Mental health is something that we all experience whether we observe it or not. It can affect some in more ways than it does others. World Mental Health Day is observed October 10th each year with the objective of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and rallying efforts in support of mental health. World Mental Health Day (October 10th) provides an avenue for individuals to talk about their work with mental health issues and for those to share their experiences and what needs to be recognized and acted upon in today's world.
I realize October 10th has come and gone but I would like to share my experience with you all in hopes that it will have a positive impact! In April 2013 I was working as an Athletic Trainer on the medical staff at the finish line of the Boston Marathon when the bombs went off. In the moment we all responded and didn’t think twice about what had just happened. It was all a blur until reality set in later that night. I was sitting in my house in Keene NH as a senior in college and the marathon coverage came on the news and I froze. After that day I suffered from anxiety and insomnia. I didn’t sleep much for a while and if I did, I would wake up exhausted.
My anxiety caused me to overthink everything I did each day. I would get nauseous when I had to do something or go somewhere. I would have never thought that that day would have affected me for as long as it did. The team of us who were on the medical staff met with a counselor the following day. I wasn’t about it and didn’t think I needed to, but after I felt a lot better and realized you shouldn't deny help. Ever since then I have worked on self talk techniques that have improved my quality of life in more ways than one! I also knew I wasn’t alone and would talk to the others who were alongside me that day. Having others to lean on and talk to who were experiencing the same thing I was helped greatly. Having family and friends to lean on is one aspect of life that you should not take for granted. That day made me appreciate my friends and family that much more.
Spend time outside each day. Seasonal depression is real and can be reduced by simply going outside and taking a deep breath!
The BIGGEST factor that aided my healing process was going back to the Boston Marathon the following year and working the finish line medical staff again. Going in to that day I had the saying in my head that we had “unfinished business” to take care of and that powered me through. Having a runner cross the finish line and grab on to me telling me to take him to the nearest bar was a mood booster. Also seeing one of my athletes cross the finish line was pretty damn cool too! Looking back to that day, my mental health has come a long way and continues to get better everyday my feet hit the ground. Remember you are not alone!
Now enough about me, here are some ways that you can improve your mental health everyday:
Sleep. I’ve talked about this before in a previous blog, but establishing a sleep routine is HUGE!. It can help you in more ways than one. First and foremost sleep helps you recover, it aids in immune health and in daily performance. There has been research that shows sleep aids in reducing levels anxiety and depression.
Spend time outside each day. Even if it is just going outside and taking a breath of fresh air. This is especially true in the winter months. Seasonal depression is real and can be reduced by simply going outside and taking a deep breath!
Don’t sweat the small stuff. When you are stressing about something in your life, take a step back and think is this really going to affect me? How much of an impact will this have on my life? If the answer is not really and or no, then forget about it and move past it! After reading the book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and It's All Small Stuff by Richard Carlson PH, D. (A great read by the way!) I learned to not let little things people say and or do or little roadblocks in life affect me more than they should. Being able to tell yourself that something doesn’t truly matter and moving on can have a great impact on your mental health.
I will leave you with this quote that I saw on the lululemon Twitter feed on Mental Health Day: “Strength isn’t only found in muscles or on mountaintops, sometimes it's in the moments we put one foot in front of the other”