Mental Health: A Topic Worth Thinking About
There is so much that we are forced to juggle every single day. We often think about: What should I eat for lunch? What time can I go to the gym? Who is picking up the kids? How do I this project for work? However, we don’t ever stop to think about: How am I feeling? Am I burnt out? How can I relax today? We can’t go on throughout the day without caring for our mental health.
I sat down with one of our ambassadors Mary Pacheco to talk about Mental Health. Mary is a 7-year Pediatric Cardiac Registered Nurse and also serves as the Unit Staff Support Committee Leader which encourages connectivity and support within her staff. She also participates in their hospital’s RISE Program, promoting resilience, integrated ethics, creating moral spaces, addressing secondary traumatization and mitigating burnout.
What is mental health?
There are many ways to define mental health, so I asked her to give me her own definition. Mary told me that she does not have her own definition and abides by what is medically correct (in line with her work as a Registered Nurse). She cites the CDC, saying:
“Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act.” (Mental Health, 2021)
How important is mental health in your line of work and in your life?
Knowing that she works in a hospital and balances her patients, workspace, and staff, I thought it was necessary to understand her perspective. Also to note, in the midst of a pandemic, I wanted to see the importance of maintaining mental health for front-liners. She said:
“As a nurse, mental health is vital to be good at your craft. My craft just so happens to be saving children’s lives. We experience a lot of physical, emotional, and mental stress throughout our long shifts caring for sick children. In order to perform at high levels of stress I had to learn to bring balance to my life and prioritize my mental health. Medical professionals have to respond with urgency at any moment. We also have to avoid burnout and cultivate meaning throughout our career. In order to help others we have to help ourselves stay balanced in mind, body, and spirit. Also as a nurse I have seen the effects of not taking care of your mental health can cause serious negative results. Neglecting your mental health could lead to long term mental, physical illnesses, and issues. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from the beginning of life,adolescence and through adulthood. It is important we make it a priority by talking about it and advocating for it.”
Why is it important to take care of your mental health?
Everyday, we always ask ourselves questions of “what”, “when”, “where”, and “how”. However, one of the most important types of questions that are much more impactful are the questions of “why”. The “why” provides people the opportunity to truly understand the reason someone is passionate about a topic. Mary told us that:
“It is important to take care of your mental health because, according to National Institute of Mental Health,” Suicide was the tenth leading cause of death overall in the United States, claiming the lives of over 47,500 people.” Mental health can change over time, from the period of adolescence throughout your lifespan. Over time we have major life experiences such as loss, divorce, sudden death, sicknesses, and accidents, which impact our mental health. When our mental demands exceed the resources and coping abilities, our mental health is impacted. Mental health impacts overall health and increases the risk for many types of physical health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke. The presence of chronically poor mental health increases the risk for mental illness.”
What is your favorite way to take care of your mental Health? How does the outdoors help maintain your mental health?
Social media will provide so many resources on how to take care of your mental health. Not all methods will work for everyone. Some people will gravitate towards self-care that is based solely on alone time, while others will rely on the company of friends and family. Mary does a collection of these, but also uses the outdoors to focus on her mental health. Here is what she does:
“I like connecting with my family and friends, running, meditating, hiking, exploring, backpacking, learning, listening to Audible books, understanding mental health, PTSD, and the brain, and supporting other people and businesses aligned with my efforts to make a positive impact on mental health. When I am outdoors, Grounding techniques using the 5 senses
A quick exercise could be when you go outside using all your five senses as follows: Use sight to notice the leaves blowing, smell the flowers or fresh cut grass, feeling your feet hit the ground as your body moves with every step, tasting the way your breath feels as you inhale the oxygen around you, hearing. Outdoor activities like backpacking, camping, and hiking encourages physical Connection with the earth, with life, taking a moment to pause and look away from our devices. Physical and mental well being goes hand in hand by going outdoors, helping balance your overall health.”
What is Y.U.M. Fitness? What ways does Y.U.M Fitness help promote mental health?
Mary is the founder of Y.U.M. Fitness. She started Y.U.M. Fitness and Wellness last year during the pandemic. As a nurse, she felt like she wanted a more holistic approach to people and her practice. She felt like she wasn’t able to meet the needs of true healing without distractions. Y.U.M. took their first group up last year during a time when they felt like they lost connections with people due to the pandemic. More people were working from home virtually, more self-checkout computers were placed instead of grocery store workers, and six feet apart became the norm. The mountains brought healing to the first group. A woman who had been an alcoholic, had been able to heal from her addiction after our trip. Mary saw the baggage nature had unloaded from the woman through their backpacking trip. She still hasn’t had a sip of alcohol since arriving back from our trip and is a dedicated AA member, and her life was forever changed. Y.U.M. Fitness supports and promotes healing to the mind, body, and spirit while encouraging connection and education of emotional resilience in a safe place outdoors. We wanted to know more about Y.U.M. Fitness and how it helps promote mental health:
“Y.U.M. Fitness supports and promotes healing to the mind, body, and spirit while encouraging connection and education of emotional resilience in a safe place outdoors. It gives people another coping skill if anything and it gets them outside, away from their devices to connect with nature and others in a way humans used to be in a community. We are another layer of added support to your circle. We truly want to help people. We can all learn new positive coping skills at any time in our life. We want to help support and educate our community on mental health and well being. Just like our mental health and well being are always changing as I mentioned, so is our ability to grow and learn new ways to adapt to life’s stressors. We want to give you a break away from life stressors and impact your mental health in a positive way, contributing to the well being of our community.”
Mental health is a major concern in our world today. The pandemic has done a lot of damage for many people, and it’s important to take note of this and address it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, talk about your thoughts, and also be there for people who may need that support. Mary is a heavy advocate for taking care of your mental health, and this interview serves to shine light on this topic. We are very proud to have Mary as one of our ambassadors, and are looking forward to everything in the future.
As always, enjoy your trips, be happy, and stay safe!