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May is Mental Health Awareness Month! Here are Three Things to Know

In this photo there are two people holding hands and getting together in unity. The woman on the left is wearing an orange sweater, and the woman on the right is wearing a yellow long sleeve sweater.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month! Here are Three Things to Know

In this photo there are two people holding hands and getting together in unity. The woman on the left is wearing an orange sweater, and the woman on the right is wearing a yellow long sleeve sweater.

Mental Health Awareness Month is an annual observance that takes place in May every year. This month-long campaign aims to raise awareness about the importance of mental health and reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. Both awareness and de-stigmatization surrounding mental health are important to us here at our therapy practice in Woodland Hills. Often, we see the difference that education makes in letting people know that they are not alone, that there is help available, and that they don’t need to feel judged or cast out because of their struggles. It is disappointing and distressing to see people suffer unnecessarily, to see judgment and confusion where there should be acceptance and information.

What is Mental Health Awareness Month?

During Mental Health Awareness Month, mental health organizations, healthcare professionals, and community groups worldwide come together to promote mental health

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education and advocacy, provide support to individuals and families affected by mental illness, and encourage people to seek help when needed.

Mental Health Awareness Month serves as an opportunity to emphasize the importance of caring for one’s mental health and wellbeing and promote understanding and acceptance of those living with mental health conditions.

3 Ways to Reduce the Stigma Around Mental Health

You do not have to be a mental health care provider to reduce stigma and make mental health an easier and more accessible topic of conversation. Everyone has a part to play in mental health awareness. You may be advocating for yourself, for people you know, or both. Everyone benefits when the world becomes kinder and more understanding.

1) Education and Awareness:

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We can reduce the stigma around mental health by educating people about mental health and mental illness, sharing accurate information, and correcting misconceptions. If you know a person who has a mental illness or who struggles with mental health, becoming versed in what they experience is labor you can do that saves them from having to do it. It can also benefit those around you, who may have a lot to learn about mental health. This can be especially impactful in issues where you have a position or power/and or privilege, so long as you don’t talk over the people you are trying to advocate for.

2) Language Matters:

The language we use to describe mental health and mental illness can perpetuate stigma. Using stigmatizing language such as “crazy” or “insane” can further marginalize people with mental health concerns. Instead, we can use respectful and accurate language when discussing mental health and mental illness. It is also important to recognize that many words in common vernacular have demeaning origins; if a person with a mental illness advises you that a word is offensive to them, be prepared to learn something new and adjust your vocabulary. It is also helpful to remember that your one-on-one relationship with someone who has a specific struggle does not give you the license to interact as you please with others with that same struggle.

3) Support and Empathy:

Showing support and empathy for people with mental health concerns can reduce stigma and promote acceptance. We can support people with mental health concerns by listening to them without

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judgment, offering encouragement and reassurance, and advocating for their rights and needs. We can also be empathetic and understanding of the challenges they face and show compassion and kindness towards them. This is how we create an environment where people know they can and should ask for help when they need it.

Mental Health Awareness Month isn’t only about speaking up for others; it’s also about speaking up for yourself. Many of us have unseen battles when it comes to our mental well-being. It is important to support yourself through self-care, self-advocacy, community, and support.

3 Ways to Take Care of Your Mental Health

1) Practice Self-Care:

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Self-care involves taking care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally. This includes getting enough sleep, eating a supportive diet (getting enough energy and aiming for as much nutrition as you can get), moving your body regularly, practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation or deep breathing, and engaging in activities that bring you joy and fulfillment. Self-care practice requires a lot of mindfulness; you cannot take care of yourself at any given moment without noticing what you are experiencing. It is also something that works best when you build it into your daily life as much as you are able.

Self-care for your body can look different depending on your individual needs and your circumstances. Some aspects change over time, but some stay the same: rest, hydration, and nutrition. How much of these things you need – and how much you have access to – are affected by many factors, some of which might not be in your control. It is important to do your best to get what you can without bullying yourself if your access is limited, your schedule is challenging, or your mental health is an obstacle. Chronic illness and disease, a history of disordered eating, insomnia, and many other factors can impact your relationship with these three foundational elements of self-care. Remember that your specific situation is yours and yours alone. Do not try to copy what you see working for others online. Being inspired by others to try new things is great; doing what doesn’t work for you isn’t helpful. Moving your body in a way that feels good to you is another great way to support your physical health. This can look very different depending on what your priorities are, what your abilities are, and how much time you have. Whether you want to have dance parties in your living room, go for walks with friends, take a class, or lay with your legs up the wall every day… Whatever is best for you and makes you feel good is what matters.

Your mental health will be greatly impacted by supporting your physical health and also by taking steps to determine, set, and uphold boundaries. Mental self-care involves speaking to yourself with kindness, having grace for yourself when you make mistakes – not expecting perfection from yourself. In order to support your mental health through self-care, identify where you experience emotional distress in your life and determine if you can extract yourself from those situations. If and when you can, give yourself permission to do so. When you can practice coping skills in order to navigate your ups and downs, such as taking time before you have to go somewhere to meditate and say affirmations, recruiting a buddy to lean on, and/or setting aside time after to decompress. Making meditation and affirmations part of your regular routine allows you to train your mind in how to react to certain events and issues. Of course, there will always be things that come up and disrupt you. But these are easier to handle and recover from when you have a skill set of emotional regulation to fall back on.

2) Seek Support:

It is essential to seek support when you need it. Seeking support can help you work through difficult emotions and challenges and provide you with tools and strategies to manage your mental

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health. You can find support from friends, family, partners, therapists, counselors, groups, and more. So many people think that they “should be able to go it alone,” and that just isn’t the case. Human beings are social; we depend on one another. Societies are better when we care for one another; why wouldn’t individuals be the same?

If you are someone who hates asking for help, seeking support may seem like an impossible task for you. You might feel isolated and/or stigmatized due to your mental health struggles; you might have been raised to look out for yourself, or both. Start small; small asks are a great way to practice reaching out with low stakes. You can ask a stranger for a hand with something like reaching for something on a shelf. You can ask a coworker to borrow a pen. You can ask a friend to weigh in if you’re choosing between dresses. If you receive a positive response, you are being rewarded. You see that people are happy to help you and experience happiness and a sense of safety in having your needs met. If you get a negative one, you are practicing having your ask rejected. When someone declines, you learn to understand that others have boundaries to their abilities. Sometimes, people won’t feel qualified, won’t be available, and won’t be paying close enough attention. Either way, you benefit. When we seek support, we are asking for help, no matter what kind of support it is. The more we practice reaching out, the more naturally it comes.

Therapy, whether individual or group, in-person or online, can be an invaluable support for your specific mental health struggle(s). Qualified therapists understand what you are going through and are trained to assist you in helping yourself navigate your stressors and triggers. Therapy for anxiety is specialized support and provides practical tools to utilize in stressful and overwhelming situations. Group support lets you know that you are not alone. This kind of support can be especially precious if you have a mental illness that nobody in your immediate friends and family group grapples with. It can feel isolating and distressing to feel misunderstood; likewise, it can be liberating to be able to speak freely without having to explain.

3) Reduce Stress:

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Mental health awareness month

Stress can take a toll on our mental and physical health, so it’s essential to manage it effectively. This can involve identifying the sources of stress in your life and finding ways to reduce or eliminate them. Learning how to manage stress effectively can help you feel more resilient and better able to cope with challenges. A mental wellness plan allows you to create strategies for coping with stressors as they arise.

The first step to reducing stress is identifying it. Where does it exist in your daily life? Where does it exist in your weekly, monthly, or yearly life? You may identify stressors you feel you can’t eliminate, such as a job. It is a privilege to be in a position to change jobs or careers when something isn’t working out. It is also, however, more of a possibility than most people realize. If your entire job description does nothing but causes stress, that is worth identifying and analyzing. It may not have an easy or simple solution, but it also might be the solution you are looking for to eliminate your biggest stressor in one go and have a fresh start somewhere else. If you identify a stressful aspect of your job and realize you can change it, all the better.

Does your personal life workload cause you stress? This can be especially difficult for people who were assigned female at birth and socialized as female to identify, as there is an inherent expectation to be able to serve others’ needs without fatigue or resentment. If this is you, you may begin to realize that the mental load of running your household is too much. This may be the case if you are single, partnered, or partnered with children. There is a lot asked of us; the original forty-hour work week was designed with the idea that a whole other adult was at home running errands, cooking, and cleaning. Anyone who is living in a situation other than that is spread thin. There is no shame in realizing that you cannot balance everything you’re asking yourself to.

Take time to consider your priorities. The more they align with your values, the easier it will be to make sure that you are putting your top priorities ahead of those lower on your list. No matter how acute your mental health struggles are, a life lived authentically will always make more sense and be simpler to stick to. Stress creeps in when we try to treat everything in our lives as a top priority all the time. Some things have to wait their turn; the lower they are on the list, the longer the time between them will be. This is okay. There is nothing wrong with knowing what is important and doing the work that supports that. In fact, that level of introspection and action should be celebrated!

Mental Health awareness applies to every single person on the planet. Nobody lives a life without stress, loss, grief, pain, struggle, and fear. Some of us have additional weight to carry in the form of mental illness, but the need for support and self-care is universal. If you are struggling to have conversations about your needs, know that these subjects don’t need to be taboo, especially in 2023. There is no shame in struggling with your mental health. You deserve a safe space in which to care for yourself, advocate for yourself and others, and be met with compassion. It is never too late or too early to explore and pursue wellness – you don’t need to wait for permission or for Mental Health Awareness Month to come around.

Anxiety Therapy at Embracing You Therapy

Mental health is just as important as our physical health, so mental health awareness is crucial. If your mental health has not been the same for a while, you are not alone! Individual therapy for mental health needs such as anxiety, depression, stress, and worry can help.  

When you seek Anxiety Therapy in Woodland Hills, CA, you will learn CBT and mindfulness techniques to develop stress and anxiety management tools to better cope with emotions, reframe limiting beliefs, and create routines that support a long-lasting healthy mental and emotional state of mind. Contact us today for your complimentary 20-minute phone consultation with our Client Care Coordinator.

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