Written by Meg Metzger

October 10, 2021 is World Mental Health Day. This day was established in 1992 by the World Health Organization to advocate and provide education on the widespread mental health struggle people experience every day. There have been many themes throughout the years, ranging from “Women and Mental Health” in 1996 to “Depression: a Global Crisis” in 2012. There is no doubt that the pandemic has contributed to an increase in mental illness over the last two years, so the theme this year is “Mental health care for all: Let’s make it a reality.” We couldn’t agree more!

Here at UpWest, we aim to contribute to spreading awareness and supporting this campaign by handing out free journals in-store. Customers can use this journal start their day with a new mindset, write down their goals, draw what makes them happy or end their day with gratitude. On October 10, 2021 UpWest will be donating 5% of online proceeds to the non-profit organization, To Write Love On Her Arms. TWLOHA is a movement dedicated to investing in research and treatment, encouraging hope, and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. Help UpWest giveback to TWLOHA by shopping online on World Mental Health Day. 

Check-in on Yourself, First

While supporting others is a great way to boost your own mental health, first we invite you to take inventory on your own wellbeing. How are you? Like, how are you really? Often when we are asked this, we brush it off with a quick, “good!” anxiously moving on to the next subject.

It’s important to check-in with yourself daily to make sure you’re not suppressing tough emotions such as anxiety, grief, anger or sadness. When these emotions are not expressed, they remain trapped within our bodies, and they can wreak havoc mentally and physically.

There has been a collective grieving process over the last two years due to the pandemic with a significant rise in anxiety, depression, and suicide. A combination of fear, isolation, and a shortage of professional support have prevented people suffering from receiving the help they need. So this year, for World Mental Health Day (and beyond), it feels vital to rely on accessible tools and strategies to keep yourself and those around you safe and supported.

Express Yourself

First, let it be known that it’s okay to not be okay. It’s not always easy to identify why we are feeling a certain way, let alone talk about it. And while talk therapy, with a loved one or a professional, is beneficial and necessary, it’s not always available. Some creative forms of expression include journaling, painting, cooking, and playing music.

Not in a creative mood? Get physical and move your body! Walking, running, dancing, and lifting weights can help release some of that built up tension. Exercising in nature is an added bonus. All of these activities have the ability to produce a surge of dopamine and serotonin, stabilizing your mood and creating a state of well-being.

Inhale, Exhale

Don’t forget to breathe. Breathing for most of us is an automated activity and it happens without conscious thought to keep us alive. However, when we are in fight or flight mode caused by an increase in stress, our breath becomes rapid and shallow, decreasing the amount of oxygen in our bodies.

Becoming aware and actively controlling our breath allows us to use it as a tool for relaxation. Deep breathing, such as box breathing or four-square breathing, involves exhaling to a count of four, holding your lungs empty for four seconds, inhaling at the same pace, and holding air in your lungs for four seconds before exhaling and beginning again. Go ahead, give it a try!

Prioritize Self-Care, Then Caring for Others

We hear it every time before a flight. “In case of a cabin pressure emergency, put on your own mask first before assisting others.” We can apply this to everyday life by prioritizing our own mental health care, so we can better support the people we love most.

While self-care may sometimes look like pedicures and bubble baths, when it comes to supporting your mental health, it often involves deep, inner work such as therapy and meditation. Sure, it may be less fun, but it is way more rewarding in the long run. Self-care is a selfless act, in that we are able to give more to others when we are functioning at our best. We simply cannot pour from an empty cup!

There is no doubt, unpredictability is scary — and we’re living in unprecedented times, for sure. One thing we do have control over, even in the midst of chaos, is how we show up for ourselves and others through our daily habits. So, join us on October 10th for World Mental Health Day to honor our own beautiful brains and support those struggling. We are all in this together.