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Bright Futures

Articles and Updates from Phoenix Children's

May 24, 2021, Funda Bachini, MD
Mental Health: Just Breathe
Mental Health: Just Breathe

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and if ever there were year to focus on our mental health, this would be it. Mental illness is common, one of the leading causes of disability worldwide, and is on the rise. One in four adults each year meet criteria for a mental illness and half of all mental disorders begin in childhood. Mental Illness in all age groups is on the rise and less than half of those suffering seek and receive treatment. This can be due to stigma, being unable to recognize or our feelings, or a lack of resources. Together, we can work to change this, for ourselves and each other.

Talking about how we feel can be the first step in reducing stigma and normalizing that It is okay not to be okay. As we slowly transition into our new routines, we may feel a whole range of emotions, all of which, acceptable, valid, and okay. Of course, to talk about how we feel, we must first know how we feel.

With everything that is going on in the world, our communities and our homes, taking a moment to check in on how we feel may fall to last on our priority list, but research shows that when we are doing well emotionally and taking the time to take care of ourselves, we are happier, more productive, healthier and have better relationships.

Taking care of ourselves as adults is necessary so that we can both take care of our kids and model understanding and acceptance of mental health. One great way to check in is to breathe. It seems simple, but our breath is so important in regulating us and keeping us calm. A moment of space can also help us to turn inward and check-in with ourselves about how we are doing. Take 5 minutes to close your eyes and turn your attention to your breath. Inhale. Exhale. Now, scan your body. Does anything feel tense? If it does, focus your breath there - just inhale and exhale.

Next, teach your kids. Kids of all ages can benefit from learning to take a moment to acknowledge their feelings and then learning how to calm themselves. We also feel better and help others when we check in with them about their feelings too. So, ask someone how they feel. Not how they are…but how they FEEL? And wait. Wait for them to answer, then validate their emotion. This can be as easy as repeating it back to them, asking if there is anything you can do or just being able to sit in the moment with them. Remember, no matter you or those you ask feel, all feelings are ok. These simple exercises teach how to recognize feelings and that they are okay to have and share.

Let’s make this mental health awareness month one of action. We each have the power to reduce stigma and increase recognition.

Remember, it’s okay to not be okay and we are here to help.

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