It's okay to not be okay: 5 Tips for prioritizing your mental health

the voice and vision of a new generation
Image credit: Eneida Hoti

It's okay to not be okay: 5 Tips for prioritizing your mental health

October 10, 2018

When asked how we're doing we’ve all probably had that moment when we contemplate whether we should say “I’m fine” or “I’m really not doing too great,” eventually deciding to just throw a smiley face onto “I’m fine” to make it seem more convincing and avoid any more questions. Maybe anxiety tells you not to bring it up and seek help, or maybe you just don’t want to bother someone with your struggles. Whatever the case is, most of us can relate to the scenario, but, the truth is, there is nothing wrong with speaking up about mental health and seeking help.

Mental health struggles among the LGBTQ community are about triple that of our cis straight counterparts, with LGBTQ youth being 4 times more likely to self-harm or attempt suicide. It’s also estimated that LGBTQ people are about 2.5 times more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, and substance misuse.

Since we know that our community is far more likely to struggle with mental health, it’s time for us, as a community, to revamp the conversation and work to destigmatize mental health, but first, we need to start prioritizing our mental health. Here are some tips to start making your mental health a priority.

1. Never be afraid to talk about it

Whether it’s to a friend, therapist, or mentor, it’s always a good idea to start talking. Find someone you know you can go to when you’re having a bad day, and find someone you can talk to on a regular basis. Being able to sit down and reflect on your mental health can help you find patterns in your life that either cause or help stress.

2. Listen to your body

If your body is telling you to rest or give it some fuel, that probably means that it needs it. Listen to it and give your body and mind the rest or fuel it needs. Make sure you put some time into your daily schedule for sleep and food and prioritize big projects to make sure you’re not pulling an all-nighter for a paper that’s due tomorrow.

3. Watch out for stress overload

I get it, classes can be very stressful. You have weeks with 3 exams, 2 papers, and 4 meetings. Being a heavily involved student can bring a lot of stress into your life, so know the signs that your body gives you when it's becoming overloaded with stress. These signs could be changes in sleep or eating patterns, headaches, shorter temper, disorganization, or increased frustration. Listen to your body when you see signs of overload, and follow the next tip for some stress outlets.

4. Find some kind of outlet for stress

Whether it’s music, running, CrossFit, or dance, finding a way to let your body release stress is one of the best ways to help your mental health. Everyone’s outlet is different, so try some new things until you find what works best for you.

5. Don’t be afraid of medication

I’m obviously not a doctor, but I do know that there are a lot of medical options for mental health struggles, and there is nothing true to the stigmas surrounding medication. Sometimes the “just breath and take a walk” doesn’t work for everyone. You are the only person who knows what your body needs, so chat with your physician and see what your options are.

Patrick Mardis is a GLAAD Campus Ambassador and junior at University of Tennessee. He served as a GLAAD Campaigns Intern in 2018. 

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