Self-Care Sunday: Protecting Your Mental Health
"I want everyone happy and smiling and feeling okay. Peace be with anyone struggling out there."
-Rapper Kid Cudi (@kidcudi) upon returning from rehab for depression and anxiety
Kid Cudi has made a triumphant return to the spotlight after checking himself into rehab to receive treatment for depression and anxiety and the drug use he engaged in to cope with them. If you followed his story, then you know there are two heartbreaking moments that happened: First, the rapper stated that he was ashamed and apologized for letting his fans down and second, many people in our community, including one of his fellow rappers thought it was okay or even funny to make jokes at his expense. Regardless of how you feel about Cudi or his public admittance of dealing with mental health issues, it is good to see a public figure engaging in this conversation.
Mental health distress is pervasive among the Black population. We have higher rates of overall sadness, hopelessness, worthlessness, and feeling that everything is an effort when compared to the White population. While, it is important to note that we are way less likely to commit suicide, it is also important to discuss that we are also less likely to seek and receive treatment for any mental illness. Mental illness is not something to feel ashamed about and it is certainly not something that should be hidden or ignored.
It is important to take the time to engage in activities to protect your mental health and increase your resiliency. We live in a time where we are constantly affected by negative images and information. This is on top of the life stresses which we are already dealing with. As someone who has has struggled with my own depression, I have learned the importance of protecting my mental health. I want to share some of my tips* to help keep you mentally healthy:
1. Use positive self-talk and imagery
Whether you attribute it to karma, God or something else, the best things do seem to happen to us when we visualize them, ask for them and remaining positive in our outlook. Give yourself pep talks when needed and if you feel down in the dumps, visualize your happy place and welcome all of those positive vibes.
2. Use your support system
Whether family or friends, your support system is one of the most important things you can have for your mental health. Your circle shouldn't just be for you to vent or cry to but should also be there to help get your mind off of the negative. It can be easy to push people away when things are not going how we envision, but research has shown that having positive, encouraging people around is one of the best ways to protect your mental health.
3. Take breaks from Social Media
If you're like me, your social media may be where you keep up with the news and what's going on in the world. This can be exhausting when you constantly wake up to a new #InsertUnjustlyKilledBlackPerson or a video of someone dying. To protect myself, I never watch those videos, no matter how many times I scroll past them. Do not hesitate to shut down all of your accounts when you need a break. Fill the time you would normally spend browsing Twitter and Facebook with something that brings you joy.
4. Pray and/or Meditate
Prayer and meditation are both excellent ways to remove negative thoughts and worries to find peace and stillness. If you believe in the power of prayer, then it can be a moving experience to put your faith to work. It is important to remember though that you may still need to seek further help beyond just prayers. Us Black folk sometimes have a habit of telling people to give it to God and ignore the fact that God might be saying to take your behind to the doctor. If you had cancer, would you only pray and not tap into the gifts that He provided to us to help with the treatment? Same with mental illness. There is absolutely nothing wrong with seeking help to supplement your prayers. He wouldn't have given us gifts, if He didn't want us to use them.
5. Set Goals
If you find yourself stressed about life's everyday problems like money, jobs and family, set goals to help cope with them. By setting REALISTIC goals, you can give yourself focus and direction. That feeling of accomplishing a goal, no matter how small, is amazing, so make sure you celebrate yourself every chance you get. Goal setting is a great way to build confidence! If you need help with properly setting goals, look into SMART goals. You can also try making a vision board as a way to visualize your goals.
6. Seek help
Listen, we all get down at times. We all have life events like losing a job, breaking up, or a death in the family. It is is perfectly normal to mourn these life changing events. But if your mourning phase lasts longer than a couple of weeks and begins to interrupt your daily life, it may be time to start looking into getting some professional help. I cannot emphasize enough that getting the help you need is nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about. It does not mean you are weak, it simply means you are human. Here are some resources to check out if you want to look into finding someone to talk to: African American Therapist directory, Black Psychologist directory.
For more information and detailed statistics visit: The Office of Minority Health
These are just some of my favorite ways to promote and protect my own mental health. How do you protect yours? Leave a comment below and share. Subscribe so you don't miss an update.
*I am not a licensed mental health practitioner. These tips, while grounded in research are not meant to be a treatment for anyone. If you are in need of help, please seek out a therapist or counselor.
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