By: Elizabeth Pugliese, LCMHCA, LCASA

In 2013, the World Health Organization (WHO) created World Mental Health Day. But when there are so many challenging events globally that are hard to keep track of, why do we need to care about our mental health? And what does that even mean? Or perhaps you recognize you would like your well-being and life to improve in some ways, but don’t know where to start.

Our mental health plays a significant role in our lives, including our physical well-being, our relationships, and experiences. There can be an over-simplification that “mental health” means “always feeling good”, but that is not quite right. Mental Health is about how we process information, our emotional and spiritual wellbeing, and how we connect to ourselves and others, and sometimes it means giving ourselves the grace to be our authentic selves. It may seem obvious that our physical health and things outside of our control can significantly affect our mental health. Still, our mental health can affect our physical wellness and how we respond to situations. In other words, it is a give-and-take cycle.

It can be hard to know where to start when it comes to improving mental health. There can be a lack of understanding of what mental health means, the stigma of addressing it, feeling unworthy of wellness, or lack of access to resources. There is also a lack of awareness of ways to support our mental health that don’t involve services such as therapy. But there are small things we all can do even when we feel stuck. While everyone’s situation is different, each one of us can take steps to improve our mental health to some degree, even if that means starting to see the value in supporting our own personal wellness.

Some ways you can tend to your mental health include:

Identifying how you would like your wellness to improve or continue to do well. Prioritize what is important to you and what you need in the short term. For many, it’s hard to process certain things if immediate needs are not met, such as housing, job security, food, etc. Or perhaps you don’t know where to start. Prioritizing what you need first can help identify where to turn for support.

Asking for support is another step you can take to improve your mental health, even if it’s not therapy-related. You can learn how therapy was helpful from a trusted person to see if you’d like to try it yourself. Therapy can help you prioritize what you may want or need and discover ways to get those needs met.

Enhancing self-care is a wonderful way to improve mental and physical well-being. There is a misconception that self-care is all about “feeling good” immediately, and sometimes it’s doing other things that can help set us up for success or protect us in the future. This can look like anything from doing something you enjoy daily, to establishing a healthy sleep routine or even asking for support. It can also mean you allow yourself to confront certain emotions instead of avoiding them, or reaching out to a friend.

If you don’t see the value in mental health, consider the potential benefits for you to honor your mental health, and then consider what the harm is in beginning to honor it. If you are curious or unsure of why someone may prioritize their mental health, what are the benefits of learning more about what mental health means to you?

Recognizing we are worthy of improving our own wellness can be liberating in itself, and taking small steps to improve our mental health can lead to many benefits. This can include more meaningful connections to others, improved physical or spiritual health, or supporting yourself in reaching goals you may have.

References:

United Nations (2022). https://www.un.org/en/healthy-workforce/world-mental-health-day#:~:text=World%20Mental%20Health%20Day%202022,those%20experiencing%20mental%20health%20issues.

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