Out of all the annual calendar marked events, personally the most fundamental and special one would have to be Mental Health Awareness Month due to losing my beautiful Mother to suicide. Mental Health Awareness Month is celebrated annually each October, in aligned with World Mental Health Day on October 10th.
There are approx. 450 million people worldwide living with a mental illness and 1 in 5 people experience some sort of mental illness at least once in their lifetime. No doubt that it is indescribably tough living with and/or both having a loved one affected by ill-mental health. However, it is initiatives like Mental Health Awareness Month that make the pain some-what bearable as we are reminded that we are not alone in our struggle and that the support is there when needed.
Each year individuals are educated on and urged to ‘think’ about our mental health and wellbeing. This time also gives us the opportunity to understand the importance of good mental health in our everyday lives, and encourages help seeking behaviours when needed. As a mental health advocate, I feel so blessed that individuals (like myself) across Australia are given the opportunity to come together during the month to hold events and good mental health and wellbeing in their local communities.
Coordinated each year by Way Ahead, the Theme for 2020 is ‘Tune In’ which means “being present, being aware of what’s happening within you, and in the world around you”.
Taking moments to pause to really ‘tune in’ to ourselves can help still and focus your mind. It can help you better understand what’s going on in your life and others on a deeper and personal level. Tuning in is a beneficial act that can improve and preserve all all facets of our wellbeing. There is no doubt that this year has bought a series of collective turbulent and difficult experiences, which has been challenging for everyones mental health and has caused heightened emotions. We must do all we can to support each other and their mental well-being to reduce feelings of fear, anxiety and sadness. Tuning In has been shown to help build self-awareness, help make effective choices, reduce the impact of worry, and build positive connections. By Tuning In to communities we can help ensure that people who need support have safe places to talk about their experiences and reach out, and not be impacted by the negative mental health stigmas.
In honour of the 2020 Mental Health Awareness Week, and in alignment with this year’s theme of ‘tune in ’ here are some of the things that I will be practicing this month. You can too, to improve and preserve your mental health, go inwards and truly connect with and support yourself and others.
- Be kind to yourself: Tune in on your inner dialogue. When you’re feeling down, it can be easy to start thinking negatively about ourselves. Take a step back from that and create a loving space and envision of how you would speak to and treat someone you love that’s going through the exact experience. Forgive yourself for any mistakes or let-downs, and show yourself some kindness, compassion and support.
- Find regular time to meditate: Meditation is a brilliant way to quiet the mind and turn your attention inwards. You could even try burning some sage or a scented candle whilst you do this. Find a comfortable setting to sit and close your eyes. Invite gratitude, mindfulness, and love into your space. Hold in these thoughts. Tune in on your breathing. Breathe in: send love to yourself. Breathe Out: send love to someone who needs it.
- Tune in on social media: Follow mental health, health and wellbeing and/or self love focused Instagram pages for some handy self-kindness tips and mental health support and services. My top ten that I highly recommend are:
- Watch/listen to some personal development exercises such as TED Talks, podcasts, or books.
- Gratitude journaling and affirmations: write down three things you love about yourself, three things you‘re grateful for, and three goals for the day/week ahead. If you need further help with this, check out Louise Hay’s YouTube channel on positive affirmations, power thoughts and gratitude.
- Get out and tune in with nature; Spending time in nature has been found to help with mental health problems including anxiety and depression.
- Look after your body: Feed your body wholesome rich, balanced and brain stimulating diet. Regular exercise is known to boost your endorphins and to help tap in on certain areas of the body.
- Connect with your nearest and dearest for support to lift your spirits: Swap stories, share thoughts and feelings, enjoy meaningful experiences together. If you need help, remember to ask (no one can read minds)
- Seek support from services in your community or organisations such as Headspace, Beyond Blue and Kids Helpline to have a chat to trained professionals.
In past years, we have seen Individuals from all walks of life celebrate and carrying out beautiful measures as they joining in on the theme associated with Mental Health Awareness Month by sharing their stories and pictures on social media channels and using the hash tags.
Let’s reflect on this notion on tuning in, especially during this unprecedented time where we all need it the most. For the rest of October and the months that follow, make your mental health a priority and understand its importance. Make a promise to yourself to make the necessary changes in your life to continue to tune in to yourself and practicing mindfulness, self-care and self-kindness within you and the world around you. Finally, please remember, YOU ARE NOT ALONE -The sun will always shine through when you’re feeling anxious.
For further information about 2020 Mental Health Month, how you can get involved as well as a detailed guide and resources on how to ‘tune in’, visit WayAhead
What are you doing to ‘Tune In’ this Mental Health Month and help creating a world we can all Tune In to? Tell us in the comments below.
Written by Olivia Wells