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Kaiya's Korner: Let's Talk About Mental Health


Hi there, my name is Kaiya Nyasha and welcome to Kaiya’s Korner! In honor of May being Mental Health Awareness Month, we will be exploring the history of this month, why mental health matters, tools we can implement to improve our mental health, and more.


Before you begin reading, let’s pause to take a deep breath:




Breathe in. Hold. Now, breathe out.



Great job! It was only fitting that I added a moment of mindfulness. Below is a list of resources to continue your exploration of mental health options. I hope you are able to glean some helpful tips in this blog and learn something new! Enjoy.


The History of Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental Health Awareness Month was established in the United States in 1949 by the Mental Health America (MHA) organization to increase awareness of the importance of mental health and wellness, and to celebrate recovery from mental illness. The month of May has evolved to also raise awareness of trauma and its impact on the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of children, families, and communities.

In recent years, we have seen a surge in public health departments' emphasis on mental health such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and others within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Ultimately this month helps to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illness and conversations about mental health by bringing awareness to mental health conditions and those who have them.


Why It Matters

Everyone has mental health. The same way we go in for our annual physical at the doctor, our mental health is just as important. It includes our psychological, emotional, and social well-being and it is not separate from our body’s physical health. Each plays a role in sustaining one another. By understanding mental health and its impact on our quality of life, we can help ourselves determine how we handle tough situations, relate to others, and approach decision-making. How we take care of our minds can affect every aspect of our lives– how well we perform at work or at school, our relationships with friends and family, and the way we treat ourselves and others. The pandemic has especially brought the conversation of mental health and mental illness to the forefront as many of us found ourselves battling new feelings of anxiety, isolation, and depression. Knowing more about these conditions can help us find healthy solutions before these conditions worsen.


How To Start Conversations on Mental Health


A large part of improving our mental health is being able to talk about it with someone. Creating a strong support system among your friends and family, or even teachers can make a world of difference when facing mental health challenges. It may be intimidating to bring up at first, but a great way to start is to share how you honestly feel with someone you trust. That may sound like, “Lately, I’ve been feeling down and I’m not sure why.” This can open up a dialogue that helps you articulate your emotions and also let your friend know it may be necessary to check in more often.

Conversations on mental health often spark a chain reaction of others feeling comfortable sharing their experience with mental wellness too. Most importantly, starting conversations on mental health can lead you to the help you need if your condition is more serious. Therapy is an amazing resource worth exploring that can lead to positive changes in your mental health.


Mental Health Practices

In my own wellness journey, I have explored several mental health practices that have strengthened my mind and improved my life and relationships. Here are a few methods that have helped me:


  • Unplug

It’s no secret that the increase in technology use, particularly social media, has recently shown significant signs of negative impacts on mental wellness. The use of social media has been linked to decreased and disrupted sleep, memory loss, and poor academic performance. Furthermore, studies have shown how frequent social media usage has fueled depression, anxiety, fear of missing out (FOMO), and feelings of loneliness among other mental health issues. I recommend you carve out time for yourself to unplug– let your friends and loved ones know you’ll be away from technology today, turn off your phone, leave it in another room and give your mind a break from the overstimulation. Another alternative is to delete the social media apps from your phone for a given amount of time. This can help launch you into the present, complete lingering tasks, and reduce your feelings of stress and FOMO.

  • Journal

Now you’re probably wondering, well what do I do without my phone? I suggest journaling. Expressing your thoughts on paper is such a great way to decrease stress levels and also gain clarity on your emotions and behavioral patterns. You shouldn’t put pressure on yourself to say something profound, or write an expository essay. A sentence or two of how your day is going will do, especially if you’re looking to make a habit out of it. An example could be, “It was sunny outside today so I decided to take a walk.” This is a simple way to free yourself from the thoughts that may be swirling around in your mind and move them somewhere else.


  • Move your body

As I stated earlier, your physical health is deeply connected with your mental health. Exercising is a super effective and natural treatment for anxiety. The release of endorphins relieves tension and stress, boosts physical and mental energy, and enhances your overall well-being. There are a lot of ways to get your body moving– whether it be dancing, skating, yoga, running, swimming, or going to the gym.


  • Practice Mindfulness

The opposite of movement is stillness and both are equally important in tending to one’s mental health. In a world full of movement and overstimulation, setting aside time to be mindful is critical to stress management and making sound decisions. I love to center myself through guided meditation, others may prefer unguided meditation. Whichever practice you choose, taking just 10 minutes out of your schedule to be still can shift your entire day. Even taking 5 deep, intentional breaths at the start of your day can set a stable tone. If you’re unfamiliar with meditation or want help getting started, I highly recommend checking out the Headspace app. Another help in practicing mindfulness is waking up without your phone in reach. Whether you realize it or not, you’re internalizing the thoughts, actions, and feelings of the world before you even leave your bed. Think about it! Give yourself some time in the morning to settle into the day without distractions. Get up, stretch, make up your bed, and do your morning face routine! You come first, so be present to protect and nurture your energy before you give it all away.



Peace & Wellness,

Kaiya (@kaiyanyasha)


Resources

Though the methods listed above are great tactics to improve mental wellness, I acknowledge I am not a mental health specialist or professional. There may be existing conditions you are dealing with beyond the support of your family, friends, and other loved ones. If that is the case for you or someone else in your life you care about, please consider exploring these resources below:


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741 (available 24/7 in English and Spanish)


For LGBTQ+ youth, get free confidential help from the Trevor Project

1-866-488-7386, text or call (crisis counselors available 24/7)


Low-Cost Mental Health Service


GirlsHealth.Gov Feelings Guide



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