Since 1949, May has symbolized Mental Health Awareness Month, an entire month dedicated to improving the resources for those struggling with their mental health. Mental Health America began the tradition to increase awareness of mental health and wellness in our daily lives.
In 2022, Mental Health Awareness Month is turning back the clock with the theme "back to basics." The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of millions. This year's Mental Health Awareness Month gives us a chance to go "back to basics" by refocusing on the activities that make for strong mental health.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, people worldwide fell out of touch with daily activities that allowed them to foster positive mental health. According to World Health Organization research, the COVID-19 pandemic triggered a 25% increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide. Mental Health Awareness Month is a chance to return to those key fundamentals that help build a healthy lifestyle.
When talking about mental health, it is hard to ignore the alarming impact that mental health has on modern society. Today, 1 in 5 U.S. adults are diagnosed with a mental health condition. Among Americans aged 6-17, 17% experience a mental health condition. Despite the gravity of these statistics, they only begin to describe the mental health crisis we are facing today.
According to Dr. Imad Alsakaf of CHI Health Psychiatric Associates, if we are not in a healthy state of mind, we are at higher risk of physical problems. Dr. Alsakaf’s key to improving mental health is to have structure. Structure is vital because it allows us to implement routines in our lives that lead to healthy lifestyles.
Below, we will share some ways in which we can go "back to basics" and prioritize our mental health.
When was the last time we paused and focused on nothing but our breath? Human beings typically take about 20 breaths a minute, but how many of those breaths are we actively paying attention to? While breathing is automatic, it is often something we give little attention to. Taking time to slow down our breath through meditation or mindfulness can allow us to put a pause on stressful activities. Focusing on one of life's greatest gifts, the ability to breathe, can also make us feel grateful.
Did you know that we are made up of 60% water? Through proper hydration, we became better alert and energized; water also regulates body temperature by getting rid of waste and toxins. Our choice to stay hydrated also goes hand and hand with making healthy choices in what we eat, as both are vital to our physical health. Food choices impact our mental, physical, and emotional health. A diet with various nutrients allows our bodies to build tissues, cells, hormones, and neurotransmitters for optimal functioning. We can do this by planning to ensure our diet includes the right amount of vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, water, and protein.
Sleep plays an essential role in both our mental and physical health. According to research conducted by FamilyMeans, a nonprofit focused on providing mental counseling and therapy, getting adequate sleep decreases depression and improves our concentration and productivity. Waking up energized allows us to become more productive in our daily tasks. Setting up a sleep schedule that works for us also allows time for other activities necessary to our mental well-being overall.
By creating structure in our lives, we are prioritizing ourselves. There is nothing wrong with admitting that we need to pause, take a step back and recreate a game plan that works and encourages us to become the best versions of ourselves. During this month, mental health is more important, and simple, than ever.
Visit National Alliance on Mental Illness to learn how to go “back to basics” and be a part of spreading awareness:
Mental Health Month | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness