Mental Health Awareness Month: Tips for Living in the Moment and Relaxing

Katie PeckKatie Peck is the Director of Integrated Programming at Easter Seals Iowa. She has worked at Easter Seals Iowa for 10 ½ years and loves celebrating small successes that clients make through our programming, and recruiting and retaining the best and the brightest team members into our agency to provide hope to those we work with. Katie currently oversees our two adult day programs, CSI (Clients Socially Integrated) and Life Club, our Hourly Supported Community Living program and Targeted Case Management. She enjoys spending time in nature and playing games with her two children and husband.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Here at Easter Seals Iowa, we support individuals who have complex needs. Our reach is much farther than just those we support in programming. We also impact the lives of their loved ones through our supports. Our direct care professionals are also impacted through the care they are providing.

• 1 in 4 people are affected by mental illness
• Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death
• Children with anxiety disorders are less likely to receive treatment
• 1 in 30 people experience PTSD

Caregivers experience mental health too, often referred to as secondary trauma or compassion fatigue. As caregivers to others in any capacity: as a parent to a child, a teacher to a student, support staff to an individual, peer to peer, nurse to patient, it is imperative that we protect our own mental health needs to best support others. Often times, we put our own needs to the side, saying that it’s selfish or not the right time, or that someone else’s needs are greater than your own. As the saying goes, “you can’t pour from an empty cup.”

With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, it is a great time to reflect on where you are personally to recharge and refuel, not just during May, but in all 12 months of the year.

Easy and low cost ways to support your own mental health both now and later:
• Blow bubbles –it not only helps you breathe deeply, but without a doubt you will smile.

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• Use a stress ball or a fidget; there are tons of cheap options or you can make your own!
• Write a letter or thank you note to give to someone.
• Disconnect from social media – before bed for sure!
• Make a list of three things that made you smile.
• Stand up and STRETCH.
• Look at a picture of something that makes you happy.
• Say “I can do this” or “I GET to do this” rather than “I HAVE to do this”.
• Play with a pet.
• Take a long shower or bath.
• Take a short walk.
• Clean something.
• Listen to music.
• Read – a magazine or a book.
• Schedule time with friends or make a phone call rather than texting.
• Sit for five minutes, breathe, and identify five things you can see with your senses –what do you see, smell, feel, hear, taste?
• Smile at yourself in the mirror. Do it big and cheesy if you need to–even if you don’t want to. You won’t be able to help but smile for real after faking it.
• Ask someone for help.
• Take a different route home or to work.
• Accept today for today.

I challenge you to make a list of things that bring you joy, compare this to what you do every day, and find a way to build small times of “you” time into each day. Too often we rush, rush, rush, only to find the day is over and we didn’t stop for a second. Take a small moment, close your eyes, and just…be. You owe it to yourself.

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