How to Focus on Mental Health this Women’s Health Month
By Lashonda Jones, PhD, RN, and Clara Lora Ospina, PsyD
Every May, we celebrate Women’s Health Month and encourage women to see their primary care doctor, monitor their blood pressure and heart health, receive routine mammograms, and more. While all of those things are important, we have to remember to take care of our minds along with our bodies.
You do not need to be depressed, anxious, or in crisis to tend to your mental health.
The wellbeing of your mind can affect all aspects of our life, which is why it’s important to monitor and manage your mental health on a regular basis.
Many women don’t take adequate time for themselves, which can slowly affect their wellbeing in small and big ways. Like most things in life, mental health problems are better dealt with sooner rather than later.
This May, we encourage women of all ages to reflect on their mental health and learn how and when to seek help to ensure they are feeling their best both inside and out. Here are some ways you can start managing your stress, anxiety, and overall mental wellbeing today.
Think About Your Thoughts
How often do you evaluate your thoughts? Our thoughts lead to feelings, which lead to specific behaviors. This chain reaction can be helpful when thinking positive thoughts, but it can be detrimental if your thoughts are overly negative.
It’s important to really think about your thoughts and question them. Are they fact or assumption? How do they make you feel? Are they helping you or hurting you? If you notice your thoughts are often negative, seek the help of a therapist. They can assist you in developing skills that allow you to notice negative patterns and manage your thoughts in a healthier way.
Watch out for “all or nothing” thinking, as well as words like “always” or “never.” Do not try to avoid difficult or challenging emotions and feelings. It is much healthier to deal with your feelings so you can process them and move on.
We breathe all day without thinking about it, but when you are dealing with large emotions or stress, it can do wonders to sit still and focus on your breath. When in a pinch, try box breathing. Here’s how it works: breathe in while counting to four, then hold it for four counts. Slowly release the breath for four counts, pause for four counts, and then start again. Do this for a few minutes to help calm your breathing, pulse, and heartrate.
These days, we are constantly taking in information through our televisions or mobile devices. We are listening, watching, and scrolling with few breaks for quiet time alone. If you’re having a rough day, experiencing increased anxiety, or managing big emotions, it may be helpful to take a break from screens until you feel calm and centered. Aim to do this throughout the day.
Go for a Walk
Walking is good for your body and great for your mind, too. Walking, especially when done outdoors, can help reduce anxiety and stress, assist with processing events and emotions, and provide a great outlet to unwind. Try to take walks regularly, but especially during busy or stressful days.
Just like walking, research has shown that mediation can do wonders for your overall health. The benefits of meditation are numerous – it can help you manage stress, quiet your frenetic mind, calm anxiety, help you sleep better, and more.
Try different options to find one that feels right for you.
Don’t Wait to get Help
The number one mistake we see patients make is waiting until challenges are overwhelming and feel unmanageable before seeking help. We believe everyone should have a therapist. Think of your mind like a machine or car that you must take care of regularly for it to work properly. How would your car operate if you never changed the oil or took it in for service?
Therapy can and should be used to help people maintain and give time, attention, and focus to their mental health. If you’re in a good place, you don’t need to see a therapist every week, but enough to ensure you are continuing healthy habits.
We know it can be difficult to open up to someone about your internal thoughts, feelings, and challenges – but that is why finding a therapist you connect with and trust is so important.
Remember, taking care of your mind is a critical part of taking care of your health. Start taking daily or weekly actions, so you can feel your best and show up as your best self for others.
Lashonda Jones, PhD, RN, is the chief nursing officer at Jackson Behavioral Health Hospital and Jackson Community Mental Health Center. Clara Lora Ospina, PsyD, is a licensed clinical psychologist and clinical director of the Adult Outpatient Center for Behavioral Medicine at Jackson Behavioral Health. Jackson Health System offers inpatient, outpatient, and telehealth behavioral health services. For more information visit https://jacksonhealth.org/services/mental-behavioral-health/.