A lot is going on in our world right now, and many of us are probably experiencing the impacts on our mental health. Mental health has always been a valuable and necessary topic to highlight, and we feel that it's important to be ruthless advocates for it, especially at this time.
Whether you have been struggling with your mental health for many years or are feeling the impact of the recent challenges, we want to remind you that it is okay to look for extra support. Choose kindness for yourself, allow yourself grace. We all can use a little help and understanding during these hectic times.
This Mental Health Awareness Month, we put together this list of resources to support mental health and be mental health advocates.
If you're feeling anxious or stressed
Here are a few things we've identified that might be helpful for those experiencing anxiety.
Think about creating a “Mental Health Support toolbox” with tools that fit you just right; in times of reduced stress, try to identify what helped lessen the feeling and note those for the future. You might want to write them down so you create your own list for the future, or just keep them in mind!
A great place to find tools for your “toolbox” is Mental Health America; they have an extensive kit that walks you through recognizing and owning your feelings, making positive changes, eliminating toxic influences, and creating healthy routines with consideration of the unique challenges we are all under today. We also love this “Take Care Kit” from Shine Text, with resources specifically for supporting your mental health during COVID-19.
If you're feeling disconnected
These past couple of months have been challenging for human connection, and the feelings of isolation and loneliness are entirely understandable, even if you have people around you! Here are a few different ways you can connect with others.
Find people with your interests.
Online clubs are becoming more plentiful as virtual communities become more sought after, which means finding people online to connect with on your hobbies is a little easier. Some of our favorites are book clubs, dance classes, happy hours and coffee chats, and crafting. You'll notice many of our suggestions are from Meetup, a hub for groups and clubs, a lot of which are transitioning to virtual gatherings. Set up your distance for groups to "within any distance," and you should be able to search and view a wide variety of online get-togethers and interests.
Add variety to your communication
Texting and calling can get a little overwhelming, and without getting to connect in person, finding new things to talk about other than the crisis can be challenging. Some alternatives might be a movie night on the free software Discord, which recently introduced a way to set up a video call with screen sharing and shared audio. You can also try a game night with the same software; a few favorites are skribbl.io (online Pictionary), Spyfall (rules here), Jackbox Games, or Codenames (rules here). We also have a list of at-home activities that you could invite friends to participate in virtually!
It can feel empowering to connect with your community in the pursuit of a common goal, for example, through volunteering. Here are a few different virtual volunteer opportunities you might be interested in.
Foster an Animal
If you are a big animal lover with the capability to foster, you might consider becoming a foster parent at your local shelter. Many animal shelters are shut down or running on severely limited capacity due to the crisis which leaves homeless animals in need of a safe home. Keep in mind that fostering is a commitment to the animal you take in and shouldn't be a temporary distraction for this period, but a responsibility seen through until their adoption. That said, an animal can be a great way to find companionship and receive lots of love.
If you're looking for self-care inspiration
Finding space and time to decompress and relax can be challenging but taking a minute to yourself is so important to support your mental health. Here are some suggestions that we love. These may not all resonate with you, and that is perfectly fine! Lean into what speaks to you.
Meditation comes in many forms; you may be surprised how little it requires to fit into your day (we indeed were in regards to eating meditation!). Some great suggestions come from Tiny Buddha and also from Headspace, which provides more guided meditations. Headspace has free meditations available now, created for New Yorkers, but accessible to all and is also offering free access to Headspace Plus for individuals who are currently unemployed.
Morning and evening routines
If you don't have a lot of time to spare in the day, make the moments when you are winding up or down extra intentional. Take some time to stretch, do some self-massage, use a breathing exercise, or listen to relaxing audio like ASMR. Creating a schedule to follow, especially during this time of uncertainty, can help you to have some positive control in your day.
We've all heard it, but moving our bodies with intention and purpose can help reduce stress and make way for relaxation. Whether it be online classes, a workout app, yoga videos, or a leisurely walk outside, introducing a little movement is an excellent form of self-care for the body and mind.
Easier said than done, eating well might be the ultimate self-care tip and the one that can be challenging and time-consuming to implement, fortunately, there are resources out there. One excellent resource is this list of farmers offering delivery or contactless-pickup; not only does this support farmers, but you can get quality fruits and vegetables. Many chefs and foodies have started to share more tips on creating accessible and healthy recipes. Some of our favorites are Tik Tok star, Tabitha Brown, this great roundup of one-pan recipes, quarantine cooking from Allrecipes, and easy suggestions from He & She Eat Clean.
If you're looking for ways to advocate for others
As we mentioned, mental health should always be a topic of discussion to reduce stigma and promote acceptance and understanding, not just during Mental Health Awareness Month, and not only during a global pandemic. Spreading awareness is crucial to ensure that mental health policy, legislation, and funding are on the government's agenda and more widely recognized to reduce judgment and discrimination in society. We should all do our best to be mental health advocates for ourselves, and for others, here are a few ways you can do so from home.
Join Mental Health America's Advocacy Network
You can be a vehicle for change with MHA by speaking to federal and state legislators in your area. Other opportunities to get involved include the #B4Stage4 Initiative meant to identify early symptoms of serious mental illness, participating in relevant events, and more.
Share your story
A big piece of breaking the stigma is to talk about mental health openly and candidly, whether that be with friends and family, or in campaigns like "You Are Not Alone," an initiative to inspire others and educate the broader public, or MHA's #mentalillnessfeelslike campaign with a similar mission.
Stay in the loop
Follow mental health organizations on their social channels and sign up for newsletters to stay connected to what they are advocating for, what the obstacles are, and what you can do to help. From the sources we have listed, here are their respective advocacy alert sign-ups:
We can all be mental health advocates by committing ourselves through our words and actions to reducing stigma and breaking barriers for individuals living with mental health conditions. Take the pledge to live "StigmaFree." Choose kindness for yourself- for your loved ones, and your community.