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Prioritizing Mental Health and Self-Care

Posted on May 18, 2023 at 1:00 PM by Monica Clark

In a consumer culture where so much of our self-worth rests on our ability to produce, create, and accomplish, I myself have fallen victim to the idea that if I do not complete my to-do list, drink enough water, meditate, read, grocery shop, check in on my friends, clean the house, go for a walk, cook healthy meals, and put in time learning a new skill every day, I am failing. In a world where we put so much pressure on ourselves and compare our pursuits and accomplishments to our friends’ and people we follow on social media, we will never live up to the impossible standards we set for ourselves. 

During the month of May, I want us all to treat ourselves with a little more kindness and grace, which I know is easier said than done. Self-care to me often feels like another item on the never-ending list of things that need to be done instead of an opportunity to rest, reset, and regroup. I remember saying this to my therapist once, wondering how I was supposed to take care of my mental health when I didn’t have time to sleep let alone take a break. She came back with two things: 1. Instead of thinking of self-care as another thing to check off, think of it as a favor you’re doing to your future self; and 2. Know your boiling point. Let me explain.  

Do yourself a favor 

Self-care can come in many forms. It might be making an appointment with a massage therapist, setting up a time to hang out with friends, ordering out instead of cooking, turning off your phone and going for a walk, or buying yourself a treat. All of these are valid and important, but self-care can also look a lot more mundane. 

Self-care can look like planning a quiet morning for your next day off, setting out everything you need for work the next day, making a playlist full of happy songs you love for your commute, or setting an alarm for that thing you keep putting off. Taking care of yourself doesn’t always need to look like an opportunity for an Instagram post. 

Don’t be a frog in a slowly boiling pot 

Imagine you walk into a life where you’re working twelve-hour shifts, cooking for your family two times a day, taking a night-class, working out every morning, helping a friend deal with a break-up, renovating part of your house, and dealing with all of this without a reliable means of transportation. If all of this happened to you at once, you’d immediately start problem-solving, figuring out what can be cut out or delegated to alleviate stress and get back time.  

In reality, I’m betting a lot of us have lives not too dissimilar to what I described above, and many of us are used to hectic and incredibly stressful lives full of familial, professional, and personal pursuits taking up our available time and energies, and we consider this to be normal and just part of life. Many don't have the luxury of working less or delegating family responsibilities. Many struggle with financial hardship, are single parents, or have obligations unable to be passed off.  

What I appreciate about my therapist’s suggestion is figuring out my own personal warning signs of things being too much. If I’m waking up exhausted, eating out a lot, not texting my friends, or isolating myself, these are warning signs that something needs to give. Knowing when too much is too much is vital to maintaining sanity and taking care of our own mental health. Don’t be the frog in the slowly boiling pot of water, not realizing until it’s too late that you’re in too deep. Know the warning signs, and make an action plan. Let others in your life know when things get too tough and you need help.  

Other ways to take care of yourself this month 

There is a wealth of information and resources available to boost your mental health awareness. If your mental health is already a top priority or if you’re new to actively taking care of your brain and don’t know where to start, hopefully one of these links below will guide you in the right direction.

Listen to a podcast 
  1. On Our Minds: from PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs “high school juniors Noah Konevitch and Zion Williams offer first-person narratives and introspective discussions with experts on what mental health looks like for young people like themselves” via Goodgoodgood 

  1. Therapy for Black Girls: “weekly conversation with Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, a licensed psychologist in Atlanta, Georgia, about all things mental health, personal development, and all the small decisions we can make to become the best possible version of ourselves” via Spotify 

  1. Mental Illness Happy Hour: “Comedian Paul Gilmartin...interviews comedians, artists, friends, and the occasional doctor about their experiences with mental illness, trauma, addiction, or negative thinking” via Goodgoodgood 

  1. The Happiness Lab: “You might think you know what it takes to lead a happier life...more money, a better job, or Instagram-worthy vacations. You’re dead wrong. Yale professor Dr. Laurie Santos has studied the science of happiness and found that many of us do the exact opposite of what will truly make our lives better...The Happiness Lab with Dr. Laurie Santos will take you through the latest scientific research and share some surprising and inspiring stories that will change the way you think about happiness” via 

Read a book about mental health 
  1. List from Oprah Daily 

  1. 12 Best Mental Health Books from Healthline 

  1. 15 Mental Health Books to Read in 2023 from Leaders 

Consume good news websites 
  1. Good News Network 

  1. A  Plus 

  1. Reasons to be Cheerful 

Attend a webinar 
  1. What Works for Improving Mental Health in Higher Education? June 14 | 12:00 p.m. ET The mental health crisis in higher education impacts entire campus communities, and senior leaders are looking for ways to best address it. In this webinar, we will unpack evidence-based practices that support student mental health and the importance of assessment before and after interventions. This discussion will center on evaluation, data, what works, what has little evidence, and what can impact the future of mental health on campus. Registration: 

  1. Attend a course with the Scanlan Center for School Mental Health online.  

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