Written and Illustrated by Niambi White
About the author and illustrator: Niambi (“Nene”) is a high school senior at Theodore Roosevelt High School and intern with The Grassroot Project through our Urban Alliance partnership.
Niambi is a self taught artist and her dream is to be a children’s book illustrator or a tattoo artist one day. You will see her accompanying her writing with her illustrations in the upcoming blogs. This is the second of three blogs that focus on healthy habits and things to do while staying inside during this time of social distancing and the COVID-19 pandemic. You can read her first blog here: 5 Easy, Healthy Meals to Make Without Leaving Your Home.
Please read, comment and show your support. You can follow @artgalnee to see more of Niambi’s work! We hope you enjoy it!
Mental Health Awareness Month
Every year, millions of people around the world honor the whole month of May as Mental Health Awareness Month. During this time, people help to fight stigma against mental illnesses, educate the public, and advocate for changes revolving around different mental health illnesses. Mental Health America notes that “while 1 in 5 people will experience a mental illness during their lifetime, everyone faces challenges in their life that can impact their mental health.” Raising awareness about mental health during these difficult times is important. Taking actions that help break down stereotypes around mental health and getting people to open up and talk about their struggles can improve our relationships with one another. The Grassroot Project recruits and trains NCAA athletes to improve health equity in Washington, DC. Recently, they have designed a mental health promotion curriculum to address this stigma.
TGP Mental Health Curriculum
The Grassroot Project created a mental health promotion curriculum that discusses important components of mental health, destigmatizes and breaks down barriers around mental health, and strategizes ways to encourage mental wellness.
Topics covered in the curriculum, such as:
- emotional regulation
- stress identification
- assertive communication
- interpersonal relationships
These topics introduce techniques that help the youth learn more themselves and how to maintain healthy relationships with people in their lives.
Why is mental health promotion good for the youth?
Mental health promotion is particularly important for youth because it helps them become aware of their well-being and can better improve personal growth. Another reason why mental health promotion is significant is because the more that younger people learn about it, the more they can become comfortable talking about it with their peers and adults. Having discussions about mental health can encourage others to feel more confident in talking about what they’re going through and reduce mental health stigma in our community.
Mental health during COVID-19
During these tough times, it’s particularly important to promote mental health. Since the pandemic has everyone socially distancing and isolating from each other, people’s reactions to this disease can vary; increasing the overwhelming feelings of anxiety, depression, and other pre-existing mental conditions. Being away from your loved ones can be really difficult when you have a close relationship(s) with them. Making sure we check in on our family and friends can make a huge difference and help us build stronger connections. The main goal is to help ourselves and others cope with the stress we’re experiencing, which is vital to making our community stronger as a whole.
Although May is Mental Health Awareness Month, this is something that we should continue to discuss and promote beyond the month of May. As we move into June, think about focusing on different activities that can help boost your overall well being and promote mental wellness. Trying these activities can help reduce some stress and you’ll see a shift in your mood as well. These activities are simple yet powerful enough to make you feel really great. Remember that everyone has mental health, and that everyone can do something to promote their own health and well being!
Here are some activities you can do to promote your overall mental health!
Unwinding by reading a book, magazine, or e-book
South African College of Applied Psychology says, “According to Professor Davis, greater mental flexibility allows people to better adapt their thoughts and behaviors to evolving situations – people of greater mental flexibility are more likely to seek out new solutions rather than just being led by habit.” Reading is a very peaceful activity that puts us in a relaxing and calming state. Reading a little bit each day can improve brain functions and lower stress levels
Meditation can relieve feelings of anxiety as well as negative feelings and emotions. According to, Harvard Health Publishing Harvard’s Medical School “Meditation has been found to change certain brain regions that are specifically linked with depression. For instance, scientists have shown that the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) becomes hyperactive in depressed people. The mPFC is often called the “me center” because this is where you process information about yourself, such as worrying about the future and ruminating about the past. When people get stressed about life, the mPFC goes into overdrive.” By meditating we can actually sit down with ourselves and tend to parts that need healing. It helps us thoroughly process our thoughts and emotions and form a improved sense of well being.
Healthdirect states that “Exercise releases chemicals like endorphins and serotonin that improve your mood. It can also get you out in the world, help to reduce any feelings of loneliness and isolation, and put you in touch with other people. If you exercise regularly, it can reduce your stress and symptoms of mental health conditions…. and help with recovery from mental health issues. Exercising is a great activity for mental health because, by exercising you are boosting your energy and cognitive functions!
Watching your favorite movie or t.v. show
Watching your favorite movie or t.v. show can be a really fun activity to do especially when you need a good laugh. As stated in PsycheCentral, “Watching movies encourages emotional release. Even those who often have trouble expressing their emotions might find themselves laughing or crying during a film. This release of emotions can have a cathartic effect and also make it easier for a person to become more comfortable in expressing their emotions. This can be invaluable during counseling as well as in “real life.”
Journaling about your day
Journaling is one of the most effective activities for mental health. Writing out your day and thoughts eases anxiety and calms down your mind all together. According to University of Rochester Medical Center, “When you have a problem and you’re stressed, keeping a journal can help you identify what’s causing that stress or anxiety. Once you’ve identified your stressors, you can work on a plan to resolve the problems and reduce your stress.” Finding healthy ways to cope with stress like journaling, is a simple yet major way to identify and clarify your feelings. Journaling daily can also help flush out ideas and achieve your goals!
Letting your creativity flow by drawing or painting.
Painting is great way to let your imagination run wild! As mentioned by Tessera Brandon, in her blog The Benefits of Painting for Brain and Mental Health “…finding an emotional release like painting allows a person’s mind to relax and let go of all the problems that contribute to a high stress level. When people create something beautiful through painting, they stimulate the creative mind while relieving mental strain. A low stress level leads to a happier, healthier lifestyle and helps improve overall mental health.” Drawing and painting is a great way to sharpen the mind and your concentration skills. Whenever I draw and paint, I feel really calm and tranquil. Drawing is very therapeutic to me and allows me to release any stress I’m experiencing at the time.
Cooking your favorite meal or baking some sweet treats is gentle way to make one feel serene. According to DailyNews, Cooking is Therapy: Making meals to help reduce stress, heal an broken heart, among other benefits, “Cooking is a great destresser because it serves as a creative outlet,” says Debbie Mandel, author of ‘Addicted to Stress.’ “And while stress can numb your senses, cooking activates them. It’s a sensory experience with aroma, taste, touch, visual delight and even sizzling sound.” Cooking/baking serves as an great way to soothe stress and improves your focus and top chef skills all together!
I hope you enjoyed reading this blog and consider doing some of these fun activities!