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Prioritize (and De-stigmatize) Mental Health

a woman in a park smiling

It’s OK to not be OK. Embrace those moments when life isn’t all rainbows and butterflies, allow yourself to feel your feelings and thrive in the ups and downs.   

Mental health is important. Emotional, psychological and social wellbeing all impact how we interact with ourselves and the world – from how we cope with stress, relationships with others to how we function throughout the day (family dynamics, workplace environment, etc.)   

It’s natural to respond to life experiences with a range of emotions, like sadness or worry. Not all sadness is linked to depression, and not all nervous energy is caused by anxiety.  Approximately 1 in 5 U.S. adults live with some form of mental illness today. Removing the shame around mental health makes it easier for those suffering to get the help they need. 

Factors that impact our mental health include:   

  • Trauma and stress   
  • Physical health like chronic conditions  
  • Adversity (poverty, health, societal disparities)   
  • Major life events like a new child, death, marriage  
  • Sudden changes in financial situations or poverty    

When to Get Help 

When psychological or emotional symptoms hang around longer than normally expected, support may be needed. This usually starts as an inclination that something is off. Like when you have a slight pain in your body that you ignore or brush off. Then it gets worse. What once was a slight irritation quickly turns into something else.   

Pay attention to signs early on and don’t be afraid to check in with a therapist. (Anxious about contacting a therapist? Start by talking to a trusted friend about your fears.)   

Ways to improve and prioritize your mental health 

Take small steps that feel comfortable for you.   

  • Trying different self-care practices. Learn what works for you. Not everyone loves meditation, but some people really enjoy yoga. What you eat, how you move your body and your sleep quality all impact your mood and emotions. 
  • Stay connected. Talk about what you’re experiencing with someone you trust. Find a friend, family member, a friendly co-worker or reach out to your Level2 coach.  When other people are involved that care about you it makes it easier to navigate tough emotions, you feel less alone in the process, and you might speak to someone who can relate to what you’re going through.   
  • Put names to the feelings. It’s normal to have feelings and to discuss them. An easy way to do this is to sit quietly and journal about what you’re feeling. List out all the thoughts, emotions and experiences showing up for you. Naming what you’re experiencing makes it easier to process the emotions or identify a solution (therapy, open communication, boundaries, change of setting, etc.).   
  • Seek help.  If those feelings interfere with your daily life and prevent you from attaining your best quality of life, more help may be needed.   
  • Pay attention to your triggers. What causes you to feel your emotions? A therapist or counselor may help  

4 Things for your Mental Health Emergency Kit

  1. Something calming
    Intense feelings can manifest as muscle tension. A great relaxation technique to combat muscle tension is progressive muscle relaxation (PMR). This technique is easy, effective, takes just a few minutes, and can be done anywhere. PMR involves alternating between tensing and relaxing individual muscle groups. This process is repeated gradually throughout the entire body to achieve complete relaxation.
  1. Something cozy
    Have you heard of hygge? It’s a Danish concept for being cozy by enjoying the simple things in life. Embracing coziness can improve happiness. Hygge includes embracing self-care, self-compassion and creating a cozy environment. This means whatever helps you feel more relaxed and supported.
    Think about things like cuddling with your pet, pulling on a favorite sweater, or sipping something hot and soothing, like a cup of tea, coffee, or hot chocolate. When it feels like the sky is falling, these soothing small pleasures can go a long way.
  1. Something that’s a good memory
    Remind yourself that no matter what you’re going through, you’ll have good times again with things like a treasured photo of a happy event, like a great vacation or celebration, a photo of the person you love most in the world. Maybe turn on your all-time favorite song, or a playlist of happy tunes that transports you to a better time. Music is therapeutic it boosts happiness and reduces anxiety. Whatever you choose, listening to or looking at this happy time can remind you that storms are temporary, and you have more light than darkness in your life.
  1. Someone you trust
    Storms can hit at any time, so find a person you feel comfortable texting or calling even in the middle of the night. Perhaps it’s a therapist, a family member, a significant other, or a close friend. Define who this person is now, so you know who you’ll turn to when you’re going through an emergency. When you do give them a call, try not to deluge them with information the second they pick up. Explain what has happened as evenly as you’re able to, then give them a chance to react and provide the reassurance, guidance and love you know they will. 

Other considerations

If you are prescribed medications, please make sure take them as prescribed, keep up with your refills and store your doctor’s phone number in your contacts. Know your sick day plan. Here are the CDC’s recommendations.

And if you have ever experienced suicidal thoughts, keep the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number in your kit. The lifeline is free to use and provides 24/7 confidential support: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255