When it comes to health, it seems that the main focus is on being healthy in the physical sense: making sure you eat well, being fit, and drinking enough water. However, being healthy mentally is important as well; and I would maybe even argue that it should be more of a priority because everything we do begins in our minds.
Mental health “includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being, and it affects how we think, feel and act (MentalHealth.gov). It also affects the way we deal with stress, relate to other people, and make decisions.
Since July is Minority Mental Health Month, I’m sharing seven techniques I use (or have used) to care for my mental health:
1. Meditation/Deep breathing.
This is probably the top way I stay mentally well. You can read all about the benefits here, but all you need is a few minutes a day (in the morning works especially well, in my opinion, because you start the day peacefully). You can try guided meditations, or just simply sit in a quiet, distraction-free space, breathe fully and deeply, and focus on your inhales and exhales. Also, deep breathing is a practice you can do anywhere, any time (and it’s how you’re supposed to breathe anyway), and its great for relieving stress, overwhelm and anxiety in the moment.
2. Use Affirmations.
I was introduced to affirmations around 2007, and I’ve been using them ever since. Affirmations help me improve my mindset, which allows me to set the tone for a great day (or to stay positive when the day is not-so-great). Speaking positively to yourself is also important because the things you say to and about yourself are generally what manifests in your life.
3. Take Time To Relax.
Trust me, I get it: You have a lot going on, and you’re trying to get it all done so you can check all the things off your to-do list. But, if you don’t take time to simply relax and just be, you risk experiencing burn-out and maybe even making yourself sick — literally. Listen to your body, and relax when you need to.
4. Unplug Digitally.
All the noise on social media can be a lot and super overwhelming. It can also have a negative effect on your mental health as it relates to comparing yourself to other people, causing you to feel insecure, or making you feel anxious when you see what’s going on in the world. Take a day — or 3 or 7 — away from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., and/or limit the amount of time you spend on the sites daily.
If you’re anything like me, you have some difficulty dealing with uncomfortable emotions. But you have to allow yourself to feel what you feel, get out of your head, and get those feelings out so you can process them and find solutions. Journaling is a great way to do this. Don’t worry about grammar, spelling or punctuation, or judge yourself for what you’re thinking/feeling, just write.
6. Move Your Body.
Yoga is, of course, my favorite way to move my body. But, you can also get on the treadmill, lift weights (another fave), walk, or dance to get your body moving. Doing this not only relieves stress and helps you clear your head, it can also help when it comes to depression and anxiety.
7. Seek Professional Help.
Although we’ve come a long way, there is still some stigma attached to going to counseling or therapy, or there’s the idea that therapy is for people who have “serious” mental health disorders. Well, since we all deal with the stresses of daily life — and as Black women, we arguably deal with more due to gender and race — talking to an objective third party can help. And I know because I’ve been myself. If you want to try it yourself but don’t know where to start, try the directory on TherapyForBlackGirls.com.
A few more mental health resources are:
Do you take care of your mental health in a way that’s not listed above? Leave a comment to let us know!