May is Mental Health Awareness Month. This month reminds us that the stigmatization of those with mental illness needs to be countered with compassion and understanding.
Health systems and hospitals play a vital role in providing important resources to support mental health, but daily therapeutics can support mental health as well. Here are five ways to prioritize your mental health — this month and every month.
Getting your cardio on is important for more than just physical well-being. Exercise increases neurotransmitter activity and helps support a healthy hormone balance. For instance, according to Harvard Medical School, exercise reduces levels of the body's stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, the hormones that activate the body's "flight-or-fight" response. Exercise also increases the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers and mood elevators. But there's no need to spend hours at the gym or pounding the pavement to reap the mental health benefits of exercise — a simple 20- to 30-minute walk each day may be enough to do the trick.
No matter how busy life your life might be, slowing down and taking time to treat yourself is like charging your batteries. Get into the routine of complimenting yourself with each look in the mirror, filling the bathtub with your favorite herbal bath soak, or scheduling that massage you always put off. When you take time to care for your mind, body, and soul, taking care of your loved ones will come more easily. You're worth it!
Meditation, Yoga and Sleep
Let your mind rest. Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years in many different ways and can enhance empathy, promote emotional well-being, and increase mindful awareness. One study showed that people who engaged in an eight-week mindful mediation course had more focus than people who did not meditate. With so much happening in our world, sometimes the one thing we can do is have empathy for others and own the moment we are living in, and meditation can help facilitate that state of mindfulness. Learn more about the benefits of meditation.
If even the thought of sitting still and meditating makes you feel antsy, don't fear! Yoga can be a great meditative exercise, plus stretching supports lymphatic moment and building endurance and strength. The time you give yourself on the mat is an investment in your well-being. So, bust out those dusty yoga mats and stretch those limbs.
Finally, it's important to get a good night's rest. Sleep is essential to allow your body to rebalance. If you find your mind racing as you try to drift off, meditating or gentle yoga in the evening may help support sleep and restful nights. WishGarden's Sleepy Nights is also great to have on hand for nights when you're counting sheep instead of snoozing.
Herbs like Motherwort, Milky Oats, and Passionflower can be effective mental health helpers. Motherwort's Latin name, Leonurus cardiaca, means lion hearted. It is great for supporting physical and emotional well-being during times of stress and mood inbalance. Milky Oats are seeds of the common oat in the green stage. They deeply nourish your nervous system, especially when it is overworked from mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion. Milky Oats are known for having a touch of the mineral magnesium as well. Several studies have shown magnesium's usefulness in neurological and psychiatric diseases. Passionflower is known for its unique and beautiful flowers, but this vine-like plant (native to the southern part of the United States) has also long been used to calm worried minds and support restful sleep. The fruit is edible, too! WishGarden's Emotional Ally: A Big Herbal Hug herbal formula contains all three of the above ingredients to help soothe your soul. You'll also find Passionflower in WishGarden's Liquid Bliss. This herbal formula also contains Cacao, Damiana, and cotton root bark, which helps support and encourage healthy oxytocin response. This formula is an ideal companion for your next meditation or yoga session. Please consult your practitioner or physician before taking herbal supplements.
Get your hands in the dirt and connect with nature. People have had relationships with plants for thousands of years. Don't have a huge yard? No worries! Growing house plants, starting a balcony full of flowers, or building a raised bed can help ease a busy mind. There are many options to grow in small spaces, and sharing space with plants is like always having friends around you. You can talk to your plants, water them, and connect with their growing habits. It is especially rewarding to grow edible herbs, so you can harvest a few leaves for your favorite dish or drink. Looking for a place to start? Try Lemon Balm. It belongs to the mint family and is easy to grow. Gardening also creates community, and community is essential for feeling a sense of belonging. Look for a community garden in or near your neighborhood. If you or anyone you know needs someone to speak to or additional mental health help, please refer to this list of mental health resources.
Lauren Ann Nichols attended The Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism and received her certificate in medical herbalism. She is the owner of Herbal Vice, a small batch skin care company, and grows the herbs used in her products. She is currently a customer service representative at WishGarden Herbs.
For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or sell any product.