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Helpful tools and resources for mental health awareness month

Read below for some tools, tips, and resources associated with mental health. Join me in spreading truth and breaking the stigmas around mental health by sharing this blog and/or other helpful resources to those around you.

market of clay pots

May is mental health awareness month. As part of it, I will be sharing a few tools and resources below that have helped me with my mental health over the past few years. I would like to preface before continuing that none of the exercises or links provided are meant to act as diagnostic measures. If you have questions or concerns about your mental health or that of a loved one, these may provide helpful information, but please contact a doctor or mental health professional for specific diagnoses and treatment.


Grounding Your Mind


Sometimes our minds will race out of control, whether it be due to anxiety, obsession, fear, or the like. One tool that has helped me greatly in grounding myself back into reality is called either “5 Senses” or “5-4-3-2-1,” depending on how you choose to practice it.


Option 1: 5 Senses


When you catch yourself in a moment of anxious, obsessive, or otherwise unhealthy thought, use the following five prompts to come back to reality:


I see ________________ (an object you see around you, ex: the wall)

I feel ________________ (an object you can feel, ex: my arm)

I hear ________________ (something you can hear, ex: birds outside)

I smell _______________ (something you smell or enjoy smelling, ex: coffee)

I taste _______________ (something you taste or enjoy tasting, ex: mint gum)


You do not have to use each sense, do them in order, or limit yourself to one item. What’s important is to talk through the senses, focusing your mind on the real, tangible world around you until you feel calmer.


Option 2: 5-4-3-2-1


This option is very similar to the previous one but with slightly different prompts. Both can work interchangeably, so simply choose the one that you prefer.

Name 5 things you can see around you

Name 4 things you can feel

Name 3 things you can hear

Name 2 things you can smell or enjoy smelling

Say 1 affirmation about yourself


I especially recommend this tool to those who struggle to affirm themselves or who experience low confidence associated with their anxiety. It provides a built-in time to remind yourself of your best attributes, while separating your real worth from your perceived stress at that moment.


Recognizing Physical Signs & Symptoms


One aspect about mental health that many people do not fully understand or take the time to recognize is its impact on our physical health. Sometimes, the best ways to tune into how we feel about a situation and/or be warned of upcoming mental health issues is by looking at physical signs and symptoms.

For example, when my anxiety gets really bad, I often experience nausea or abdominal cramping. If I start to notice it, it reminds me to break from whatever I am doing and do a mental check-in on how I am feeling. I often find it is associated with an upcoming social event or meeting because I get nervous in situations where I cannot picture or predict exactly how they will go in advance. Once I recognize the physical symptom, I can better acknowledge the mental ones and address them.


For me, prayer, journaling, coloring, and eating ginger (part of where the brand came from) are some of the ways that I will calm my anxious mind in such situations. The exact calming techniques used will be different for everyone but tracking physical symptoms can give us insight into the deeper issues we face. This process can also help us talk to medical professionals because sometimes describing the physical experience is easier than the mental one.


I recommend keeping a physical or digital journal of some type where you can list your physical symptoms and any emotions you felt at the moment when you noticed the symptom. After doing so for a week straight, ask yourself if there are any patterns associating your physical symptoms with certain emotions or situations. Then make a list either on your own or with the help of another trusted individual on how you can adjust the feelings or situations typically associated with those symptoms. If no patterns arise after tracking for a week, continue the journaling for a month. Some patterns may take longer to become obvious.


Changing Habits


A difficult part of all mental health treatment is the amount of habit changing required. Most mental health issues arise from chemical, biological, social, and environmental disruptions in how we perceive and interact with the world. To overcome these problems, we often must change habits and thoughts patterns that have become engrained in us over the course of years.


Habits, by definition, are instinctual responses and patterns. These instincts can be taught and adjusted, but it is not always an easy process and can take time. For this reason, changing habits can be very frustrating, and we will often abandon the effort altogether.


A great first step in building new, healthier habits is writing them down. Whether it be habits surrounding eating, sleeping, exercising, managing stress, staying motivated, or anything else, you can use the following prompts as a starting point:

  1. What do you want to change about your current habits? (Remember to stick with a specific category of habit, ex: sleeping)

  2. What are the negative effects of your current habits? How are they getting in the way of living the life you want?

  3. If you could magically make the changes right now, how would life get better?

  4. What has worked before to help you make and keep lifestyle changes? (Consider another category of habit where you feel more in control)

  5. What is one thing you can do today to move toward the changes you want to see? How about this week? This month?

  6. Who or what can help you stay accountable? This can be a person who helps you stay on track or a device that tracks your habits, such as an app or watch.

  7. How can you break up your goal into smaller milestones and reward yourself for reaching them? (ex: eat a fun breakfast after a good night’s sleep)

Writing down your intentions with a proactive plan for how to track progress, celebrate small wins, and show yourself grace for missteps can help you start reshaping your habits in various arenas of life.


Additional Resources


The above tools are by no means an exhaustive list of therapeutic and mindful techniques to living a healthier, more grounded life, but they are a great foundation. You can find worksheets for the above techniques, screening tools, and more resources on mental health at: https://www.mhanational.org/self-help-tools


Please also consider visiting the nonprofit organization To Write Love on Her Arms for information on how to help spread hope to others struggling with mental health. And if you’re able, you can give to my fundraiser in support of the 5k I will be participating in for them later this month by clicking here.


Finally, if you are a music lover like me, you can check out the playlist I made in honor of mental health awareness month by checking out the “Music Vibes” tab or clicking here.


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