Traditionally, mental health isn’t talked about in the Latinx community. Many of us grew up watching our overworked, overwhelmed, overburdened, stressed and anxious parents pretend like they were just fine and completely ignore their mental and emotional challenges, and we thought it was normal. It’s not normal and it’s not healthy. That’s not to shame our parents—most didn’t know any better—but, it’s no surprise that we often find ourselves unable to manage our own emotions and mental wellness.
We oftentimes don’t know how to begin prioritizing our mental health for reasons that have been indoctrinated in us since we were children. So before you start thinking something is wrong with you because you don’t know how to manage your own emotional wellbeing here are some of the reasons you may be struggling and tips for what you can start doing right now to start tending to your mental health.
The Appreciation Narrative
Many of us grew up with our parents constantly reminding us to be grateful that our basic needs were being met, every single time we expressed a potentially negative emotion or feeling. We were shut down and considered to be complaining if we said we were sad or depressed about something, completely invalidating our emotions. Of course, they’re battling their own issues and oftentimes don’t know how to communicate but this is in turn is the cause for generational trauma.
Work, Work, Work
That Latino work ethic is no joke. Many of us witnessed our parents work tirelessly day in and day out to provide for us and make a better life for future generations, never taking time for themselves our entire childhoods. They did it without complaining and self-care wasn’t exactly a part of their routine. A lot of us may feel that if they could do it, why shouldn’t we be able to? But most of them were fighting silent battles that they never dealt with, often leaving them unhappy and unfulfilled.
Being a Burden
On the other hand, you may have spent most of your childhood feeling like a burden to your exhausted parents. Even those of us who had very loving parents watched them completely burn themselves out to provide for us. That can lead us to feel like we should be doing the same, although in reality that doesn’t benefit anyone. You are not a burden and ignoring your mental health needs won’t make you less of one.
Depression is Real
In our communities, depression and other emotional disorders are often brushed off and people who claim to suffer from them may be considered simply weak, whether that be mentally or weak in faith. But there are biological causes to most mental illnesses that have been proven time and again at this point. We don’t have to continue to believe that if we just ignore our feelings, we’ll learn how to deal with them. That’s not how it works.
Many of us have parents who still actively deny any trauma that may have occurred during their childhoods as well as ours, which has taught us to do the same. If we pretend like there’s not a problem like we’re not holding onto things that may have impacted us emotionally as children, we think we won’t have mental health struggles to face.
How to Start Prioritizing Your Mental Health
Well, the first step is to face it. We must recognize that whether we are actively dealing with mental illness or not, we need to be prioritizing our mental health and wellbeing. Those struggling with mental illness need to face that they may need help to get through and that that’s okay. And, the rest of us? We should be focused on prevention.
It’s okay to use your vacation days and sick days. It’s okay to take an hour or even a few to yourself and just do the things that fill your tank and clear your head. Let yourself slow down so that you can tune into your own emotions and assess where you are mentally and what you need to stay grounded.
Start an Exercise Routine
We’re not saying you need to start some hardcore gym routine, but exercise can work wonders for mental health. Exercise releases mood-boosting endorphins within the body and has been proven to help with depression, anxiety, ADHD, and other mental illnesses. Everything from walking and yoga to running and weight lifting has been proven to help.
Words are powerful and just like they can tear us down, they can build us up too. Practice reciting daily affirmations like the ones above out loud to start shifting the way you think right now. You are worth attention and care and even if no one else reminds you of that every day, you have the power and the ability to remind yourself.
Talk to Someone
A lot of us grew up thinking we should never, ever talk to strangers about personal issues, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with getting the help of a professional therapist. In fact, most of us could probably benefit from it, especially those of us who are struggling to manage our own mental health. If you’re more comfortable starting with a trusted friend or family member, that’s fine too, but seeing a therapist could be life-changing and it’s nothing to be ashamed about.