To Your (Mental) Health!

Girls JumpingHave you ever felt really, really bad but worried that if you told someone, they just might not understand? That they might totally miss the point, overreact, or, even worse, not react at all? As teenage girls, we go through a ton of changes in a short period of time. As Latinas in the United States, we face the added pressure of having to navigate and satisfy different cultural expectations and social pressures.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, it is projected that up to 46% of Latina women  in the US have experienced or will experience clinical depression (NAMI). Satisfying varied cultural and gender expectations while constantly feeling “different”  is certainly not easy, and can sometimes make us feel overwhelmed, lost, anxious and sad. Sometimes these feelings are fleeting, lasting only a few days, but sometimes difficult feelings can linger…and linger….and linger.

Unfortunately, there are people who will tell you to just “snap out of it,” as if at the flick of a wrist your emotional clouds will disappear behind happy rainbows and unicorns. Others might tell you to simply “get over it.”  As if.

Time for Help?
It is true that sometimes we just have some good old teenage angst.  And yes, sometimes we do overreact. For example, your crush going on a date with your frenemy is not the end of the world (even though it feels like it). Neither is being grounded for a weekend. But sometimes feelings go beyond regular troubles. Maybe your parents recently divorced or you feel lonely at school. Maybe you lost a loved one. Maybe you worry about everything so much that you cannot do anything.

Lucia Schmidt, 23, confides “sometimes I get so anxious at school that I just go in circles, paralyzed, feeling worse and worse. I cannot seem to accomplish any amount of productivity. On a good day, I can conquer my anxiety. On a bad day, I fall into an attack of sweats, shortened breath, and loss of emotional control” (known commonly as a panic attack). It is important to recognize at which point emotional stress exceeds healthy levels.

Sometimes we get so low and stressed that we need help coping with our feelings. This is the time to consider talking to a trusted adult. This person can be a parent, a teacher, a school counselor, or perhaps a psychologist. A psychologist is a professional trained to help you work through hard times. A psychologist specializes in mental health care, and your school counselor can probably recommend one to you (and help you find the most affordable—even free—options).

Gabriela Mendoza, 19, is grateful that she was encouraged to seek professional help.  “It is so comforting to have a knowledgeable, unbiased person to talk to. I feel like I can truly unload my stresses and fears. My therapist helps me untangle my emotions and develop ways to handle emotionally difficult situations.”

It is neither weird nor bad to need and seek help. The hormones of adolescence, stress of school, and social pressures can make times feel pretty tough. You are not alone, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with you. On the contrary, kudos for recognizing that something is getting in the way of you being your absolute most fabulous self!  Asking for help shows not only great maturity, but that you want to live the healthiest, happiest life possible. Cheers!

You Are Never Alone
Feelings can be pretty tricky to talk about. It is normal (though unnecessary) to feel shy when talking about the inner workings of your mind and heart. Don’t beat yourself up if the right words seem hard to find, and never think a particular feeling is weird or bad—if you have felt it, so have millions of others, and you can be sure any psychologist or counselor knows exactly what you are talking about. In fact, amongst your friends and family you are almost guaranteed to find someone who has at some point struggled with a similar feeling. Unfortunately, not everyone acknowledges his or her emotional struggles. Not only is this unhealthy, this contributes to a culture of denial and poor mental health. Be patient with yourself, open up to a trusted person, and afford yourself the emotional care and space you need in order to be your happiest self.

Mental health is perhaps the most overlooked yet most important aspect of our overall wellbeing. You, querida amiga, deserve the best in this world. In order to lead the most fun, fulfilling, and fabulous life possible you need to take great care of your entire self: body, heart, and mind.

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