Mental health is an essential aspect of anyone’s well-being. The majority of people do not address mental health issues because of the stigma it holds. The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) has made tremendous strides in raising awareness of mental health issues. Through their efforts and support, Congress established a week dedicated to mental health awareness in 1990 that has remained and flourished for years. The first full week of October has been appointed as Mental Health Awareness Week and this year, October 6-12, 2019 is that week.

Millions of people struggle with mental illnesses. We witness these struggles daily because they effect everyone, whether you are the person directly experiencing the illness or you are family member, friend, coworker, or acquaintance who is indirectly experiencing them. This week was organized to raise awareness, educate the people, demolish stigma, and provide support to those with mental illnesses and their loved ones. NAMI has numerous opportunities for people to get involved, not only for this week but to continue to be a part of the movement towards greater understanding and acceptance of mental illnesses.

Mental Health America is also contributing to the week by raising awareness of the symptoms of mental health conditions. They have information on where to receive free screenings, ways for people to become involved, and more information should anyone need support.

As part of bringing awareness and educating others, here are five tips for taking care of your mental health.

1. Taking Care of Yourself
This is a blanketing phrase that can be broken down to keeping active, eating well, and drinking sensibly. Exercise is one way to help the body cope with physical distresses such as tense muscles and rapid, panic breathing. This does not have to be vigorous exercise but moving is the crucial part. Moving allows that brain to release the chemicals it requires to maintain stability. Taking a stroll around the park or playing a sport helps the body physically and prevents isolation. Eating well means to sustain a balanced diet that includes proper nutrition, plenty of water, and healthier options. This helps to keep the hormones in the body balanced and prevents you from overindulging or starving. Preparing a meal and sharing it with others allows you to maintain a proper diet and keeps you in contact with others. Drinking sensibly means to know your limit and not to overindulge. Alcohol can be enjoyed in small amounts, but when people start to abuse it, that is dangerous. Drinking too much causes problems in the blood, organ systems, and brain. Limit often and the amount of alcohol consumed.

2. Knowing When to Step Away
When people start feeling stressed and frazzled, they should take a break. This means stepping away from the stressful environment and making time to do something pleasurable. This could be meditating, taking a walk, or enjoying something you love. A break allows the body to relax and the brain to refocus.

3. Open-up About Your Emotions and Needs
When emotions are bottle-up, they can become a burden that binds the individual until they burst. This could cause a dangerous release that engulfs and compromises the person. A better plan for dealing with your emotions is to speak about them in a non-judgmental space with someone you trust. If you need to speak with a professional, then ask for help. This is an enormous step for people because asking for help makes people feel vulnerable or weak. Requesting help does not indicate that a person is weak or damaged, it means that the person understands that they have reached their limit and they need someone to listen to their story. Just having someone willing to listen can make a person realize that they are stronger than they believed.

4. Maintain Personal Connections and Create New Ones
Many people separate themselves from loved ones when they are experiencing a mental illness. While it might be hard, stay connected with those who are important to you, they can help to lighten the load. When the people around you are accepting and non-judgmental, they create a safe environment where concerns can be shared. If you see someone struggling with their mental health, try to show them compassion. Be someone who can offer them support whether it is advising them or being a source of comfort, let them know that they are not alone.

5. Most Important-Love Yourself
The most important factor for sound mental health is loving yourself. This means to love who you are, even with your perceived flaws. Mental illnesses do not define a person, it is just one aspect of that person’s character. Accept yourself, liberate yourself from guilt, do not allow people’s opinions to cloud your self-worth, and surround yourself with those who uplift you, never those who make you inferior.

Mental Health Awareness Week will come to an end, but people experiencing mental illnesses will still be here. Help to raise awareness, support others, and spread educational programs to make others cognizant of the importance of maintaining sound mental health.

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