I experience things the way I do, of course. I think it’s incredibly important to just recognize that simple fact as a friend or a partner. Have empathy for the way in which we experience our feelings and understand that not everyone deals or overcomes their feelings in the same way.
Stress in College
When I was an undergraduate student, I was constantly stressed. It was part of my #brand, if you will. I was consistently on the go, running behind, running ahead and trying to stay afloat. I was committed to maintaining a high GPA since I knew I wanted to go to apply to law school afterwards. Looking for other ways to beef up my resume, I took on a million different internships, extra-curricular activities and attended as many workshops and events as I could. I worked part-time, sometimes coming home from the restaurant at 2 or 3 in the morning after having been in class and working events all day. I was tired.
And being tired isn’t a badge of honor, like I thought it was.
At the time, I was proud of myself because I worked so hard all the time. I consistently gave 150% of my time and energy to bettering my resume, but it was recognizably unhealthy. My mental and physical health was left on the back-burner. I existed in a mindset that was strictly minute-by-minute and lacked self-care and honestly, self-love. It wasn’t until I was a graduate student that I recognized the importance of making time for me and my mental health.
Find Your Work-Life Balance
As a graduate student, I saw the importance of finding the sweet spot between work and life. Even though I took on this blog, I do see it as a form of creative expression and truly something I enjoy. However, I do still need to recognize this is still “work.” I need to take time to watch an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race every Thursday, go for a run and sit in the sun (all things I never did as an undergrad). Plan out your schedule and make time for you! Your life shouldn’t be entirely consumed by your job, so make an effort to ensure there are small moments that are built in just for you throughout your day. I really recommend reading Rachel Hollis’ book, Girl, Stop Apologizing. She talks all about work and life and the myth that is “balance.”
The 2019 Theme: 4Mind4Body
Mental Health America has been raising awareness about mental health conditions and the importance of good mental health for everyone for over 70 years. This years theme is called “4Mind4Body,” and it’s all about taking our mental health to the next level. They’re focusing and exploring topics like animal companionship, spirituality and religion, humor, work-life balance, recreation and social connections as ways to boost mental health and general wellness.
Healthy Lifestyle for Mental Health
A healthy lifestyle can contribute to the prevention of mental health conditions, like heart disease, diabetes and obesity. For people who have these chronic diseases, focusing on a healthy lifestyle can be effective in helping treatment. “There are things you can do that may help. Finding a reason to laugh, going for a walk with a friend, meditating, playing with a pet, or working from home once a week can go a long way in making you both physically and mentally healthy,” Mental Health America says in their 4Mind4Body campaign.
Living a healthy lifestyle may not be easy, but making small changes can benefit in the long-run. Finding the balance between work and play, the ups and downs of life, and physical and mental health can greatly contribute towards focusing both on your mind and your body.
Some Reading for You
Lastly, I am going to leave a plethora of links below for this #MentalHealthMonth. Reading is one of the best things you can do for your own personal awareness and to spread it effectively among your circle!
Habri.org – Information and research on the connection between people and animals.
PetPartners.org – Organization promoting the health and wellness benefits of animal-assisted therapy, activities, and education, and providing education and credentials for therapy animal teams. Visit petpartners.org to learn more about therapy animals and inquire about setting up therapy animal visiting programs.
PetPeaceOfMind.org – Organization that helps people receiving hospice or palliative care to care for their pets.
TherapyDogs.com – Provides training and certification for dogs to become registered therapy dogs and has teams that make visits in the community.
AskJAN.org – Job Accomodation Network’s official website with resources for individuals, employers, and others surrounding workplace accomodations and disability employment issues. Also in Spanish.
MentalHealthAmerica.net/Workplace-Mental-Health – Data from MHA’s Workplace Health Survey on work environments, workplace stress, employee engagement, and employee benefits.
WorkFlexibility.org – National initiative in support of workplace flexibility.
Social Connection & Recreation
Clubhouse-Intl.org – A website for individuals living with mental illnesses to find Clubhouses—safe environments with opportunities for friendship, employment, housing, education and access to medical and psychiatric services in a single setting.
ColorTherapy.app – Color Therapy is an app for every day people, from all walks of life, to de-stress and unwind through a social coloring experience. The in-app community benefits from friendly, unconditional support while sharing their art.
Inspire.com – A social network for patients and caregivers to connect, share, and learn from each other about medical conditions, treatment, and support.
LoveKnitting.com – LoveKnitting is a global community for makers.
TheMighty.com – A safe, supportive online community for people facing health challenges and the people who care for them.
Chronic Health Conditions & Caring
CaregiverAction.org – Education, peer support, and resources for family caregivers.
ChoicesInRecovery.com – Support and information for people with Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective, and Bipolar Disorder and their caregivers, including resources for having conversations with treatment professionals.
HeadsUpGuys.org – Information and resources for men dealing with depression.
Lung.org – The American Lung Association provides information and resources around lung diseases, air quality, and tobacco cessation.
MoreThanMyDiagnosis.com – Stories and advice from people who either live with mental health issues or care for someone who does.
WomenHeart.org – Information and support about heart disease designed especially for women.
Let me know what you’re doing for Mental Health Awareness Month! I’d love to know.
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