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    25 Weeks to Better Mental Health – Mental Health Awareness Calendar

    May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and we want to celebrate it by jumpstarting your mental health journey. There are tons of 30-day mental health calendars online, but the reality is, progress takes more than a month. It may take you months or even years to truly cope with your stresses, struggles and past trauma.

    This is why we’ve created a 25-Week Mental Health Awareness Calendar. This is designed to guide you through a journey over the course of 6+ months. We’re not looking for quick fixes that temporarily ease your mind. We want you to build a foundation for powerful, life-altering changes.

    Note: These weeks can be interchangeable! Do what feels right for you, and work at a pace you feel comfortable with.

    If it takes you a month to tackle one of the prompts, that’s perfectly fine. The key is to keep preserving, no matter how long it may take.

    Week 1 – Practice Breathing Techniques

    You may feel overwhelmed during this mental health journey. Any time you have to look inward, face your stressors or overcome obstacles in your life, it’s going to be stressful. That’s why we are starting the calendar with some foundational stress relief.

    When you feel yourself getting anxious or overwhelmed, focus on your breathing. Inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, and exhale for 4 seconds. It may help to visualize inhaling the scent of a warm cup of soup, then blowing off the bowl to cool it down. Steady breathing will reduce your heartrate and create a sense of calm over your body.

    More tips: 8 Deep Breathing Exercises for Anxiety

    Week 2 – Create a List of Small, Achievable Goals for the Year

    Bog goals can seem daunting, especially when you’re already feeling stressed. Small goals are much more achievable and can help you feel in control of your life.

    Create a list of small goals you’d like to reach during the year. This could be as simple as touching up the wall paint in your house or taking the donations in your trunk to a thrift store. Perhaps you want to save $10 extra a week or wake up an extra 20 minutes early.

    List the goal and the step(s) to take to achieve it. Hang that list somewhere you look frequently, and cross off the accomplishments as they come!

    Week 3 – Journal about an Event You Didn’t Think You’d Survive (But You Did!)

    This week is a tough one, so don’t forget about the breathing techniques from Week 1. We want you to journal about a significant event in your life you didn’t think you’d overcome. This will likely be a traumatic experience from your past, so dedicate a decent amount of free time to this task.

    Write out your experiences on paper. Don’t just think about them or type notes on your phone. Focus on the events themselves and how you remember feeling in the moment. Then write out how you survived and what helped you get through one of the most difficult points in your life.

    The goal here is to bring closure to a past trauma and also showcase how strong you are. You had no idea you were capable of getting through that, but you did. And you can use that same strength to persevere through challenges in the future.

    Week 4 – Have a Reset Day with No Responsibilities

    When is the last time you dedicated absolutely nothing? No work. No chores. No social commitments. Just relaxing, sleeping and recharging.

    That’s what you get to do this week. If you need some extra time to arrange childcare or time off work, maybe move this week to later in your journey.

    You’ll be amazed by how refreshed you feel after a single refresh day without responsibilities. If you can book one of these days every month, that’s even better! But we realize that’s not attainable for everyone.

    Week 5 – Focus on Your Sleep Routine

    Your sleep time gives your brain a chance to catch up from the day. It spends the entire day making sure your body moves and your senses are on full alert. When you’re resting, it can dedicate more energy to processing thoughts and emotions.

    This is why good sleep is crucial for good mental health. Use this week to establish a consistent sleep routine that you can use night after night. Avoid screens for at least 30 minutes before bed, and go to bed around the same time every day. You want falling asleep to feel like muscle memory for your body.

    More tips: How to Get Better Sleep for Better Mental Health

    Week 6 – Dive into Your Finances and Create Solutions for Financial Stressors

    This is another hard week, so we hope you’re well rested! It’s time to take a closer look at your finances.

    According to a study from September 2020, 84% of American adults feel some form of financial stress. This may be from limited savings, unstable job security, cost of living increases, healthcare bills and more. If you’re feeling stressed, there’s a decent chance money has something to do with it.

    Pull up your bank and credit card statements from the last three months. Look over what you’re spending and consider where you could cut back. How often do you use that $10 streaming service? How much could you save making your morning coffee at home? Think about realistic sacrifices you could make to save more money or pay off debt faster. If a lack of income is the issue, explore ways to further your career or build a secondary income stream for your household.

    Week 7 – Clean a Small Space with a Big Impact

    You don’t have to clean your whole house to feel better in the space. Focus on a small area that could have a big impact, such as your kitchen or master closet. This should be an area that you interact with regularly because the added clutter may feel like added stress.

    Use this as an opportunity to purge and donate items you no longer want/need. Both of these acts are great for mental health, and they have the added bonus of freeing room in your home.

    Week 8 – Reach out to an Old Friend You Lost Contact with

    Whether you’ve recently struggled with mental health or you’ve been on a downward spiral for a while, there are likely some people you’ve lost contact with along the way. This week, reach out to one of them. Ask them how they’ve been doing and meet up for a meal, if you like. If they don’t respond, that’s OK. The important part is that you made the effort.

    Week 9 – Write out Your Accomplishments (You Have More Than You Think)

    You’ve spent countless time thinking about your shortcomings, but what about your accomplishments? Did you congratulate yourself for paying off your cell phone, stocking your fridge, or getting your kids to school this week?

    Take a moment to write out every accomplishment you can think of, even if it’s small. Those moments deserve to be celebrated. If you’re struggling to think of a list, ask people in your support system. They’re probably prouder of you than you realize.

    Week 10 – Prioritize Your Time Commitments and Eliminate the Extras

    You have a problem saying “no.” This may be for fear of disappointment or because you want to avoid conflict. Nevertheless, the repeated patterns of saying “yes” has caused you to overextend yourself.

    This week, make an outline of all your time commitments, from your kid’s sports practices to your carpool duties and beyond. Rank these commitments from most important to least important. Then consider eliminating some of the tasks at the bottom.

    Freeing up extra time may feel painful at first, but it will ultimately leave room for better mental health.

    Week 11 – Journal about a Time When You Felt Your Happiest

    Think back on what you consider your glory days, or a moment when you felt invincible. Write about this experience on paper, just like you did in Week 3.

    What made that time so joyful? What has changed from then to now? Is there anything you can do to emulate that era and rekindle some of that happiness?

    You may have more responsibilities now than you did before, but you’re the same person at the end of the day. Thinking back on the past may help you map out a happier future.

    Week 12 – Identify Long-Term Goals and the Steps You Need to Complete Them

    You wrote out some short-term goals on Week 2, but we think you’re ready to look toward the future. By now, you’ve taken positive steps to manage your finances, time commitments and general stress triggers.

    What is the most important goal you want to achieve in the next 5-10 years? What do you need to do on a monthly or yearly basis to make that dream a reality?

    Write out the steps you need to take to achieve your long-term goals, and put that list next to the short-term one. Set calendar reminders on your phone to keep you on track for those longer goals, and don’t lose sight of them! When you can break the big plan into smaller sections, you can gradually build a better life for yourself.

    Week 13 – Tackle That Project You’ve Avoided Far Too Long

    We all have those projects that we’ll handle “some day.” Well, today is that day! Clean out the shed. Organize your master closet. Sort all the photos on your phone. Do the task that you’ve put off doing for far too long.

    If you finish it quickly, you might get motivated to do another project! If it takes a while, you can look back on your accomplishments after completion. Either way, you’re setting the tone for happier and more peaceful days to come.

    Week 14 – Treat Yourself to Your Favorite Meal

    What’s that meal you love and rarely get a chance to eat? Maybe it takes a long time to make, or perhaps it’s at a restaurant two hours from home. This week, treat yourself to that very meal. If you have to drive to get it, make a day trip out of it! If a family member makes it, tell them how much it means to you. You deserve this dose of happiness after all the progress you’ve made.

    Week 15 – Unplug Yourself for the Weekend and Consider a Long Social Media Break

    Unplugging yourself means removing as much technology as possible from your life. In today’s world, that isn’t always easy to do. If you can coordinate this around a vacation, that’s great. If not, try to limit your technology to work hours and unplug when you’re at home.

    Another option would be to go on an extended social media break. Don’t make an announcement on your profiles. Just take a break. Delete the apps from your phone and redownload them in a week, a month, or three months. This can break the cycle of social media addiction and allow you to focus on healthier coping mechanisms.

    Week 16 – Read a Book That Targets Your Biggest Mental Health Struggles

    There are tons of books out there designed to boost your mental health. Each of them has a different focus, whether it be body image issues, low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, sleep deprivation, trauma recovery, or any other obstacles you may need to overcome.

    This week, read a book that’s written about your biggest struggles. See if you can pull helpful coping strategies from the book or at least feel like you’re not alone in your journey. If you don’t want to read, listen to an audiobook or podcast. Use this time to reflect, grow and reframe your perspective.

    Week 17 – Buy a New Outfit That Makes You Feel Confident

    This is another treat yourself week! And this time, it’s about revamping your image of yourself.

    Get a new outfit that you feel confident in, even if you have nowhere to wear it for now. Don’t worry about size or the number on the tag. Just look for something that makes you feel powerful and important.

    Don’t have a lot of money? Check out the thrift store! Afraid to shop in person? Shop online at a store geared toward your aesthetic. If clothes aren’t bringing you joy, consider getting a new accessory instead (shoes, jewelry, sunglasses, purse, etc.).

    Week 18 – Declutter Your Email Account

    Digital clutter can be just as stressful as physical clutter. Use this week to organize your email account. At the bottom of almost every promotional email, there is a button that allows you to unsubscribe. Select that before deleting emails to reduce future clutter and keep your inbox clean.

    You can also set up filters to automatically put certain emails in certain folders. Filter by sender or by keyword so your emails sort themselves when they arrive. When you need to access the latest promo from your favorite brand, you can go to the folder dedicated to that brand. This way the emails aren’t lost forever, but they aren’t clogging your primary inbox.

    Week 19 – Do Something That Takes You out of Your Comfort Zone

    This week, think outside the box. Use the confidence you’ve been building to step outside your comfort zone. Make small talk with a stranger at a coffee shop or create that online dating profile you’ve been avoiding. Try an entirely new restaurant or go see a movie by yourself. These incremental changes can help you feel less anxious later on.

    Week 20 – Pre-Plan Your Outfits and Meals for the Week

    Take the stress out of getting ready for work by planning a week in advance. Pre-plan your outfits and make sure the laundry gets done to support that. Plan out your meals, buy the corresponding groceries, and prep as much food as you can. The day-to-day stress will seem much more manageable without these added tasks on your plate.

    If possible, use this week as a template for every week!

    Week 21 – Face Your Biggest Regret and Forgive Yourself

    “I hate that I did that.” “I never should have stayed there.” “I wish I’d never made that decision.”

    There is some aspect of your life that you consider a negative turning point, and you likely haven’t forgiven yourself for the aftermath. This week, we want you to let that grudge go.

    You cannot change the past, but you can learn from it. Don’t think about what you would have done differently, but rather how you can make changes in the future to prevent a similar experience.

    Then forgive yourself. Let go of the anger you’ve harbored for yourself for so long. Mistakes happen, and they can be stepping stones to better experiences. Bring this chapter to a close so you can start the next one.

    Week 22 – Identify Your Negative Thought Patterns

    Most people naturally experience negative thought patterns, such as overthinking or jumping to conclusions. It’s tough to identify them in the moment, but once you can, you can train your brain to reverse negative thoughts.

    Review the Negative Thought Patterns outlined on the Harvard University website. Take a critical look at your natural reactions, and figure out which of patterns you’re guilty of.

    The next time you find yourself stressed, overwhelmed, flustered or depressed, look back on the thought patterns you identified. Then reframe your perspective to conquer the negativity. Instead of trying to predict the future, focus on the facts and what you can control right now. Highlight the potential positives of the situation, not just the negatives.

    This will require repeat effort, but with time, you can start to change the way you react in a stressful moment.

    Week 23 – Review Your Goals from Week 2

    Remember way back in the beginning when you set small goals for the year? Revisit that list and see what you’ve accomplished so far. If you haven’t made the progress you were hoping for, choose a couple goals to focus on right now. Consider this a friendly reminder that you can do it!

    Week 24 – Celebrate Your Progress by Planning a Getaway

    You’ve done so much self-improvement over the last few months. Reward yourself accordingly.

    Plan a getaway that allows you to relish in your progress. You could plan it for this week or give yourself something to look forward to in weeks to come. If an official “getaway” isn’t in the budget, consider sending the kids to a family member’s house for a weekend. Have a stay-cation with limited responsibilities, and enjoy the Me Time you deserve!

    Week 25 – Pinpoint the Areas You Still Need to Work on and How to Continue Your Journey

    Which week was the hardest for you to take on? What work do you still have left to do? This last week is a planning period for all the weeks to come.

    Perhaps you’ve reached the peak of what you can do on your own and you need a therapist to guide you through the next steps. Maybe you need more time to heal from a traumatic experience and revisit emotions from the past. Take pride in all that you’ve gone through and embrace the work still left to come. The nonjudgmental therapists here at CNLD Testing & Therapy would love to support you on your continued journey.

    Contact us at (734) 994-9466 to learn more about our mental health services.