Loving your mental health:
Red flags and real advice

By Joni Schwager, Staunton Farm Foundation Executive Director

Once we’ve wrapped the holidays and rung in the new year, we’re left with lofty (often restrictive) resolutions and the doldrums of winter. Shorter days, barren landscapes, and less sunlight can directly affect your mood.

While not everyone experiences seasonal affective disorder (SAD), this is a good time of year to check in on your mental wellness – and the mental wellness of the people around you. Here are a few things to look for in yourself or someone you know:

Someone struggling with their mental wellness may pull away from loved ones, cancel social activities, or stop doing things they previously enjoyed.

Feelings of sadness, hopelessness
There are times in life when we all feel sad, but no one should live with constant feelings of sadness, emptiness, loneliness, or hopelessness.

Sleep disturbances
This could mean sleeping too much or not sleeping enough.

Change in appearance
While a change of appearance could mean something drastic like a noticeable haircut, it could also manifest as looking disheveled, lacking personal hygiene, or anything unusual for that person.

When symptoms are severe enough to cause changes in your daily activities, it may be time to reach out for help. Consider talking to a trusted loved one, your primary care physician, a faith leader, or call the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Speaking of 988, it received more than 1.7 million calls, texts, and chats since launching in July of 2022. So, if you do need to call, please know you’re not alone.

If symptoms occur infrequently or feel manageable with help from people around you, let’s review some simple things you can do to care for yourself and love your mental wellness:

Reach out to your support system
Sharing your experiences with friends and loved ones can be a great way to work through tough situations, gain perspective, and get advice from someone who may have been through something similar.

Take time for yourself
Life is busy! Make sure you slow down every now and then to read a good book, plant something lovely in your garden, soak in a bubble bath, or get some exercise. We all need time to rest and unwind.

Practice mindful breathing or meditation
What’s important here is taking a pause to collect your thoughts. How do you feel? What do you need to improve or maintain your mental wellness?

Don’t over-consume
Whether we’re talking about caffeine, alcohol, food, or self-depreciation, everything is best in careful moderation.

Mental wellness, or lack thereof, can look different for everyone depending on their situation. If someone approaches you for help, even someone you thought was thriving, just be there for them. Listen and let them describe how they’re feeling. Support them in getting help – drive them there if you need to! We must respond to mental health in the same way we do to physical health. If someone breaks a bone, you go to the doctor. If their spirit is broken, they need help, too.

That’s why Staunton Farm Foundation is investing in a future where behavioral health is understood, supported, and accepted. Our 2023 Capacity Building Grant applications are open through March 31, 2023 and strive to preserve quality behavioral health services in Southwestern PA. If you know an organization that would benefit from the funding, please encourage them to apply.

We’re always working toward mental wellness and hope you are, too. Stay tuned for upcoming editions of our quarterly Mental Health Matters blog and keep in touch by following Staunton Farm Foundation on Facebook and Twitter.