Helpful Ways to Navigate and Manage Mental Health

Nourish the body;
Because meat makes Francies feel sluggish, she currently eats a vegetarian diet, consuming energy-promoting foods like peppers and mushrooms.

She also drinks half her body weight in ounces of water and regularly eats small meals. “If I stay with low energy for too long, I slip into a depressive episode,” she says.

Savor solo mornings;
Even before glancing at her phone in the mornings, Francies centers herself by playing the piano, journaling, reading a book, sitting in silence, or practicing yoga. “I give myself so many options because it always leaves me excited about doing something different,” she say

Casilla-Mwaura also prioritizes movement in the mornings, practicing 7- or 10-minute yoga videos.

Involve the kids;
Doing activities that are both fun for her 2- and 5-year-old and restorative for her has been a big help for Casilla-Mwaura.

For example, when playing with her daughter, they’ll do kids’ yoga and sing: “I turn on some popular TikTok songs my kids know and scream out singing.”

Share what’s going on;
Smart finds it helpful to tell her kids, who are 12 and 17, when she needs space to sort things out.

“If it’s a specific event that is triggering me, I’ll tell them, ‘Hey I gotta get past this date/issue/event/appointment, and then I should be good.’ They are usually very understanding and by now are pretty used to it.”

Ask for help;
When Perez needs time to herself, her husband takes over after work. This is when she retreats to another part of the house to journal and take a bath. Or she takes a walk — “moving my body helps me to get out of my head and into the present moment.”

Her in-laws also take the boys on weekends so she can decompress.

To redirect her thinking when she can’t focus or sleep because her PTSD is “rearing its ugly head,” Smart turns to prayer. For example, Smart, who’s Catholic, will silently recite the Lord’s Prayer, Hail Holy Queen, Hail Mary, or St. Michael’s Prayer.

Do just one helpful thing;
When Perez’s depression worsens, she does one thing that contributes to her mental and physical health: “A full day of tasks and sensory input is crippling, but one single task that I know is good for me is manageable.”

She notes that this could be taking a multivitamin, stretching when binge-watching shows, or using Epsom salt during baths (“Magnesium is a great mood booster and can promote sleep,” she adds).

Smart also likes to watch the summer storms from her upstairs porch or soak in the tub while reading one of her favorite authors.

For Redd, author of “Be Free. Be You, journaling about her negative thoughts is especially powerful as it reveals thinking patterns that need to be shifted. If she’s triggered by someone, she composes a letter. “I never send it unless I edit it three times,” she notes.

Go out in nature;
When Redd needs to self-reflect, she finds comfort in taking solo walks after dinner. If her kids are with her, everyone rides their bikes to unwind.

Learn something new;
Casilla-Mwaura is learning to play the kalimba, an African musical instrument. Doing something so different for her helps her feel like she’s not the same person she was years ago during her abuse.

“I get to realize that I’m moving forward, learning something new and somehow, I feel proud about myself even if I’m still learning how to play ‘Row, Row, Row Your Boat,’” she says.

You are a survivor ;
Based on something her then 4-year-old daughter said, Casilla-Mwaura regularly reminds herself that she’s a survivor, repeating these words: “I’m a survivor and my strength is the strength and inspiration of my children. With a happy smile above the aching heart, I heal every day and survive every day.”

When you, too, are struggling, figure out what you need, seek support, and find strategies that support your emotional and physical well-being.

And remember you, too, are a survivor.

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