“As we begin the month of May, we also enter into another month of changing the way we operate our day-to-day lives. Many of us have been at home, whether working or spending time with our loved ones. Some have spent much of this time alone or with limited support. Regardless of our situation, mental health awareness impacts us all. We may feel overwhelmed, uncertain, scared, hopeless or alone. Having strategies to combat these feelings is critical in caring for ourselves. This means refilling our own tanks, so we are better able to assist those around us.”
Vasa Parsons

MSW LCSW

May is mental health awareness month. Every Monday, we will share a tool you may find helpful in this month of mental health awareness.
Please note, all of these tools have been curated by our mental health counselor Vasa Parsons. However, these tools are not a substitute for individual professional help. We encourage you to seek the help of a mental health professional should you be in need of assistance.
1. Meditation

Meditation can look different to each person and may include mindfulness, relaxation and breathing. There are many different apps that offer free (limited) meditation options. Headspace is offering free support during this time. Whether you have 5 minutes or want an hour, Headspace enables the listener to calm self and lessen stress. Calm is another app that offers similar meditation options. For those with internet access, YouTube is a great resource for finding meditation and other guided imagery. City of Hope offers a relaxing 10 and 15-minute option for those who prefer a guided experience.

2. Breathe

Breathing is a technique one can use immediately and without needing access to apps or the internet. Deep breathing may assist with reducing anxiety and may also assist with sleep. One breathing exercise is called the 4-7-8 breathing technique or ‘relaxing breath.’ This technique involves breathing in for 4 seconds, holding the breath for 7 seconds and exhaling for 8 seconds. When anxiety or anger surface, taking deep breaths can be an immediate tool for redirecting an immediate reaction. The deep breaths allow the heart rate to slow and may assist in a more effective response.

3. Reaching Out

An important tool in maintaining our mental health is reaching out. Whether we feel more comfortable talking to a family member or friend, others find it easier to talk to a professional. This could include a therapist, counselor or mental health professional.

Locally, Missoula has several amazing resources. Tamarack Grief Resource Center (TGRC) is one of these great resources. TGRC helps during times of loss and trauma. With many folks remaining home during this time, TGRC offers virtual grief support. Visit their website www.tamarackgriefresourcecenter.org to find a weekly calendar that includes mindfulness, gentle movement, a kid’s corner and more.

4. Self-Care

When life gets tough, our plates get full or we feel pulled in many directions, our mental health strategies or self-care gets moved to the bottom of the list (or removed). Taking time for self-care is critical. What is it you like to do? What do you find relaxing? Self-care could include taking a walk, reading a book, putting a puzzle together, soaking in a bubble bath or exercising. Whatever resonates, do it. If we do not take care of ourselves, we are unable to recharge and will get to empty. Be kind to yourself and find at least one activity that falls into this category.

5. Acts of Kindness

These acts, in and of themselves, have the potential to positively impact many. Whether we are the recipients or the doers (or both), these positive acts remind us of the good in people. We are more apt to repeat and remember what others have done for us and what we can do for others. I encourage each reader to complete one act of kindness.