Since 2012, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving is when we celebrate #GivingTuesday. An initiative born out of the Belfer Center for Innovation & Social Impact in New York, the day has taken hold as a time to get in the holiday spirit by giving to charities and nonprofits around the country to support the critical work these organizations do to help those in need.
But more than that, the spirit of #GivingTuesday can be the perfect time to remind ourselves that there are so many ways to give each year, not just through monetary donations, but through our actions toward ourselves and others, particularly around mental health.
So this #GivingTuesday, celebrate the day by giving in a mentally healthy way with these seven ideas.
1. Get Educated
Mental health is one of those topics that comes with many misconceptions. This #GivingTuesday take the time to educate yourself about the realities of mental illness to truly understand what you or a loved one might be going through.
This can be done by reading books, reading reputable articles on the internet, such as the ones on our blog, or even talking to professionals and friends who know a lot about the topic. Knowledge is power, and in this case, it provides the opportunity to be more empathetic to those living with mental illness, and better support them.
“Educate yourself,” wrote Paige Alyssa O’Connor in The Mighty. “You don’t need to understand everything or even why it’s happening, but a little knowledge can go a long way when it comes to support.”
2. Help Destigmatize
Destigmatizing mental health is crucial to building a society that cares for people living with mental illness because stigma can prevent many from getting the help they need, be hurtful, and cause undue othering of those with mental illness.
Help destigmatize mental health by countering harmful opinions and language you encounter with accurate knowledge. This may lead to one of those dreaded awkward holiday conversations with a judging relative or a heated debate with a coworker, but our friends living with mental illness can’t be the only ones doing the hard work of educating the public about the realities of mental illness.
“I find that when people understand the true facts of what a mental illness is, being a disease, they think twice about making comments,” wrote Megan Dotson on the NAMI blog. “I also remind them that they wouldn’t make fun of someone with diabetes, heart disease, or cancer.”
3. Reach Out To A Friend
The holidays can be hard for many living with mental illness, which also makes it the perfect time to reach out to friends just to say hello or check in and see how they are doing. This can be as simple as sending a text or giving them a quick phone call.
“Just calling to ask how I’m doing means a great deal,” said Winona O’Reilly in The Mighty.
If your loved one is up for it, offer to visit or spend time together, take them out for coffee, dole out hugs if they want, or lend an open set of ears. Meet your friend where they are at, and respect what they need, letting them know you support them unconditionally.
“The biggest support for me is to be validated,” Melissa Fryburger-Long was quoted saying to The Mighty. “Let me know it’s OK to feel this way. I’ll be here for you and promise not to fix you, but to support you.”
If you’re feeling action-oriented this holiday season, then there’s no time like the present to find a worthy cause to volunteer for, whether it’s at a women’s shelter, crisis center, a hospital, or somewhere else entirely. Your time and talent are worthy gifts that will benefit those in need, and often volunteering is just as rewarding for the volunteer as the nonprofit.
“Volunteering and helping others can help you reduce stress, combat depression, keep you mentally stimulated, and provide a sense of purpose,” according to The Help Guide. “Giving in even simple ways can help those in need and improve your health and happiness.”
By getting involved in a cause, you have the opportunity to meet new people, build self-confidence, have a sense of purpose, increase your own happiness, combat stress, anxiety, and depression, and many other benefits. At the end of the day, volunteering is a win-win situation.
5. Mental Health First Aid
You’ve likely heard of CPR and first aid classes for physical ailments, but how about mental health first aid? Turns out there is a nationwide initiative to train people how to respond to mental health crises the same way you would respond in a medical emergency.
Since its inception, Mental Health First Aid has reached more than 1 million people in the United States, providing training that “gives you the skills you need to reach out and provide initial help and support to someone who may be developing a mental health or substance use problem or experiencing a crisis.”
If you want to get trained, classes are offered nationwide. As a bonus, the eight-hour training course is free and is offered in youth and adult specializations in both English and Spanish. It’s a great way to get educated, help destigmatize mental illness, and know how to help friends all at the same time.
6. Practice Self-Care
In the season of giving, don’t forget to schedule some time for your own self-care. Make sure you’re spending time on activities that increase your well-being, like participating in hobbies, enjoying downtime with pets, or catching up on your favorite TV shows or movies.
Don’t forget to also care for your body by eating right — Thanksgiving aside — making time to exercise, and sleeping on a regular schedule. Schedule doctor appointments to make sure your health is in tip-top shape. After all, your mind needs your body to function well.
Finally, make connections with the members of your support network who nourish your soul.
“Spending time with positive, loving people you care about and trust can ease stress, help your mood and improve the way you feel overall,” according to Mental Health America. “They may be family members, close friends, members of a support group, or a peer counselor at the local drop-in center.”
7. Get Support
Actor Jenny Mollen quipped, “There are two types of people in the world: those who think everyone needs therapy, and those who have never been.”
The value of therapy and professional mental health support can’t be underestimated. We don’t need to wait until we’re in crisis to start therapy — it can be supportive at any point in our lives. Not to mention, to give to others in a mentally healthy way, it’s crucial our own mental health is stable, and that starts by getting support. You can’t pour from an empty glass.
Consider reaching out to find a therapist if you don’t already have one or strengthen your existing mental health support system by joining a support, 12-step or therapy group. Just a little extra boost can go a long way.
“The importance of incorporating joy, spirit, and relaxation in your life has many implications in developing resiliency and staying healthy,” writes Mental Health America. “The four C’s to joy, spirit, and relaxation are: connect with yourself, connect with others, connect to your community, and create joy and satisfaction.”
This #GivingTuesday, keep in mind the four C’s that can help cultivate a sense of well-being for both others and yourself all while giving in a mentally healthy way.