Mental health should be a priority for everyone, no matter how functional and happy you seem. People are expected to get preventative medical screenings like their annual physical, dental checkups, pap smear, or eye exam to monitor anything that may need more attention; so checking in with your mental health regularly should be required since it will help nurture your emotional, psychological and social well-being. Promoting good mental health helps us cope better with life’s challenges, where how you may or may not manage them can determine how you feel, think, and act.
For people with depression, anxiety, and other disorders, dealing with mental health is an everyday occurrence. World Mental Health Day falls on October 10th, which aims to raise awareness of how prevalent mental health concerns are. Having mental health problems doesn’t mean that you’re crazy, weak, dangerous, or destined to live a life without friends, a job, or romantic relationships. Statistics show that one in five Americans will experience a mental illness at some point in their life. Mental health issues are more common than one would think, even among people who may look like they have it all together.
Taking care of your mental health and being compassionate towards other people’s mental health will help you reach your full potential. Making sure that you’re physically healthy is one thing, but ignoring your psychological state can negatively impact other aspects of your life. If you’re a desi with a lot on their plate—whether it’s prioritizing school, your personal goals, your finances, or your relationships—it’s overwhelming to think about how to fit in self-care.
Mental health doesn’t have to be something that you’re too busy for – just 15 minutes of your day can be dedicated to your mental health. With the holidays coming up soon this year, family get-togethers and major events can trigger negative emotions. Here are some tips to help you address what comes up for you during stressful times.
1) Remember That Your Feelings Aren’t Wrong
Others may have told you that you shouldn’t be feeling a certain way. You may also tell yourself, “I should feel differently about this situation.” You’re allowed to feel what you want, even if someone else doesn’t understand why you feel the way you do. Noticing what emotions come up for you is the first step with self-care. Being emotionally healthy doesn’t mean that you’re happy all of the time. If you are feeling sad, angry, anxious, insecure or having conflicting emotions, it’s valid. You don’t always have to push away what you’re feeling.
2) Question Any Negative Thoughts That You Have About Yourself
If you grew up being scrutinized by your elders, you might have become very critical towards yourself. The criticism that you heard from others in your life may have become your own inner dialogue. Start looking for any evidence that challenges the things that you tell yourself. I had an Indian client tell me that she thought that she was stupid. I said, “You’re a law student, who is at the top five percent of her class. You have always done well in academics.” Even though she felt that she was stupid, the reality was that she was seen as competent among her peers. Whatever negative things that you think about yourself aren’t necessarily rooted in fact. Chances are that you may be harder on yourself than how the everyday person sees you.
3) Internalize Your Strengths for Mental Health
Compliments from others feel great, but you don’t have to wait around for other people to acknowledge what you’re good at. Start saying positive things to yourself, like “It’s okay that I made a mistake. I will do better next time,” “I am enough as I am and don’t need to be perfect,” “I am good at being courteous and professional at my job” or “I have the ability to create a much better life, even though things are hard now.” If you know that you’re a resilient South Asian who has overcome a lot of adversity, own it. You are your best advocate when it comes to the script that plays in your head.
4) Identify What You are Grateful For
We all have bad experiences, and it stinks. Seeing what you’re grateful for, despite those negative experiences, can help you feel happier and satisfied with what you got. Deciding to break up with someone may have led you to feel depressed, but you may be feeling grateful that you’re single and not tied down to anyone anymore. Losing your job may have been a major disappointment, but you might be feeling grateful that you can find something better. Start making a list writing down 10 things that you’re grateful for every day, and see how that impacts you.
[Read Related: Suicide in South Asian Cinema: Romanticized or Reality?]
5) Do Not to Label Others as “Crazy”
It’s one thing to take care of your mental health, but how can you be supportive of other people’s mental health? If you’re calling other people crazy for being different from you, you’re not doing much to help reduce the stigma towards mental health (especially when you have your own diagnosis). Calling other people with mental health issues “crazy” can be hurtful and hinder people’s progress. You don’t know exactly what each individual is going through, how hard they’re trying, and what struggles (like past trauma) they’ve had that have shaped how they are. It’s best to take a step back and be more compassionate before you label someone that you don’t know much about.
Stigma and dismissiveness towards mental health all over the world have created an environment where people are hesitant to seek the right type of help that they need. Being stigmatized and mislabeled by friends, family and professionals can be just as traumatic as struggling with mental health issues itself. The more we advocate for mental health being as important as our physical health, the less stigma there may be down the line. We can set a healthy example for others when we model being proactive with our own mental health. With World Mental Health Day, let’s foster a sense of understanding and encourage people to get the unconditional support and acceptance that they deserve!