Updated: Oct 2
Mental Health Awareness Month is a yearly event that has been celebrated in the U.S. since 1949. The initiative was started by Mental Health America, formerly known as the National Association for Mental Health. As someone who personally struggles with mental health, I find this month significant, as it allows us to focus more on a topic that should be openly discussed more regularly.
Living with mental illness can take the feelings of anxiety, stress, and sadness to a whole new level. Those with severe mental illness often face stigmatization, discrimination, and lack of support. Experiencing medication side effects is not uncommon, and episodes of mania or psychosis can develop. Many have limited opportunities to find housing, employment, or welfare which just adds to the already difficult experiences being had.
Unfortunately, society does not discuss mental health issues to the extent that it should. I’m not alone in being frustrated by simplistic advice like “just breathe” or "relax" with a bath-bomb or candle, as it is often not helpful. The world may feel different and overwhelming for people living with mental illness, I know on my worst days the “simplest” tasks feel impossible. Having feelings of inadequacy is common unfortunately, I know I’ve experienced those feelings often myself. However, we are not born feeling inadequate. It is a feeling that develops over time as we experience different emotions and situations. For example, when we were little and we felt afraid or anxious, our mind told us something was wrong with us, not with our environment. A child’s mind concludes, “There must be something wrong with me if I feel so bad” or “I must be bad if I’m being treated badly.”
As adults, we can learn about emotions and how our childhood experiences affect our brain development. We can understand that feeling inadequate is often the result of growing up in an environment that didn't meet our needs. To believe that we are enough and feel more confident in ourselves, we need to work on transforming our feelings of inadequacy. It sounds difficult, but it can be done a little bit at a time!
There are various ways that I have found to help myself overcome feelings of inadequacy:
Reminding ourselves that these feelings were learned and not an objective fact.
We can reach in to find that part of us that feels bad and offer it compassion, just like we would a loved one or pet. Self-Love is a powerful tool.
Practice deep breathing exercises like 478 (this is more in depth that “just breathe” I promise) Breathe in through your nose to the count of four, hold the breath to the count of seven and exhale through your mouth to the count of eight.
Exercise can get our adrenaline flowing and give us a sense of empowerment. Even a short walk to the mailbox works wonders for me.
Repeat helpful phrases like "I am enough, just as I am!" or "I am worthy of a good life." Because this is the truth, sometimes we just need a gentle reminder. The more I say mantras like these, the more I start to believe them.
My main point here is that we should never aim for perfection, simply growth. It is essential to remember that we should not compare ourselves to others and instead, strive to be a better version of ourselves each day. By taking things one step at a time, slowly we will start to feel that we are "enough" just as we are. In fact, we are more than enough! Never be afraid to reach out to a professional if you have the ability to do so. I see both a Therapist and a Psychiatrist to manage my mental health and feel no shame in openly discussing it. It's perfectly normal to talk to friends, family, and coworkers about seeing a doctor if you have the flu or a broken leg, it should be exactly the same when it comes to our mental health. Keep up the amazing work and don't forget to show yourself some kindness and acknowledge how far you've already come.
For free and confidential resources that can help you or a loved one connect with a skilled, trained mental health professional tap HERE.