By Nia Simone McLeod
In a carefree spring season that is recognized by the spontaneous sprout of flowers and a rise in temperature, it can be hard to single out something as serious as mental health. But, contrary to popular belief, May is the perfect time to do so.
According to NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness), May is Mental Health Month. In 2018, NAMI is using Mental Health Month to focus on the movement of curing stigma. A mental health stigma that is alive and well lives in the black community and specifically affects black women.
In the technological age where we have encyclopedias in the palms of our hands and the ability to talk to people on the other side of the earth at a moment’s notice, the antiquated stereotype of the “angry black woman” thrives to this day.
There is widely popular media that feeds on this stereotype and pushes this mindset as a norm. Great examples of this are Tyler Perry movies, specifically his 2018 movie release Acrimony starring Taraji P. Henson. The very tagline of this movie is Hell Hath No Fury. Seeing this personalization of this stereotype can warp others to believe that black women can’t be emotional without it coming from a place of anger.
That is obviously not true. Just as any other warm-blooded human being, black women have a unique spectrum of emotions that don’t just derive from anger. And even if they are angry, that doesn’t mean that valid emotion of anger should be trivialized and blown up to be so cartoonish that it almost isn’t real. Black women deserve to feel and take time out for themselves. This fact alone makes self-care something that every single black woman should bring into their lives.
May is the perfect time to self-reflect on your emotional state and focus on what makes you happy. Here are a couple of tips to utilize Mental Health Awareness Month as an avenue for self-care, and make spring a renewal for your mental health.
Whether you incorporate a daily journal or scribble out rants on a napkin from Starbucks, journaling can bring many positive health benefits. These benefits include reducing stress, improving problem-solving skills, and so much more. Whatever method you enjoy the most, make a habit out of it. Physically put into your schedule a time for you to take pen to paper and write out what’s on your mind.
When you’re done, date and archive these entries so you can get back to them later if need be. Also, don’t use your technological devices for this process. We all get enough screen time as it is, and stepping away from that can do a lot to relax the body and improve overall health.
Take a Break From Social Media
As awesome as social media can be, there are also many negative effects that it can have on self-esteem and mental health as a whole. There is an endless race to perfection on those mediums. Accounts showcase various individuals out supposedly living their best life and smiling like there’s no tomorrow. But, the truth is that a lot of what’s shown on social media isn’t real. Don’t compare your real life to another’s digital life. They just aren’t on the same wavelength.
If you’re having trouble changing this mindset, then consider taking elongated breaks from social media. Start off by turning all social media notifications off for a night and blocking the sites on your computer. Then, try to elongate it to a couple of days or a week. Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook will all be there once this practice is over. During your time off, focus on positive thinking and living your true best life without the possibility of an Instagram post on the brain.
Take a Hard Look at Your Relationships
Relationships, whether familial, friendly, or romantic, affect our energy in astronomical ways. We often hold onto relationships that we have no business holding on to, due to factors like time spent and resources put in. This May, take a hard look at your relationships and evaluate who’s bringing positivity into your life and who isn’t. Once you realize who’s bringing you heavy amounts of negativity, it might be time to go your separate ways.
Even if you can’t separate from this person, just having a clear understanding of how certain people affect you can help you figure out how to deal with them in the future in order to maintain a level of positivity.
Incorporate Positive Rituals into Your Routine
Rituals such as reading your favorite book, painting your nails weekly, or catching up on your favorite television show can help you reconnect with your mental state and ground your day in reality. With busy lives, we tend to fall into a routine that only deals with our outside obligations: family, friends, career. It’s immensely important to refocus some of that time for ourselves in order to be aware and be present in our own lives. Whatever makes you happy, try to fit that into your schedule in some way.
Allow Yourself to Feel What You’re Feeling
As mentioned previously, black women are human beings with complex emotions despite the negative perceptions that the media may bring. No matter what you’re feeling, whether you’re sad, mad, or frustrated, allow yourself to feel those feelings with your whole heart. Allowing yourself to keep these feelings suffocated will only bring about negative effects, and might lead to a bigger outburst in the future. Your feelings are valid, no what they are.
Whether you’re using your journaling time to let your feelings flourish or even just screaming into your pillow, acknowledging the existence of your feelings can do wonders for your self-care, and your mental health as a whole.
Self-care is so, so important. But, the blueprint to your self-care can only be defined by the person that you are and the life that you live. Don’t let mental health stigma become a barrier in the journey of maintaining your own mental health.
These five activities are only a foundation for you to plant a rose and grow your own fulfilling routine. Whether it’s ten minutes a week or an entire day of self-love, it delivers an air of positivity and the time for you to be present within your own self. Use the month of May as an opportunity to be there for yourself, for once.