May is Mental Health Awareness Month. On this episode, Melissa and Siria discuss the importance of reducing the stigma on mental health to help normalize mental health issues as a lot more people are dealing with them than you may think. They discuss the various stigmas, early warning signs, and share insight on tools that have helped them deal with life’s many ups and downs.
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Mental Health Tips Made Easy
On this episode, you will learn the importance of Mental Health Awareness. We discuss the importance of reducing the stigma on mental health to help normalize mental health issues as a lot more people are dealing with them than you may think. Enjoy the show.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and it is very important to me personally and Melissa as well, to bring awareness to mental health specifically to lessen the stigma. That’s why I hold myself out as a mental health advocate. It’s important for us to take a moment to talk about what mental health is. Why is this important for us? Highlight that because it’s going to help us increase our well-being and more people than you think aren’t being impacted by mental health.
I’m glad that we are doing this episode because personally, I have experienced some stigma around mental health, particularly in my family. I know that I make it known here that I go to therapy. I’m a huge advocate for seeking out professional help and building support systems, but that was not well received within my family, particularly my father, which should probably surprise no one.
There are different stigmas that one can experience and awareness helps demystify or remove some of these stigmas. There are three different types of stigmas. You have the public stigma. It’s what I was talking about. There are these negative attitudes that my father and others have about mental illness. My father is quasi-religious. He’s like, “Why is it that you go? Are you not healed by now?” First of all, I want to be like, “I should be billing you or you should be reimbursing me for the amount of money that I have spent in therapy, but that’s neither here nor there,” but anyway, so that’s public stigma.
You then have self-stigma, which are negative attitudes that we hold. We might internalize shame. We might think of ourselves as a failure like, “My brain is faulty. I’m this huge disappointment.” It’s the narrative that you are telling yourself. The last stigma is institutional stigma, and this is more systemic and it involves policies and legislation that governmental agencies and private organizations, i.e. insurance companies that intentionally or unintentionally limit your opportunities to receive mental health treatment or care.
It’s great that we started with the stigma so that way you can see, “Here’s what it is,” but what is mental health? According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, mental health is defined as including our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.
Mental health is very important at every stage of life, from early childhood through adolescence through adulthood. When we are talking about mental health, we are talking about this thing that we think is outside of us but impacts every single aspect of our lives. It is so important that we have these conversations so that we understand what the stigmas are. I would say even what are the early warning signs that maybe you need to spend a little bit more time in this area of your life.
When we were talking about mental health, mental health helps with mental illness. Even that term in and of itself, when you think about mental illness, what image or what feeling comes to mind? To me, I picture someone with severe schizophrenia that is dangerous. I’m perpetuating the stigma.
That’s why that I purposefully didn’t use the word mental health or mental illness. When of mental illness, I’m thinking of the DSM-5 and a diagnosis that I say college would make and say, “You have all of these things. We need to put you on medication. We need to put you behind bars, in a padded room, or whatever. We need to do these things because you have this illness.” Mental health awareness is so much broader than having a diagnosis. Everybody will experience depression.
That’s what I was going to get to which you have a mental illness but then you also have mental conditions or disorders. The two most common health conditions that we see are anxiety disorders. This can include PTSD, OCD, panic attacks, just general anxiety, and then you have mood disorders. If you’ve ever suffered from depression or if you are bipolar, these are quite common. According to the CDC, in the United States alone, more than 50% of people will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lives, and 1 in 5 Americans will experience a mental illness or disorder.More than half of people will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lives. Click To Tweet
That’s the crazy part for me. It’s 1 in 5 people is going to have some issue with mental health. It was 1 in 6 young people experience a major depressive episode at some point, and 1 in 20 Americans lives with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, bipolar disease, or major depression. When we are talking about this, it isn’t just, “This is a small group of people. It doesn’t impact me.” That’s bullshit. It does impact you because you are going to know someone. In our squad that we call, we are five people. That means that one of us is always dealing with it and it’s not always me.
I was going to say I was going to volunteer as tribute. That’ll be me.
All of us have that, but all of this also comes with suicide and it is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. It’s the second leading because of death for people between the ages of 10 and 24, and in 2020, it took over 45,000 Americans’ lives. This is serious and that’s nearly double the amount of people lost to homicide.
I came across that statistic and it made me so sad. There was a study done in 2016 based on the stigma that concluded there is no country, society, or culture where people with mental illness or disorders have the same societal value as people without. We need to be able to break that because it’s so common and so prevalent, and I feel like talking about it and normalizing it. We are all of an equal value, and that’s so important to highlight.
I believe that it is. There are some early warning signs that the World Health Organization has put out. I wanted to walk through those because I can tell you, I went ahead and starred the ones that I feel like, “These are signs that I have or when I’m starting to have.” This is not to say that I don’t have issues right now because I’m still coming out of some existential depression according to my therapist. I wanted to point these out because sometimes we think, “It looks like somebody binging ice cream and not wanting to do anything,” and that is a sign of depression. There’s so much more nuance to all of this.
Going through the list, here are some early warning signs that someone may be experiencing some mental health problems for you to be on the lookout for either in yourself or those around you. 1) Eating or sleeping too much or too little 2) Pulling away from people and usual activities. 3) Having low or no energy. 4) Feeling numb like nothing matters. 5) Having unexplained aches or pains. 6) Feeling helpless or hopeless. 7) Smoking, drinking, and using drugs more than usual.
8) Feeling unusually confused, forgetful on edge, angry, upset, worried, or scared. 9) Yelling or fighting with your family and friends. 10) Experiencing severe mood swings because of problems in relationships. 11) Having persistent thoughts and memories you can’t get out of your head. 12) Hearing voices or believing things that are not true. 13) Thinking of harming yourself or others or the inability to perform daily tasks like taking care of your kids or getting to work or school.
At first, I was smiling because I was like, “Lack of sleep. Everything hurts.” I’m like, “I’m getting old,” and all this stuff. Some readers out there might be like, “That’s normal.” At what point do these symptoms maybe are concerning? Is it if it’s for prolonged periods of time? Is it if a person is like, “I have been feeling real shitty for a very long time. I need to get help. I have been to the doctor and they can’t find anything that’s wrong with me.”
This is a good time for us to point out that we are not psychologists and so this is based on our experience, but it’s when you start seeing the compounding of some of these things. If it’s just, “One day I didn’t get enough sleep and I’m sleeping too much,” you are going to be able to relate that. If you start seeing a pattern of things and in order for a pattern to emerge, it’s got to happen at least three times.
If you start, “I have low energy. I’m sleeping a lot. I don’t find the same joy that I did from the things that I had before,” these are things that could be a signal to you of, “Maybe I need to do something and take a look at this.” If there’s something wrong with your car, what do you do? You take it to the mechanic. If you fall down and you break a bone, if you don’t set it properly, you may lose function of that body part if you don’t go to the doctor. There are things that we do.
Taking care of your mental health isn’t any different. It’s good to sometimes get a check and see, “Is everything going well for me?” Everybody’s baseline is a little bit different, and so you need to be able to recognize and you’ll recognize around you, “Their baseline is off.” Sometimes being able to say, “I noticed that you haven’t been eating as much.” Not necessarily commenting on their weight but, “I noticed this change in you. What’s going on?” I think being there for people can give them the opportunity to say, “There is something.”
Oftentimes, we know when something’s wrong. I have a sibling who is contemplating going into therapy and has been saying that they were going to be going into therapy for years now, and I know that there’s some underlying issue, and then they told me like, “Now it’s time to go,” but it’s expensive. I shouldn’t say mental health for the wealthy.
There are free resources out there and you can hunt for them. What I was telling this particular sibling is yes, it can be pricey. Unfortunately, insurances either don’t cover it or they cover X amount for the year. Even though you might want to go quite regularly, there was a point in time when I was going at least once a week to my therapist because I was dealing with some intense feelings and emotions, but you don’t have to.
You can start off small. If you are trying to dip your toe into therapy, go once a month and see how that feels. I also want to point out that there have been instances where I have met with a counselor and I knew the way that person approaches situations and the way they talk with me wasn’t going to resonate with me.” You are worth so much and your mental health is priceless. If you feel like you are not jiving with this person, find someone else because you are worth it.
It is a little bit like dating and it may take some time for you to find the right fit, even if that sibling wants to go, and you can cover the cost that is associated with it. It is something that we talk about a lot or associate with, at least being able to get therapy. I heard the statistic that only 10% of people are going to a therapist. We are in that 10%. We are giving you this information. These are free resources and you will take what works for you and what doesn’t work for you as you continue forward. The bigger thing is that people think, “I should only go to mental health when I’m feeling bad or when things are going wrong.”
That might have been the trigger for both of us to initially seek out therapy. I know it certainly was for me, but prevention helps you get there. If you are in a good spot and you are like, “Things are going pretty well,” it’s a great time for you to explore maybe some of the issues or at least start building that network of support for yourself that will help you in the future.
They have shown that prevention does help and insurance companies should get behind it because it improves everybody’s well-being. It improves higher overall productivity and better educational outcomes. It can lower crime rates, produce stronger economies, and lowers healthcare costs. You have an improved quality of life, increased lifespan, and improved family life.
We did a whole episode on how stress alone impacts the various systems within our body. Mental health and physical health are so interconnected and equally important components of our overall health. If you are neglecting one, it’s going to impact the other. You would think as preventative care that, insurance would be like, “You should go.”Mental and physical health are so interconnected and equally important components of a person’s overall health. If you're neglecting one, it will impact the other. Click To Tweet
They are going to get there little by little and make sure that it isn’t just, “You need to be institutionalized. We’ll pay for it at this point.” It’s like, “No. There are things that we could do beforehand to make sure that people are doing well.” According to the WHO, there are four dimensions of health and there is physical, mental, social, and spiritual health. Those are the areas that you would want to make sure are being covered, and so insurance companies, what are you doing? It brings us to some of the suggestions that we have to help improve your mental health.
We talked about counseling. Counseling has been a big game-changer for me. I am a huge proponent of it because it helps challenge negative thoughts. I’m not going to push myself to an uncomfortable spot. Whereas my counselor, I had talked about and joked about her on the show before because she asked some hard and tough questions, and she’ll be like, “Do I have permission to hurt you now?”
I’m like, “Thank you for that emotional consent. Yes, you may,” and then she’ll ask the tough question. It pushes me further than I would have pushed myself because I know that you don’t have to. You can still grow and nurture yourself. There are a lot of self-help books and resources out there that you can do, but for me, I needed a counselor to push me beyond my comfort zone.
Having a counselor as part of my toolbox of mental health tools has been helpful. The most I have gone in years without going was that I was in maintenance for probably a good six months, and it was nice because I could lean on other tools and other things that I have. I’m going to keep it pretty simple because there are some things with our mental health that sometimes we try to overcomplicate things. Drink water some water. Melissa is giving me this look like, “I want to drink all the coffee.” You know what? We are made of water. Do something that will help nourish you. Drink some water. This is a great way to give yourself a little break and reset. Getting yourself some H2O is going to be my first tip.
I was telling now, even before we started this episode, that I had a hard time building show notes for this. When we are talking about mental health tips, there are going to be things that work for me that aren’t going to work for you and for Siria. What we are sharing right now are things that have worked for us, and so that’s why I mentioned counseling.
We have also talked about being outside and exercising. Those do wonderful things. I feel that as I was reflecting on this, for me personally, it’s practicing self-compassion. I know that I have shared on the show different stumbling blocks, obstacles, or learning moments. For example, the boundaries that I try to set with my mother.
Again, I had every good intention and then I yelled at her, and I would then I was mad at myself for not having responded the way that I had wanted to. I had to give myself self-compassion and a little bit of grace. I am working towards being more patient and building a relationship with my mother, learning how to set a healthy boundary and how to communicate that properly.
It may not go the way that you want it to go. What I have found in my work with counseling and stuff like that is that it’s not even necessarily learning new tips. It’s also unlearning a lot of the defense mechanisms that we have put up in place to protect ourselves. A lot of my work in therapy has been unlearning shit more than it is learning stuff.
I agree with that. What I would add to self-compassion is to say what you are thinking and feeling out loud, even if it’s to yourself. Sometimes being able to say it and hear yourself say it, there’s going to be a part of you that’s going to be like, “That’s some bullshit, Melissa.” You are trying and I’m trying. “I didn’t show up how I wanted to with my mom,” but it’s not as bad as it is. I have certainly done it with myself where I have said some of the things that I have out loud and I have been playing around with Matt on this.Self-compassion is saying out loud what you are thinking and feeling, even just to yourself. Click To Tweet
I will be like, “This is what went through my head,” and he’ll be like, “That’s mean.” “I know. I’m telling you what is going on in my head, and then I can acknowledge that’s a mean thing,” but I’m saying it to myself. “It wasn’t like I was telling you this mean thing about you. This is what I thought about myself at this moment.” He’s like, “That’s ridiculous.” I can’t think of the most recent example of me being a bitch to myself, but I can tell you that it was not an act of self-compassion, but saying it out loud minimized that bitchiness.
One of the things that I had to unlearn was challenging the narrative that I tell myself. Siria does an excellent job of telling me, “Does that story serve you right now?” “No, it doesn’t, but let me just tell it this way.” It’s easier for me to live into that narrative than it is to create a new one, and when you create the new one, you can start to live into that new narrative and it also does bring out self-compassion as a byproduct, which is nice.
The next thing that I would recommend is moving.
I was like, “I have daddy issues. I’m moving away from him.”
I move away. Get far away. Burn things out.
That’s exactly what I thought.
I’m saying, literally move your body. I’m not talking about exercise necessarily, but I found that one of the biggest things for me, especially when I was working in the high-paced environments of these law firms and feeling overwhelmed, is I would grab my headphones and I would go for a walk for 5 to 10 minutes enough to move my body and get me out of this space.
If looking at my laptop for 7 or 8 hours straight was driving me insane, I needed to go look at something else. Get out of that environment for enough time to let me know, “Things are okay,” whether it was going outside or taking that break. At that point, I’d probably grab my 3rd or 4th cup of coffee for the day. It’s all of those other things, but just moving. Even if you feel like, “I can’t do a whole lot,” shake up your body. Do something to physically move, and I found that always helps me reset.
The last one I got, and I have said this in several different episodes. I love being outside. There is something about being outside when you realize how small you are, like a small cog in the universe. It then puts your problems or your emotions into perspective.
I agree with that. There’s so much power in being in nature and being in the sun. I went to Florida, and my sister-in-law and the baby, unfortunately, suffer from eczema. Babies usually get baby eczema but this is a genetic condition, so we spend a lot of time inside. It was not awesome for someone like me who needs to spend more time outside, so I finally took myself to the beach. It was amazing because I knew what I needed for myself in that space. The last thing that I will add is more of a try not to do. I know a lot of you are going back into an office of some kind, but a lot of you are also still maybe being remote or doing some hybrid model. Avoid commingling your spaces.
Your bed is for sleep and for sex. That’s it. It’s not for watching TV. It’s not for doing all of your things on there. It confuses your body. Your workspace is your workspace. Don’t make it your play space. Try to keep those things relaxed and separate because your body and your mind will pick up the cues of this space like, “This is the space where we do work,” and so then it’ll get into a work mode. If you’ve now confused it with work and play and all these other things, it’s very hard for you to start fighting against those habits and those habit loops that you’ve created when you commingle your spaces.
Who or how? Does anybody commingle workspace with play space? I’m looking around in my office, which is where we do our episode and I was like, “This is not a place for fun. This is a place for work.” I don’t know how you do it, but if you can manage to make your workspace also your fun space, more power to you. I know you say not to, but I’m impressed.
It would be a matter of not having that separation. I noticed that there’s a particular space that I have for coaching, That’s where I coach. There’s another space where I like to read. That’s where I like to read and I keep those separate. As soon as I start watching my Netflix shows there or spending time on social media there, then it gets confused. It’s like, “What is this space for?” Avoiding co-mingling. I don’t know how you would combine the two other than not getting out of your office.
I’m feeling personally attacked right now. The whole purpose of this show is we share tips and tricks in terms of like how to live a more authentic life. I feel that embracing mental health and finding ways to improve can help you or help empower you to not only heal but to also become your more authentic self.
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