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How are you today? are you, really?

Have you ever been asked "How are you?" and answered "Fine" before you even realized it? When in actuality, you were far from "fine"? Have you ever smiled your way through a day even though the tears were just under the surface? Or how about even though you were battling with a will to live in your thoughts? Sadly, far too many of us have had these experiences. And far too many of us have struggled behind our smiles and been unsure of where to turn, or too ashamed to seek help. Everyone deserves a full and happy life. Everyone deserves an extra hand now and again. There is no shame in asking for help! I'm dedicating my life to changing the stigma attached to seeking help for mental struggles. So, since October is Mental Health Awareness Month, let's talk about it!
Let’s talk about Mental Health. Although our lives, our moods, and our actions are largely dictated by our THOUGHTS—what’s going on in our minds—our mental health is often ignored or overlooked. We are not just solely physical beings, but have a physical body, a mind, and a spirit. Any one of these aspects can be out of balance and affect the others. Our physical health is strongly connected to our mental health, yet is still not always considered when treating physical symptoms or illnesses. We have to be our own advocates when it comes to our mental health and wellbeing!
In spite of the fact that mental illness or mental health struggles are commonplace in the United States, there remains a stigma around seeking help. People fear judgment, rejection, or lost opportunities if they speak openly about their struggles. According to a study done by the CDC (Center for Disease Control), more than 50% of Americans need mental health assistance at some point in their lives. Seeking assistance with your mental health does not mean you are “crazy,” or that something is wrong with you. Everyone experiences things in their life that are difficult and can cause anxiety, excess stress, trouble sleeping, or bouts of situational depression (such as grief). There is absolutely no shame in learning new and healthier ways to cope with these symptoms. Others may experience things that are completely out of their control which lead to similar symptoms, or even nightmares, flashbacks, and panic attacks, such as natural disasters, car accidents, or sudden death of a loved one. There is nothing wrong with seeking extra support or assistance in resolving the after-effects of these events. Yet, for some reason, people fear that needing help equals some deficiency on their part. That's not true! We are all only human. None of us were born with an instruction manual with all the cheat codes for life. We all (myself included) need a little assistance from time to time.
In my opinion (and I will acknowledge my bias here), taking care of our mental health is essential for a long, quality life. Left unattended, our mental health will lead to physical ailments such as high blood pressure, chronic headaches, gastrointestinal issues, among other things. We must take care of our WHOLE selves in order to be truly happy and healthy. So, if you are willing to acknowledge that your mental health might be important, what can you do about it? How can you monitor and attend to your mental health on your own?

Ways to Protect and Improve Your Mental Health & Wellbeing:
· Track your mental and emotional states daily. Logging them into an app or a journal is very useful in helping you develop self-awareness and to detect triggering and trends in your state. I developed a variety of journals that all help you track your mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional states for 30 days in order to establish a sound habit of checking in with yourself regularly (available off my website or Amazon)
· Develop a habit of doing a body scan—notice any tension or pain you are carrying in your body. Use progressive muscle relaxation or breathing exercises to help reduce pain and tension.
· Incorporate as many physical exercises that promote mental health as you can. This can include going for a walk, doing stretches, chair yoga, floor yoga, playing with your pets, dancing, or working out. Try to do something physical daily or at least a few times per week.
· Incorporate as many relaxing activities as possible, such as: listening to calming music, a hot shower, an Epsom salt bath, meditation, reading, or massage. Do something that is calming for you at least daily, if possible. Or as often as you can fit it into your schedule.
· Practice journaling or writing your thoughts and emotions regularly. This gives you space to process and also provides an outlet.
· Seek support when needed. Regularly make time to talk with a trusted support person, such as a friend or family member. Don’t be afraid to seek out a therapist. Even once per month can make a huge difference for you.

How can you help reduce the stigma for yourself and others?
· Be vulnerable (aka courageous) and talk to others about your own struggles
· Get involved in your local NAMI organization or other advocacy group
· Share things on social media that promote awareness and acceptance
· Wear/share the message to reduce stigma (I carry a line of Mental Health Awareness merchandise on my website for this very purpose! Feel free to shop!). Mental Health focused clothing can be found in various stores—when shopping hats, t-shirts, and other items pay attention to the message they send. Look for things that promote awareness and acceptance. Wear them yourself and give them as gifts to others—the more widespread we can send out our message is the more difference it will make! 😊

Thank you for caring about your mental health, and the mental wellness of others. You are important. You matter. You CAN make a difference!

**If you are struggling with thoughts of self-harm, please text or call 988 immediately! Or go to your local Emergency Room. We care about you and we want to help!

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Kelly Sheaks
Kelly Sheaks
Nov 03, 2023

Love this!

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