The Importance of Mental Health & Ways To Take Good Care 

Per Scholas learners benefit from our Learner Support Team’s assistance to build wellness, wealth, and work rhythm through collaboration, strategy share, and skill-building through events designed with learners at their core. In recognition of Mental Health Awareness month, we are highlighting the many ways our Learner Support Team serves and supports our learners nationwide, including insight from one of our own, Serge Mavuba. 

Just as Serge began his training,  he experienced a life event that was daunting to his mental health. Unsure of how to continue with his coursework paired with these new thoughts and emotions, he turned to our Learner Support Team, who was able to help him balance his course load and share several coping mechanisms. Serge reflected, “mental health wasn’t discussed in my culture; it was taboo. I didn’t know what I needed, but with the Learner Support Team, I was able to recognize my triggers and implement ways to redirect my emotions to push through the day.” He was able to help himself by seeking help and sharing his thoughts with others, one of the ways to address mental health.

Wellness workshops series focuses on examining what wellness means for our learners, exploring self-care tools, and building a reflective professional practice. We facilitate weekly workshops to address stress and time management, test anxiety, and managing Imposter Phenomenon. Our learners are also involved in other activities such as Learner Lead Coaching sessions, where they become the experts and work in coaching sessions structured around goals and building strategies to achieve those goals, and listening groups in which learners hold space to reflect and reframe, supporting learning through stress, grief, and bereavement.

The Importance of Mental Health

According to the CDC, when we talk about Mental Health, we are talking about our emotional, psychological, and social well-being, all of which affect how we think, feel, act, handle stress, and make decisions. It is also important to note that poor mental health does not equal mental illness. 

Our Learner Support Team shares that when we take care of our mental health and build wellness, our lives benefit in several ways. We see the benefits of improving our mental health in different aspects of our lives, including improving resiliency, building a growth mindset, and having energy and clarity to participate in our life fully. We can also handle and work through stressful situations, strengthen our relationships, achieve our goals, and thrive. 

How Can You Take Care of Your Mental Health Today?

You can start taking care of your mental health with basic and simple activities, some of which might already be part of your daily routines. We’ve developed this list of 5 things you can start today to improve your mental health. 

Check your physical needs.

Have you drunk enough water today? Did you forget to eat lunch again? These two very simple yet important activities have a strong impact on our mental health. 

Stay Hydrated

Studies have shown that our brain needs water to eliminate toxins and dead cells and balance its chemical processes. By staying hydrated, you are helping your brain to regulate your stress and decrease anxiety. They’ve also shown that those who drink more water are often happier and mentally healthier than those who don’t. 

Listen to your body to know when you’re dehydrated. Symptoms include dry mouth, sleeplessness, headaches, and irritability, among others. 

Stay Fueled Up

We’ve all been there, rushing in the morning and missing breakfast or staying so busy we don’t eat lunch. Skipping a meal doesn’t sound so relevant to mental health, but it’s proven that skipping a meal like breakfast is related to being stressed or depressed. While missing one sporadic meal may not be so harmful, constantly skipping meals can affect not only your physical health but your mental health as well. A balanced diet is also essential. Try to stay away from highly processed foods that can increase your anxiety and instead look for whole foods with fiber, grains, fruits and vegetables, clean proteins, and more.

Pause and Practice Deep Breathing

Breathing is a powerful tool that helps to bring our body back into balance when we are feeling stressed or overwhelmed. 

Breathe

Try using the 4-7-8 method by following these steps:

  1. First, let your lips part and relax your jaw. Make a whooshing sound, exhaling completely through your mouth.
  2. Next, close your lips, inhaling silently through your nose as you count to four in your head.
  3. Then, for seven seconds, hold your breath.
  4. Make another whooshing exhale from your mouth for eight seconds. 
  5. Practice this pattern for four full breaths.
  6. Repeat as you’d like.

Reflect

Taking a few minutes of our day to reflect on how we feel and asking ourselves why is highly beneficial for our mental health. Our feelings, thoughts, and worries need a place to go that is outside our heads. You can try a practice like journaling, which is a tool that allows you to express yourself freely and helps you improve your anxiety, reduce stress, and boost your memory by clearing all the mental clutter. You can start writing freely, but if you don’t know where to start, our Learner Support Team suggest writing down the answers these questions: 

  1. What is something I accomplished today?
  2. How do you want to show up today?
  3. What do you want to learn, how do you want to grow?
  4. How do you define joy?

When journaling, it is important to know that punctuation, grammar, spelling, or making sense doesn’t matter. Start with a word or sentence. Just write.

Take a Break

Taking a break is proven to be beneficial to decrease stress and improve mood and productivity. Our Learner Support Team recommends it as well. Give yourself permission to take a break, go outside for a quick walk, take a dance break, or connect with a friend. Breaks allow us to refocus, reflect, and regain the mental and physical energy we need to keep going. 

Talk to a Professional 

Our learners have the opportunity to connect with our Learner Support Team to find a therapist near them. It is essential to ask for help when needed. A therapist or counselor can help improve your mental health, support emotional distress, and develop the necessary skills to cope with difficult situations. Speaking to a therapist is not something we should be afraid or ashamed of doing. 

We encourage you to take care of your mental health because it is just as important as your physical health. Mental health is essential no matter how old or young you are. We need to increase awareness of mental health and eliminate the stigma around it so that more people feel comfortable asking for help. As our learner, Serge, mentioned, “don’t be afraid; there is no shame in your story.  I am here because someone else shared their story and showed me there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  My experience at Per Scholas with the Learner Support Team has been life-changing.”  Taking care of your mental health can lead to living a better life. 

If you or someone you know is going through a hard time and having suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or 911 immediately. 

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