May is Mental Health Awareness Month! We are responsible for taking care of our mental health. We know that you can address your mental health in a clinical setting, such as therapy, or in a personal manner, such as “retail therapy.” I get it, “retail therapy” makes me feel better too. However, there are forms of care for your mental health that do not come with a financial cost. I would like to shine light on some self-care practices that are free and have impacted my mental health.
I love a good joke. Who doesn’t?
I am referring to techniques and practices that focus on intentional and deep breathing exercises. The reason I appreciate breathwork so much is that I can do this at any moment. I can practice breathwork when I am at the stoplight for a long time, when I am anxious, when I am at my desk, or when I simply need to connect with my body. One of my favorite breathwork exercises is box breathing. In this exercise, you slowly inhale for four seconds, hold for four seconds, exhale for four seconds, hold for four seconds, and repeat until necessary.
Yoga is a practice that originated in ancient India over 5,000 years ago. This practice has allowed me to connect with my body and it has been life changing. Often, I will do a body scan to see where I am carrying my stress (spoiler alert: it is usually in my neck or in-between my shoulder blades). Once the areas of discomfort are found, I follow a yoga routine that will target those areas. If I have time in the morning, I will follow a quick 5–10-minute morning yoga routine to start my day.
I cannot stress this enough: support your public library. Waco has four libraries! This year, I challenged myself to read more fiction books. My library card gives me access to free books and audiobooks, which allows me to take a break from reality. The library offers more than just books; in the past, they have offered computer assistance, different clubs, story times, cooking demonstrations, and more.
Rest is not something you earn but something your body needs to function. Rest comes in different forms. It could look like sleeping/napping, or it could look like declining an invitation to a social event because you feel drained, whether it be physically, emotionally, or mentally.
I could write a book about boundaries! Although, I don’t have to because someone already did. Set Boundaries, Find Peace by Nedra Glover Tawwab provided me with a great foundation about how to incorporate boundaries in all aspects of my life, including with my family, my finances, my workplace, and myself. By setting up boundaries and maintaining them, my stress levels have gone down.
Mónica Dávila is the behavioral health policy fellow with Prosper Waco.
It is a position funded by the Hogg Foundation.