GUEST COLUMN | Tips for better mental health
May is Mental Health Awareness Month.
By Misty Servia / Special to The Bradenton Herald
Editor’s note: If you or someone you know is considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or suicidepreventionlifeline.org, or call the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay by dialing 2-1-1.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and as it comes to a close, I wanted to write about the importance of mental health for our community.
Our daughter is a mental health counselor, and I enjoy the way her mind works to help others who are struggling. But even before her career started, I enjoyed reading about life skills and coping mechanisms to deal with everyday life.
As a county commissioner, I feel that I have a ring-side seat to both good and bad examples of mental health. Here are some nuggets that I hold close:
Nurture good relationships. Relationships are the foundation of our world. Nothing is more important than our family and friends, so put them at the top of your priority list, and work to grow your network and deepen the relationships. Human connection is important and building a strong support system of good people helps us to be solid and happy, no matter the struggle of the moment.
Helping others. They say that altruism is hardwired into the human brain, and we get a shot of dopamine when we give willingly of our time or resources. Maybe that’s it, but it also gives purpose to our lives. When we come across people who are struggling with sadness or depression, suggest that they get out and find a way to help someone else. There is always someone who needs help and pitching in to help them through a struggle has a magical way of helping ourselves at the same time. It’s like a BOGO sale!
Self-Awareness. This is one of my favorites, and we all have blind spots in this category. When we know who we are and can see ourselves as others see us, we have the ability to build stronger relationships, communicate more effectively, and relate to others. Seeking feed-back and having empathy for others broadens our capacity to process information and make better decisions. And good self-awareness gives us the vision to be more effective leaders and less likely to lean on white lies and twisted perceptions to reach conclusions.
Practice Gratitude. I first leaned the power of gratitude in 2003 when my mother was dying of cancer. Everything seemed so hard and I decided to journal about each day to help process the pain, but ended each writing with the five things I was grateful for. They were small things in a world of pain, but it taught me that focusing on the good things shifts your whole perception of the world. It made me stronger in the face of chaos and sadness, realizing that there is always something to be grateful for.
Take a walk. I can’t remember one time after a walk that I was upset that I took the time to do it. It helps me to process the moments of the day, boost energy, and even sleep better. The best walks are through one of our preserves, where I will skip the headphones and take in the sounds of nature and the beauty of silence. But even a short walk through the neighborhood allows me to catch up on a book on audible and put aside the daily demands and pressures.
Finally, seek help from a professional. There is no shame in asking for help from a professional. In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, let’s all work together to remove the stigma of mental health challenges and silence the shame by acknowledging that life is hard and it’s okay to reach out for help during those hard moments.
Misty Servia is a Manatee County Commissioner representing District 4 and can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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