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Mental Health Awareness Month

As I'm sure most of you are aware, May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

One of my personal goals is to be open and honest about my own personal mental health struggles, aiming to destigmatize discussing it. Even if it's just a little bit.

I believe the more open we are and the more we talk about mental health, the better we can help each other and recognize our own needs as they arise.

I think American culture is getting better when it comes to recognizing the importance of taking care of your mental health, but better isn't always enough. We need to keep the ball moving and topic fresh in everyone's mind.

So this month, I want to share things that have helped me with my own struggles.

And my first contribution to this topic (since I'm late to the party) is how I help myself regulate when things get to be too much:

  • Get some sleep.

    • Use melatonin as needed.

    • My brain can sometimes just really get away from me and cause havoc in my sleep schedule, so I give myself a reset with a melatonin as needed. I use the low dose over the counter stuff (non-habit forming). It's a travel must for me as well, since I never do well in unfamiliar spaces the first few nights.

    • Listen to meditation music or sleep meditations.

      • If I am really wired, these don't always help, especially since I start get frustrated with the outside noise mingling with the inside noises. But, when I can tell I'm having a rougher time than normal, I use them regularly and train my brain to settle down as soon as I turn them on. I use the free ones on YouTube, and honestly sleep through the post-video ads just fine.

    • Use an eye mask.

      • I sleep with an eye mask regularly now, but when I started to, it was so I forced the outside world to be ignored while in bed. I also use it when traveling, so that I am not disturbed by the travel noises while on the plane.

    • Set a bedtime.

      • Yep. I treat myself like a toddler and set a time I have to start winding down and getting ready to sleep. I set my phone to go into night mode at 10PM and that's normally my signal to myself as well to put it away.

  • Manage stimulus.

    • Music, shows, podcasts.

      • I love having noises around me. It helps me manage my focus, and I have found that if I don't have some sort of external stimulus, I will not focus until I seek it out again. I have to have my distraction at the ready and choose to ignore it or I won't be able to function.

      • That being said, I need to make sure I'm not listening or watching anything that will get too dark. I have noticed that if I get too far into a true crime show or podcast, I have an overall harder time. Same with sad music. So if I know I'm not 100%, I actively seek out things I am familiar with that are more upbeat or not as dramatic. This can be a challenge, especially if I'm in the middle of a dramatic moment in a series, but I need to remember that it will still be there when I'm more regulated.

    • Keep myself busy.

      • I can easily rot away in bed as soon as the work day is over, and I need to not do that to myself. I will quickly loose track of time, and suddenly it's dark and it's my bedtime and I've accomplished nothing for me outside of work. That's not the best for me, because I quickly start feeling like I'm letting myself down or that I'm not succeeding with taking care of myself.

      • I love to do projects, and that's where my temperature blanket can come in hand. It's a project that is not daunting, has accessible goals for me, and keeps my hands busy.

    • Journaling.

      • Oh boy, do I need to get back at being better about this. When I was a regular journaler, I was able to recognize patterns in my moods, triggers, and focus on the happy. It wasn't the easiest habit to get into for me, because I hated journaling as a kid, but once I had it down, I was doing much better. I will be making a post about my journal suggestions and how get started, because it really did help me.

    • Planning for something fun.

      • I love exploring the world, and doing fun things, like going to museums. When I'm feeling really down or very anxious about the future, I set it to the side and look into something fun I can do, either that weekend or in the future. Right now, I've got a trip to Scotland coming up, followed by a stay in Chicago, so thinking about those and planning things to do during them helps me stay less doom and gloom.

      • I also have google alerts for cheap flights to different places in the world, so I can sometimes look at see if I could swing a trip, even if it's not feasible.

  • Keeping consistent.

    • Move the body.

      • Hey, there was once upon a time I did hard core Pilates and was getting all sorts of in shape. Those days are not these days, but I still try to keep my body moving at least once a day. Right now it's the daily doggy walks, and that's getting me slowly back into cardio vascular shape, which is the best first step for me. One day I'll be more physical in my movements, but a wiggle and waggle here and there is what I manage, and that's okay.

    • Take the meds.

      • Oofdah, those meds make all the difference for me. I need to take them every morning with my coffee, or I won't take them at all. I've tried to remove coffee from my diet, since caffeine isn't always the best choice for someone with anxiety, but I've found that if I don't drink a cup of coffee, it's simply like my meds don't exist. So that's a battle I'm not fighting at the moment, and coffee doesn't cause as many problems as missing a dose does.

What are your tricks for staying regulated and/or consistent on your mental health journey?

Love always, Laura Ann

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