Now that spring is upon us, it’s time to spring clean. And I’m not just talking about your living room or your kitchen. It’s also time for a mental health check-up. Studies show that warm weather is just the thing to give you a well-deserved mental boost. However, warm weather alone isn’t going to relieve stress, anxiety or depression.
Given that African-Americans are 20 percent more likely to experience mental health issues than the general population, and black women are more likely to experience physical symptoms related to mental health problems, it is important for you to remember to give yourself a generous dose of love and self-care.
Here are some changes you can make in your day to day that will help you put a spring back in your step:
- Meditate. There’s an app for that. If you don’t know how to meditate or what type of meditation is for you, there are many apps which can help you meditate on the go. For practicing mindfulness, a type of meditation in which you practice being hyper-aware of what is going on around you, check out these app suggestions. The best part is you can include it in your day to day routine without disrupting your normal patterns. If mindfulness isn’t for you, try a meditation app for guided relaxation techniques. To engage with other black women in your community, check out the app “The Safe Place”, a mental health app geared toward the black community. The point is to engage in a little self-care for your spirit by cleaning out negative mental energy, it can make a huge difference in your day.
2. Spring clean. Maybe you’re the type of person that feels most comfortable in a clean home. Take some time to tidy up. While you’re at it, get mentally organized. Start a to-do list, update your calendar, then call someone you haven’t talked to in a while. Having a good conversation with someone can really improve your mood after a long day. There are a lot of resources which can help you get organized and get productive, check out these books suggested by life strategist Carmen Sakurai.
- Get some sleep. Stress, anxiety, or depression can drastically change one’s sleep schedule. A study on racial disparities in sleep health show that black women, after black men, reported the shortest sleep durations and have lower sleep quality than their white counterparts. Making it a point to get adequate sleep could make all the difference in the quality of your day. If you’re having trouble, try drinking tea before bed. Tea, depending on the kind, can have a calming, cleansing effect on the brain and help mentally prepare you for some well-deserved sleep. Try these non-caffeinated herbal teas. However, before you go to sleep, you might want to clean your room. Clearing clutter and clean sheets are shown to improve sleep.
4. Exercise. Commit yourself to 30 minutes of activity. Spring is the perfect time to start a gym-free, outdoor exercise routine. Aerobic exercises such as jogging, swimming, cycling, walking, or gardening have proven to reduce anxiety and depression. Exercise can also improve self-esteem and cognitive function. Just make it a point to walk around your neighborhood or community. You’ll get the benefit of your daily dose of vitamin D from the sun, time to practice mindfulness, or time to get your mind off your to-do list.
- Consult a professional. Make room in your life for a little assistance by talking to a professional. If you’ve been feeling down and just can’t seem to shake the feeling, there’s no harm in consulting to your primary care doctor about seeing a mental health professional. African-Americans, though more likely to experience mental health issues, are less likely to seek help. However, there’s no shame in admitting to needing guidance.
If you can’t afford help, try calling the following resources for professional consultation or support: Access HelpLine (1-888-793-4357) provided by the Department of Behavioral Health; Mental Health America – For a referral to specific mental health service or support program in your community (1-800-969-6642); National Alliance on Mental Illness – Provides support, information, and referrals (1-800-950-6264)