May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I have to admit, even though it’s been observed in the United States since 1949, this is the first year I’m paying such close attention. What is it all about? Why are we talking about this, and why is this important to all of us?
As the Product Marketing Manager at Therachat, I spent the last few months researching mental health topics, listening to countless interviews with industry experts and talking to therapists and counselors of various backgrounds. I’ve also been self-reflecting because that’s what you tend to do after talking to a bunch of psychologists. It’s a bit like participating in one long therapy session every day of the week for 6 months. The effect of this on my life has been profound. So, let me share some of what I’ve learned in this intensive process.
Sometimes “Mental Health” Just Means “Mental Fitness“
The words “mental health” have a bit of a vibe to them. You know what I mean. It feels serious and, for those who struggle with severe disorders, it is. But for many of us, taking care of our mental health may simply mean forming good mental health habits and working on ourselves to live a fuller life. It’s about internal exercises that help us improve and evolve. Think of it as mental fitness.
The same way we struggle to eat right and commit to the right exercise routine, we struggle to identify and make time for ways to take care of our mental wellbeing. What’s worse is that we may not even realize that it’s necessary. It’s just not something that people talk about. Perhaps it’s because poor mental health habits can be easier to hide than poor physical health habits. As long as we somehow manage to get through the day, the subtle internal damage we cause by neglecting our mental health is not visible and, thus, easy to ignore. But why not just live better? Our mental health deserves the same love and attention we wish to give to our bodies. If living healthy is high on your list of priorities, mental health should be added the equation. It just makes sense.
Therapy Is Not All Talk
Good mental health habits are as important as good physical health habits, but who knows what good mental health habits are? You can certainly do a lot for your mental health by researching the subject on your own and practicing mindfulness (that’s a great start!). But just like with physical exercise, the right coach can help you take your self-care to the next level. It’s not uncommon to go to a nutritionist for nutrition advice or to exercise with a personal trainer. Well, think of therapists as mental health coaches.
One thing I’ve learned from the countless therapist interviews is that they are pretty awesome people, who know things. Things that can help you bring about real, meaningful, positive change. Sure, they are always there to listen, but there’s more to it. Good therapists carry real knowledge that can help you reprogram your own behavior and manage your thoughts. Just think about how powerful that can be. Think of those random, negative thoughts that pop up in your head and derail your day, or think of the occasional, mildly (or not-so-mildly) destructive behaviors that get in the way of your relationships, your work. The right therapist can help you learn to overcome yourself, to change by your own choice instead of some external factors beyond your control. Basically, therapy can help you get in the driver’s seat of your life. It’s worth a try. It’s worth several tries, since finding the right fit can take a few sessions with different therapists.
Self-Awareness is a Big Deal
Self-awareness can help separate our core personalities, the inherent character traits that make us unique, from the behavior patterns we’ve fallen into for whatever reason. It can help align our actions with our true values. It can help us overcome the parts of ourselves that get in the way of the life we want to live, make us better people. That’s a big deal. Maybe that’s why therapists put a lot of emphasis on it. Self-awareness seems to be the key ingredient in good mental health, which may sound like a no-brainer, but there’s really more to it.
The things I’m learning at Therachat from the inspiring, passionate therapists we talk to, are making me a better person. There’s just no denying it. Through self-awareness, I’m learning to separate certain feelings, thoughts, and behaviors from each other. Actually, keeping in mind that that’s even possible is helpful. I’m able to make more conscious choices and reduce knee-jerk reactions, which keeps me out of unnecessary trouble. I’m becoming more selective when it comes to what I allow myself to think, and I pause to question the thought process and change direction. I can live smarter. I try. It’s like a workout for my brain, which is firing in ways it hasn’t before. And it feels awesome!
So this year, I’m all about Mental Health Month. Let’s do this! Let’s talk about it, share our thoughts, compare notes and discuss (respectfully). This month, let’s start making mental health a priority!
Let us know your thoughts in the comments!
Written by Tatyana Vinogradova