Mental Health Awareness Month; much like the other specially designed days, weeks or months throughout the year, isn’t enough. There are so many ways in which to be identified as a person with a mental health condition that we truly need to be on top of monitoring the way we feel each and every day.
When Inside Out (2015) came out it was a huge success: Joy, Disgust, Anger, Sadness and Fear were adorable and helped little kids (big kids and grown-ups alike…) more easily name their own feels. It also contributed to the huge number of ways schools are teaching character development. Wonderful!
Unfortunately, it may have also oversimplified how emotions affect us on a daily basis. For instance, Depression is certainly held within the category of Sadness and Anxiety within Fear, but for many people these sensations (feelings) run so deeply that merely saying that they are sad or fearful softens the reaction to these emotions.
Last year, I read an article about teenaged girls being uniquely capable of functioning well in their lives while simultaneously being untreated for severe anxiety and/or depression. I don’t know the exact article, but I can absolutely relate; as someone with severe anxiety and depression, my therapist once advised that I tell everyone about my diagnosis immediately because I am so highly functioning that without hearing about it first-hand others would never know.
That’s terrifying, imagine being so good at covering up your illness that no one will help you manage it and help you get better without your expressed request. And as a kiddo, if you don’t have the vocabulary to help yourself speak up about what’s going on and no one sees what you’re going through without your expressly telling them so, how long will it be before you get the help that you need?
Plus, what we’re starting to learn about stress is that when our bodies are flooded with stress hormones they build-up a tolerance to them. Then, in order to help us understand that we need to be in a state of heightened awareness, our bodies are flooded with even more stress hormones the next time we face pressure. But, there are things we can do, Mental Health America, MHA, created a toolkit to help us recognize and understand when we, or someone we love, might need help.
The bottom line, be there: take proactive steps to helping manage stress and ultimately mental health concerns. As we mentioned last week and the week before, yoga can help! Take deep, mindful breaths and practice poses which help to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, the anti-venom to our flight, fight or freeze response. And of course connect; mental illness is extremely isolating and it’s important that we (as those diagnosed with mental illness) seek out love and that our friends and families share love with us everyday.