What to Really Prioritize This Year

New year, new you, right? It’s always around this time that everyone climbs aboard the self-improvement bus, searching for ways to better themselves. And it’s all with good measure, don’t get me wrong, but we could be overlooking some of the most basic necessities. This year, along with pledging to make moves in your career and cut down on the late-night snack binging, I’m urging you to make a commitment to prioritizing your mental health. Listen, I know you’re busy. I know you’re stressed. These are all the more reasons to focus on your mental hygiene. What does that mean exactly? Why I’m glad you asked! Mental hygiene includes anything that aids in the upkeep of your mental health. Just as brushing your teeth and showering regularly are ways to take care of your physical hygiene, there are methods of ensuring the same freshness for your mind!

Before I get into some best practices for taking care of your own mental health, I just want to spit a few quick stats! According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)…

- Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experience mental illness in a given year

- 18.1% of adults in the U.S. have experienced an anxiety disorder

- Mood disorders, including major depression, dysthymic disorder and bipolar disorder, are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the U.S. for both youth and adults aged 18–44

- Only 41% of adults in the U.S. with a mental health condition received mental health services in the past year

As you can see, millions of Americans are impacted by mental health conditions every day. I bring up these stats not to scare you, but to put things into perspective. If this many people are living with mental health conditions (and many doing so very successfully), there shouldn’t be anything to be ashamed of when we talk about mental health. It’s mind boggling that there’s still so much stigma surrounding conditions that so many of us are dealing with – stigma that prevents people from getting the help they need. As the self-proclaimed gatekeeper of all Ted Talks, I’d say this one does an excellent job of illustrating what I mean by stigma, and why it’s so important to be aware of our mental health.

Image via unomaha.edu

I bring up stigma because, as the speaker alludes to, stigma is one of the most prominent hinderances of keeping up our mental hygiene. It’s okay to talk, people! Talking about what’s on our minds or about why we’re feeling off can only do our minds good. It’s this kind of openness that we need. Being mindful, and not being afraid to be mindful is a great way to start prioritizing our mental health. Even if things are going great in your life, therapy can still be an excellent way to understand yourself better. Being in touch with what’s going on within yourself is absolutely crucial. So take that mental health day, call your mom and vent, and do not be afraid or ashamed to ask for help.

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If you or a loved one is suffering from any kind of mental health issue, there are numerous resources available to you:

National Alliance on Mental Illness

American Psychological Association Help Center

Psychology Today – Find a Therapist

Mental Health America

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline


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