May is Mental Health Awareness Month and, with the coronavirus pandemic looming over us, it is more essential now than ever to pay attention to our mental health. Mental wellness is important and we hear so much about, but seeing a professional and asking for help is not really an easy step to take. Although it is recommended to seek professional help, when in crisis it is also healthy to pack tools to help you thrive or cope to practice mental wellness. Some tools we will be focusing on are 1) Owning your feelings, 2) Finding the positives, 3) Connecting with others, 4) Eliminating toxic influences, and 5) Creating healthy routines. These small changes are tools we can pack in our mental health toolkit to help us on days when we feel we are struggling.
1. Owning Your Feelings: This is number one for a reason. Acknowledging that your emotions are valid is important for mental wellness. Cry if you need to, scream, or just write it down. Do something that will tell your mind and body what you are feeling right now and that your feelings are valid. Remember, when you feel too overwhelmed when trying to understand your feelings, seek professional help. CHCCs Mental Health Support line during the coronavirus pandemic are 285-1856, 323-6560/6561 from Mondays to Fridays, 7:30am – 4:30pm. If you find yourself needing immediate attention, call 911 or the SAMHSA Distress helpline at 1-800-985-5990.
2. Finding the Positives: Being positive does not necessarily mean we have to constantly put on a happy face. It just means practicing gratitude. By being thankful for what we have, we focus on the positives instead of thinking about the negatives.
3. Connecting with Others: Did you know that feeling lonely can cause the same amount of damage as smoking 15—yes, FIFTEEN—cigarettes a day? Being lonely is more dangerous to our health than obesity; connecting with others is a surefire way of lessening the feeling of being lonely. The amazing thing about island culture is that no matter where we turn, there’s always a friendly smile nearby. Stuck at home? Send a text, write a post, DM/PM, WhatsApp, or Facetime a friend instead. Reaching out is important, whether it is to someone you feel close to or a stranger.
4. Eliminating Toxic Influences: People or things that drain your energy are toxic influences. Toxic traits include manipulation, making you feel bad about yourself, being judgmental, being negative, passive aggression, self-centeredness, difficulty with anger management, and controlling. If you know anyone in your life that drains your energy with any of those traits, it is time to walk away from it. Cut off people who drain your energy by saying no, declining invitations to hang out, or simply blocking them from social media.
5. Creating Healthy Routines: Some basic healthy routines are incorporating a healthy diet, maintaining a sleep schedule that closely mimics your routine prior to the pandemic, and adding time to exercise. The important part of creating a routine is to ensure it works for you. If you are stuck and unsure what types of things you should include, look up some stuff but cater it to you. Plan for days that are unexpected so your routine will not change dramatically. And treat yourself when you complete a week. Small victories will help you keep your routines. And remember, on average it takes about 66 days for our daily routines or behaviors to become habits. So if you started since the pandemic began, you are well on your way to making a habit of your routines.
These tools are just five out of many activities you can do to help improve your mental health. If none of these tools help, please seek out professional help. If you feel like you are struggling with your mental health, visit mhascreening.org to check your symptoms. This is a free, confidential, and anonymous screening service. After receiving your results, you will be given information about your symptoms and resources to feel better. To get further evaluations, seek professional help by calling CHCC Family Care Clinic at (670) 234-8950. For more information about Mental health Awareness Month, visit https://www.mhanational.org/.
If you feel that you or someone you know has been discriminated in any areas such as employment, education, or health services because of mental illness, contact the PAIMI program at NMPASI at (670) 235-7273. Visit us on the web at www.nmpasi.org, www.facebook.com/NMPASI, and follow us on Instagram @nmpasi670.
Dawn Margaret S. Sablan (Special to the Saipan Tribune)
Dawn Margaret S. Sablan is a projects specialist at the Northern Marianas Protection & Advocacy Systems Inc.