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In her monthly Meaningful Reflections column, Chaplain Kim Crawford Meeks encourages everyone to "take some time to look around, look within” during Mental Health Awareness Month.

Published May 2nd, 2023

By Kim Crawford Meeks
Spiritual Care Manager

The theme for Mental Health Awareness Month from Mental Health America is “Take some time to look around, look within.” The idea is to figure out how we each may create a more comforting and safe space for ourselves. It is beneficial to each of us to take some time to look at our home space — and at our workspace — to see what we can personally do to make the space a more calming and functional atmosphere. Taking the time to look within in order to search for the words, ideas, beliefs and comforts that we each have learned is also highly beneficial to our mental health. Almost everyone will most likely agree that comfort and peace both in our surroundings and from within is something we all desire.

In our culture, we hear slogans, sermons and bumper stickers that state “be calm,” “peace out,” “take a chill pill,” “keep the peace” and many others. Slogans, messages and bumper stickers may be encouraging, but how do we put these slogans into action?

Let’s try the “LOOK” exercise:

L- Learn to Breathe: We’ve been breathing since we were born. A common reaction to stress, though, is to neglect to take deep breaths. During stressful events and anxiety, we may hold our breath or breathe in a shallow manner. Learn to take deep and controlled breaths. As you breathe deeply, your mind, body and soul will begin to relax. You will be more capable of accessing situations, listening and processing information.

O– Other(s): Know who your safe people are. Safe people allow you to feel what you need to feel, when you are feeling it. They do not tell you how to feel, blame you for the circumstances or try to fix your feelings. A safe person communicates to you, “I’m here, and I care.” Also, we may each take the time to determine our own beliefs about an “other” that is higher than self. Many people express finding peace due to believing that something other than self is watching out for them, loving them and has a plan of hope.

O- On/Off Switch: If we could install an on/off switch for circumstances and feelings, I think we all would. An on/off switch for our emotions doesn’t exist, yet many people are not comfortable with emotions. I often hear people telling one another not to cry and to “be strong.” Telling people not to feel and express their feelings is not helpful. Peace is more easily found when we give ourselves and others permission to feel what we feel and to accept that as humans the four core emotions are: mad, sad, glad and scared. We love being glad! We love it when others are glad! The truth, though, is that mad, sad and scared are part of life. Dr. Robert Plutchik said that he identified 39,000 emotions from the core emotions. Wow! Obviously, we are going to have many different emotions each day, and normalizing those emotions is a vital part of mental health.

K– Kindness. Be kind to yourself and others. Give yourself permission to have feelings. Permission to live your dreams. Permission to change. Permission to stay the same. Give yourself permission to be who you are. No one else can be you!

May we all “Take some time to look around, look within” and create a better today and tomorrow for ourselves and others. There are multiple screenings available on the Mental Health America website for anxiety, PTSD, depression, stress and more. Take a private screening and learn about other exercises and mental health resources.

Please join us for Mental Health Awareness Day on Monday, May 15, at University Hospital in the Café Conference Room and Tuesday, May 16, at Children’s & Women’s Hospital in the Multipurpose Room & Spiritual Care Office on the first floor. From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on both days, we will offer sessions for yoga, stress reduction, mindfulness, pet therapy, rock painting and more. 

Patients, family members and USA Health associates are encouraged to call the Meaningful Reflections Line at 251-445-9016 for a daily recorded word of encouragement.

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