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“Just pray on it”…

“The Lord will work things out”…

“As long as you have faith in God, things will be alright”…

Sound familiar?

We as a Black society do not take mental health issues serious enough. Depression. Anxiety Disorder. Bipolar Disorder. ADHD. These are all very real mental illnesses, and ones that actively require direct attention. Sometimes, we rely on faith as an end all, be all solution for dealing with mental health concerns. However, one cannot simply “pray away depression”, or force oneself to “just be happy”. It takes courage to face facts and acknowledge that there’s a true underlying problem, and even more so to seek out help for said problem. So today, I will do my best to impart with you on some ways to approach mental health issues.

Tip #1: Talk

Speaking out about your problems should be one of the first steps you take. By going to a friend (a REAL friend – one who accepts your issue what it is and doesn’t undermine or invalidate it) or family member, you can unravel pent up emotions and relieve the unnecessary stress of trying to keep everything together. He or she might also be able to point you in the direction of where you may be able to find help. The Kristin Brooks Hope Center Hopeline (1-800-273-8255) is a resource you can also use to help cope with depressive feelings.

Tip #2: Join a Family Support Group

Although venting to a friend is viable, maybe you might feel as though it’s pointless as they just simply can’t relate to what you’re going through. If that’s the case, consider joining a family support group to congregate with others experiencing similar challenges. They can listen, resonate with you, and offer valuable advice. To find such a group, ask your local hospitals, community health agency, or contact your local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Some of the best support can come from people who are in your own shoes.

Tip #3: Seek Counseling

Therapy can assist in truly getting down to the root of the problem, as well as act as another avenue for you to lay all your thoughts and emotions out on the table. A mental health professional can also offer ways to manage and better understand your illness.

Tip #4: Practice Relaxation Techniques

A regular relaxation activity can aid in the mitigation of depressive symptoms, reduce stress, and boost feelings of joy and well-being. Yoga, deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and/or meditation are all methods one can utilize on a daily basis to help fend off panic/anxiety attacks and maintain a balanced state of mind.

Tip #5: Exercise

Exercise is a powerful depression fighter. Research has shown that exercise can be just as potent in relieving depressive symptoms as medication. Shoot for at least 30 minutes of exercise a day if you can, but even starting off small with a 10-minute walk can even make a substantial difference. As your exercises become regulated, your energy levels are bound to improve.

Tip #6: Enjoy Yourself

In a world where you have to focus on school, work, kids, extracurricular activities, studying, and more, life can get pretty damn stressful. Alleviate this stress by doing things that make you feel good:

  • Spend time doing your favorite hobby or sport
  • Express yourself through music, art, or writing
  • Go out with friends
  • Take a long, hot bath
  • Get a massage from your significant other
  • Spend some time in nature
  • Read a good book
  • By scheduling fun activities throughout your day, you can better manage stress and live a healthier life. So strive to make time for yourself.

Tip #7: Eat Healthy

Reduce consumption of foods that can negatively affect your brain and mood, such as caffeine, alcohol, and foods with high amounts of preservatives. Also keep sugar, baked goods, pasta, and comfort food such as fries to a minimum. Deficiencies in B vitamins are known to prompt depression, so focus on the intake of B vitamins by eating citrus fruit, leafy greens, beans, chicken, and eggs (or taking a vitamin supplement). Also, omega-3 fatty acids help stabilize your mood, so look to eat fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, herring, or cold-water fish oil supplements to complement that part of your diet.

Tip #8: Obtain Medical Treatment

If all else fails, don’t be afraid to seek medical treatments such as anti-depressants or serotonin inhibitors. Sometimes you can be doing everything in your power to fight mental illness the natural way, but if your imbalance is biochemical, drugs may just be necessary. It does not make you weak, but merely means that you have to approach in a different manner. Consult with a doctor to ensure you get the medication that is most right for you.

My line is open. Let’s do some spring cleaning

These eight tips are just a few ways one can battle mental illness, and there are even more out there. If you ever feel like you have no one else to talk to, you can always talk to me – just send a quick email to me at cray321@hotmail.com and I’ll be sure to connect with you as soon as possible. You are not alone in this fight, and you should never have to feel like you are.

Stay strong.

Chris Ray (aka ‘Bris Lattimore’)

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