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Make Mental Health a Priority — All Year Long

Fast Facts

  • Nearly 1 in 5 American adults will have a diagnosable mental health condition in any given year.
  • About 46% of Americans will meet the criteria for a diagnosable mental health condition at some point during their lives.
  • Anxiety and depression are the most common mental health conditions in the U.S.
  • Only 4 out of 10 adults will seek treatment for depression and anxiety.

Mental Health Care

Many of us understand what it means to be physically healthy. Eating well and moving our bodies are two steps that often come as second nature when taking care of our physical health. Unfortunately though, many of us fall short when it comes to taking care of our mental health.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and a great time to focus on improving emotional and mental well-being — but this work should continue all year long.

Okay, I think I understand. Got any tips?

There are many steps you can take to ensure that you are taking care of your mental health. Practicing self-care is an important way to keep your mind sharp and healthy.

According to Dr. Margaret Swarbrick, “Wellness is a deliberate process that requires that a person become aware of and make choices for a more satisfying lifestyle.”

Choosing to prioritize wellness is one of the most significant ways to help prevent mental health conditions — and even adding small changes to your daily routine can have a big impact.

Tip 1: Stay Active

Research shows that spending time being active can support mental health. You don’t have to be a fitness fanatic to reap the mental benefits of physical activity — even a few minutes a day can help relieve stress, improve memory and help you sleep better.

While staying active can be tough with a busy schedule, there are many ways to incorporate wellness into your daily life:

  • Move a little more — Incorporate movement into your workday. Try taking the stairs, parking a little farther away, taking stretch breaks, doing small activities during lunch or even enjoying a five-minute dance party while listening to your favorite tunes.
  • Get outside — Take a brief walk, go on a bike ride, have a picnic or explore some of North Carolina’s many trails, parks and beaches. Bonus points if you find time to listen to your favorite music or an uplifting podcast.
  • Start a garden — Gardening can be a cathartic way to work through feelings of anxiety or depression and a great way to connect with children and family members. The summer months are perfect for cultivating tasty, home-grown goodness.

Tip 2: Manage Your Stress

While your work can be quite rewarding, it can also be extremely stressful. Managing your stress levels and finding ways to cope is essential to ensuring that you stay on top of your mental health to prevent burnout.

While every individual is unique, here are a few ideas to help you cope with stress:

  • Practice healthy habits — Eating well and getting enough sleep are two of the most important factors in managing your mental health. While feelings of anxiety or depression can sometimes incite a desire for “comfort food,” and late nights, eating a well-balanced diet and getting an adequate amount of sleep are essential to keeping your mind healthy.
  • Balance professional and personal life — While it can be difficult to separate your professional life from your personal life, try formalizing a transition between the spaces when you leave each day. This could be a praying, listening to music, mentally closing the office door or taking a shower when you reach home.
  • Set aside leisure time — It is important to set aside a few minutes a day to do something for you. This could be watching a show, listening to a podcast, doodling, spending time with friends or family or just putting your phone away for an hour or two — the possibilities are endless.

Tip 3: Talk About It

Unfortunately, mental health is sometimes viewed as a “taboo” topic that should be avoided in everyday conversation. However, this could not be farther from the truth — talking about mental health and feelings of anxiety or depression is extremely effective and should be encouraged.

The effects of COVID-19 may make you more vulnerable to anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. Now more than ever it is essential to take care of yourself and others. Here are some ideas to start the conversation:

  • Be mindful of your feelings – Self-awareness is often the first step in managing anxiety and depression. Try journaling, talking to a friend or family member or allowing yourself time to process your emotions.
  • Prioritize social connection – Relationships and socialization are so important to mental health. Having at least one person you can talk to about your feelings and emotions can be beneficial.
  • Just ask – At the core of suicide prevention is the belief that suicide is NOT inevitable. If we overcome the stigma and awkwardness of beginning the conversation, offering support and connecting you with the resources you need, can save your life.

I’m struggling. Where can I turn?

If you’re struggling with your mental health or know someone who is, the most important thing to remember is that you are not alone. There are dozens of resources available to provide assistance and support. Here are just a few:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 — A national network of local crisis centers, providing free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Zero Suicide: An organization committed to the notion that suicide deaths for individuals under the care of health and behavioral health systems are preventable.

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Facts for Families: Concise and up-to-date information on issues that affect children, teenagers and their families, including anxiety, bullying, LGBT adolescents, grief and much more.

The National Parent Helpline: 1-855-427-2736 — provides parental advocacy and emotional support (in English and Spanish) from 1 pm to 10 pm, Monday through Friday.