Posted in Awareness, Get Connected

August Mental Health Check In

Better late than never!  It took me way too long to prepare an August post, but I’m back!  You would think someone who has been on a mental health journey for more than half her life, and writing about it for nearly three years, would have no trouble at all finding a topic for this month’s blog post.  Well, not this gal.  My brain is either frazzled with anxiety, foggy with depression, or all of the above and wants to shut down completely.  The struggle is absolutely real and you are never alone when it comes to your mental health journey.

I took the month of July off to sort of re-group and get back into the blogging groove.  In June, I wrote about grief and your mental health.  That’s pretty much what my July was filled with.  Grief.  The intense pain and sadness while mourning the loss of my best friend was almost unbearable, and really took a toll on my mental health and well-being.  If you are local, you may know that the community of Pipestone lost a young, forty-five year old wife and mother of six children to Metastatic Breast Cancer.  She was diagnosed after her very first mammogram at the age of forty and fought the disease for almost five years.  Although there was no cure, her treatments prolonged her life as long as she could tolerate.  She had amazing strength and will forever be loved and missed!

That brings me to this month’s mental health check in post.  August is National Wellness Month, or also called Self-Awareness Month.  This month is observed to remind us to promote healthy routines, manage our stress, and focus on self-care.  It is the perfect time to focus on taking care of yourself physically, emotionally, and mentally.  These three things will definitely go hand in hand.  If you are thriving with one, you are more than likely thriving with all.  But a simple setback, either physical or emotional, can really alter your mental clarity.

Let’s start with promoting healthy routines.  There is a long list of things we do on a daily basis that can be overwhelming.  Whether it is working, grocery shopping, cleaning, making sure you get the kids to school and practices on time, or even just getting enough sleep.  (Does anyone else do the “If I fall asleep right now, I’ll get this much sleep” math at night?)  There seems to never be enough time during the day and it can feel impossible to finish every task.  And if you already struggle with a mental health concern, like depression or anxiety, it can be even harder to take care of yourself.  Here are some tips for success from Mental Health America.  They also have a PDF from Tools 2 Thrive for Creating Healthy Routines.

  • Create a routine that is right for you.  We don’t all have the same schedules and some of us struggle with certain parts of our day more than others.  Your routine may not be exactly the same every day, but all routines should include eating a nutritious diet, exercise, and getting enough sleep.
  • Start small.  Changing your routine all at once probably won’t get lasting results.  Small changes add up.  It could be just adding something new and positive, or cutting out a bad habit.
  • Make swaps.  Take away something that isn’t so healthy and swap it for a better behavior.  Do you feel sluggish in the afternoon and find yourself eating sugary snacks?  Try taking a brisk walk to get your blood pumping and your endorphins flowing.
  • Plan ahead.  When life gets hectic, try doing things like meal prepping or picking out an outfit the night before work.  If you can’t make it to the gym, try a home workout instead.
  • Reward yourself for small victories.  Set goals and celebrate when you reach them.  Have you worked out every day as planned?  Treat yourself!
  • Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day.  Making changes is hard and you might forget to do something new once in a while.  You don’t have to be perfect, just try to do better the next day.

Next is managing stress.  Stress affects your entire body, both mentally and physically.  But when stress is intense and frequent, it can strain your body and make it impossible to function.  Some common signs include headaches, trouble sleeping, mood swings, difficulty concentrating, and feeling overwhelmed.  Stress can contribute to worsening symptoms of your mental illness.  Knowing your triggers is the first step in coping with this experience.  Everyone has their own threshold.  Once you’ve learned what your triggers are, experiment with coping strategies.  Here are some ways to reduce stress from NAMI.

  • Accept your needs.  Recognize what situations make you physically and mentally agitated.  Once you know this, you can avoid them when possible.
  • Practice relaxation.  Take a break to refocus.  Deep breathing, meditation, and relaxation are good ways to calm yourself.
  • Set aside time for yourself.  Schedule something that makes you feel good.  It might be a movie, a massage, or even just reading a book.
  • Eat well.  Well-balanced and nutritious, like whole grains, vegetables, and fresh fruit.
  • Get enough sleep.  Symptoms of some mental health conditions can be triggered by getting too little sleep.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs.  They don’t actually reduce stress.  In fact, it often will worsen it.
  • Talk to someone.  Whether to family, friends, a counselor, or a support group, airing out and talking can help.

And finally, self-care.  Take the time to do things that help you improve both your physical and mental health.  Even small acts of self-care can have a big impact.  Here are some tips from the National Institute of Mental Health to help you get started.

  • Get regular exercise.
  • Eat healthy, regular meals and stay hydrated.
  • Make sleep a priority.
  • Try a relaxing activity.
  • Set goals and priorities.
  • Practice gratitude.
  • Focus on positivity.
  • Stay connected.

Self-care looks different for everybody.  It may take trial and error to find what works best for you.  Although self-care is not a cure for mental illnesses, understanding your symptoms and coping techniques can help you manage your mental health.  Don’t wait until your symptoms are overwhelming.  If you are experiencing severe or distressing symptoms, seek help.  Talk about your concerns with your primary care provider and they can refer you to a mental health professional, if needed.

Stay tuned for a September check in for National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.  In the meantime, stay happy, healthy, and safe! ~Sally~


Meinders Community Library is a combined school and public library that serves the residents of Pipestone County in Southwestern Minnesota. It is part of the Plum Creek Library System.