Tips for Navigating Your Mental Well-being

Updated: Jun 29, 2020

By Kellie Urman (We Sparkle Intern, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities Class of 2022)

Acknowledge Your Pain

“We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.” -Kenji Miyazawa

It is OK to feel whatever emotions you are experiencing right now. Our emotions can range from fear and anxiety, to anger, sadness, or dissociation. Despite the inconsistencies, all your feelings are valid and are completely reasonable reactions to your unique experiences. Try not to judge your feelings or manifestations of those feelings as you experience them, but do your best not to suppress them either. “Holding pain will be the hardest thing you do”, says Lauren Cucinotta, the head of Community Engagement at TED, “Feeling pain is the bravest fight you will fight. Running, avoidance, fear in whatever form, it all brings you further away from being a full, feeling person.” Acknowledgement of pain is easier said than done, and it may take you time to fully come to terms with your experience. So, do what you need to do to fully feel your emotions. Whether that be talking to a friend/therapist, crying, journaling your experience, or taking moments to breathe and check in with yourself; allow yourself to acknowledge your pain as the first step towards your emotional healing.

Prioritize Self-care and Enrich Your Spiritual Self

It seems like self-care is the buzzword of the year. With many people swearing by facemasks, yoga sessions, or spa days, it can be easy to sweep self-care under the rug when it feels like you’re too busy, or stressed, for it. However, when you’re feeling overwhelmed is often when your brain and body need it the most. Luckily, self-care does not have to be expensive or take up your whole day unless you want it to. Self-care can be any action or time spent on doing something that relaxes and makes you feel good. Find what makes you feel confident about yourself, and make time for that in your daily schedule. This could be doing a hobby, taking a nap, participating in a long shower, or spending time with those you love; the options are limitless. See a list of self-care activities and how you can integrate them into your life below.

Similar to self-care, our spirituality can seem unimportant during times of stress but it’s important to tap into that side of yourself if you deem necessary. Spirituality doesn’t need to be religious, though it can be, but it’s rather re-centering yourself around your personal meaning of life. Finding what is important to you and the reasons behind it can guide your mindset to be more productive and will allow you to focus on the positive aspects of your situation. Connecting to your spiritual side includes things like trying meditative practices, mindfulness breathing/eating, practicing your religion, enjoying the outdoors, or keeping a gratitude journal.

Remain Connected

With COVID-19, we all should be well-versed in the importance of connecting with loved ones, especially during a traumatic event. In reality, it’s harder to put into practice. The nature of continually reaching out to others can become draining, especially if you are already feeling anxious and stressed. However, if you notice someone is struggling, never hesitate to reach out and provide your support if you are willing and able to. It is impossible to always know, or understand, the pain people around us are experiencing. Therefore it’s important to remember that some of our community members might be especially vulnerable due to mental illness, or feelings of hopelessness after news of tragedy or violence within their community. We need to be paying attention and looking out for each other. Please take a moment to educate yourself on the warning signs of depression, hopelessness, or suicide below.

Get the Support you Need and Seek Trauma-Informed Care

Sometimes, what you’re trying to make work doesn’t seem to be doing the job in regards to your mental health and that is OK. Many people need extra support and therapy is nothing to feel ashamed or embarrassed about. Therapy is one of the many ways we can cope with relationships, events, emotions, and experiences.You do not need to have a mental illness in order to receive the help you need. Likewise, if therapy is not an option for you right now, it’s important you reach out to your loved ones as well as your support system and express to them how you’re doing.

If you do need support, or you’re the one giving support (whether that be you’re a trusted friend or licensed therapist), trauma informed care allows the system to fully unite knowledge about trauma into their services. This allows for better training of staff to recognize the signs of trauma in order to prevent re-traumatization. Trauma-informed care focuses on the individual's experience and creates a physically and emotionally safe environment that establishes trust and uses empowerment to promote resilience. Furthermore, it considers adjusting and changing the systemic policies that are within our systems in order to further prevent traumatic experiences. See the figure below for more information on trauma-informed care.

Chart by the Institute on Trauma and Trauma-Informed Care (2015)

Make Intentional Impacts

Oftentimes when faced with a traumatic event many people want to immediately jump into action; expressing the anger and hurt they’ve experienced through online posts, protests, or heated conversations. While these emotional responses are valid and expected; take a moment before you post something to analyze your intentions behind why you are sharing it. Ask yourself meaningful questions that will uncover these intentions. For example; if you are posting about the Black Lives Matter movement you could ask yourself, “Am I centering the focus around the movement and empowering the black community through this post?”, or “What is my intention behind my post and do I expect any outside validation from posting this?” The JED foundation describes the importance of taking thoughtful actions by saying, “Make sure your purpose in sharing the article is to provide information that contributes to a solution, highlight action items your friends and followers can take, or offer resources or support to those who might need it.” By responding to conversations around violence in a constructive way, we can educate ourselves and our community. See a list of ways you can help below.

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