If you haven’t seen it yet, you will probably see it soon: May is #MentalHealthAwareness month. It’s also likely that if you’ve never experienced some of mental health’s more challenging terrain, then COVID-19 is probably testing you.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 40 million adults ages 18 and older — that’s 18% of the population — are affected every year by some type of anxiety disorder. Add 17 million to that number who live with some level of depression. On top of all that, think of how many more people struggle with similar issues and for a variety of reasons haven’t told anyone about it.
It won’t come as a surprise that with numbers like this, mental health hits close to home for all of us in some way or another. Here at Aspire Movement, individuals on our team, family members, mentors, mentees, mentees’ family members, teachers, church partners, financial supporters, etc. have all wrestled at some point with different mental health hurdles. OK, so why are we telling you this? Well, for three primary reasons:
- To de-stigmatize the conversation in general. We (especially those of us who identify as Christians) must free ourselves and others from feelings of guilt or shame because of any mental health concern.
- To remind you that you’re not alone. Literally millions of people are dealing with the same thoughts and feelings and many are convinced they’re the only ones, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
- To embolden you to prioritize getting the help you may need. It is often hard, but it can be done and it is always worth it.
Hopefully by this point we’ve already touched on #1 and #2, but we wanted to share a few more thoughts on #3. Getting help probably looks different for different people. In the same way that no two people are the same, no two paths toward wholeness are the same. That being said, here are some practices that have been recommended to us by mental health and other healthcare professionals that have proven to be helpful in our own lives and the lives of people we know and love.
- Sleep. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night; try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
- Get outside. Maybe it’s a 15-minute stroll around your neighborhood or perhaps as simple as sitting in the sunshine in your backyard, but whatever the case, get some fresh air whenever and however you can.
- Put your phone down. For one hour every day and for one day every week, be away from your phone.
- Move around. Start where you are, and do what you can to get some exercise! This is especially important if exercise is not already part of your routine. And that’s OK! There’s no perfect plan or perfect time to start; just start where you are. Shoot for 30 minutes per day at least three days per week.
- Find a therapist. Ask a friend (or us!) if they know of any good counselors and set up an appointment. The majority of insurance policies now cover to some degree these types of appointments.
- Call your doctor. Don’t feel defeated if taking medication becomes part of your path toward wholeness. Have you ever taken a pill for indigestion or allergies? This is no different, and it might just be the missing piece for you.
Finally, we also believe that recovering the practice of meditating on the truth and reality of God is an important weapon in the fight against anxiety and depression. We AREN’T saying that memorizing Philippians 4 will cure all anxiety, nor are we saying that reading through the Psalms every day will lift you from the pit of depression. There are both spiritual and non-spiritual issues at play in all of this (just like in all of life). Our belief is simply that the human soul was designed to connect with God; across any and all terrain that life takes us, this is our deepest longing.
Whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever you’re feeling, we love you and we’re for you. God created you with overwhelming love and purpose. If we can help in any way, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We’ll help where we can and we’ll connect you with others where we can’t.