Honoring Mental Health Awareness Month at CA

June 2, 2022

If there’s one thing we’ve learned during the pandemic, it’s how much our connections contribute to our mental wellbeing. 

At CA, nurturing connectivity means everything to us. In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, May was full of open conversations on ways we can lift each other up and be proactive about caring for our mental health. A big “thank you” to all our members and team members for generously sharing the different connections that keep you feeling healthy in mind and spirit.

Whether it’s connecting to your body, to nature or to your neighbors, there’s no “one size fits all” approach to mind-body wellness…and that’s the beauty of it! 

Here’s a round-up of just some of the ways this community embraces CA’s spaces and programs to support their mental wellbeing. 

Movement  

Did you know that five minutes of exercise is all it takes to feel a mood boost? Releasing endorphins + lowering stress hormones = improved mental fitness. That’s why moving your body is one of the best ways to keep the stress monster from spiraling. Take it from CA personal trainer Darrell Gough, who says morning exercise is vital for keeping his mental health in shape.

Many of you shared that the social aspect of CA’s fitness clubs help you maximize the stress-relieving benefits. Between upbeat music and encouragement from others, group fitness classes exude positivity. CA member Michelle Blumhagen (below), a regular in various group fitness classes, says that working out in a group helps her stay connected and active.

“Group fitness supplies the focus and energy that working out by myself cannot do. Even when I can’t do as much as other class participants, I feel my effort counts and is appreciated. The instructors are positive and encouraging, and it’s an overall fun and friendly environment. I am looking forward to this summer’s Dancin’ Under the People Tree where new and old members join for sweaty, healthy fun!” -Michelle Blumhagen

 

 

However you choose to move, CA has got you covered. Here are a few ways you can get in on all the endorphins!

 

Creativity

No matter what age you are, having an outlet for creativity supports your mental health​. Columbia Art Center welcomes anyone in the community to come express themselves and release stress. Art doesn’t have to be a solitary pursuit — connecting with people who share your passions is a big win for your mental wellbeing.

Thank you to Vickie Howell, Michele Krupka, Amanda Milliner and Jessica Taylor for sharing how the Art Center has inspired hope and healing in your life!

 

Want to experience the benefits of creativity and connection yourself? View programs and classes at the Art Center here. Or, visit the gallery anytime — research shows that even just viewing artwork alleviates stress. 

 

Nature

Connecting to nature is an incredible way to nurture your mental health. Getting your daily dose of fresh air and vitamin D has a multitude of benefits, from lowering your blood pressure to reconnecting to the bigger picture to reduce stress.

For our Open Space team, it’s a privilege to maintain 114 miles of pathways to help you walk, jog and bike your way to a healthier headspace! 

If you’re looking to spend more time outdoors, check out six family-friendly trails in Columbia here.

 

Volunteering

When you help others, you help your own mental health too. There’s even a name for it — “the helper’s high.” As a bonus, connecting to kindness and extending it to your neighbors has a ripple effect. Just ask Mae Beale, who serves on CA’s International & Multicultural Advisory Committee and was inducted into the 2016 Howard County Women’s Hall of Fame for her contributions to the community!

For Elvira McCullough, who has been involved with CA’s International Exchange and Multicultural Programs for about 10 years, the pandemic reinforced the important role that connection plays in mental health.

“Helping others gives me pleasure, makes me happy, enriches my life, helps me connect with people, gives me purpose, and overall, it feels like a necessity to give back. Believe it or not, somehow, also the more you give, the more you get!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s plenty of ways to get involved in the community and experience the “helper’s high” with CA. Here are just a few:

  • Volunteer with CA’s International Exchange and Multicultural Programs. For info on upcoming opportunities, email Program Manager Grace Chang at grace.chang@columbiassociation.org.
  • Volunteer with CA’s Open Space team. Whether it’s helping to plant trees, remove weeds or pick up trash, the triple-whammy of doing good, moving your body and getting fresh air is a big boost for your mental wellbeing. Learn more here.
  • Join an advisory committee. From environmental efforts to the arts, each committee is made up of resident volunteers and CA staff working together to impact change. Joining one of CA’s advisory committees is an excellent opportunity to meet people in the community who share your passions. View current openings here.

 

Community 

Your community is here for you! If you’re struggling, seeking support is a sign of strength. Here are some excellent local resources:

  • It isn’t easy to talk about mental health, but The Horizon Foundation’s Emotional Support Human campaign is full of conversation-starters to help us show up for our loved ones with compassion.
  • NAMI Howard County has a comprehensive guide to local resources to support every age group.
  • HCPSS summarizes the support offered by the school system to promote mental health and wellness, with great insights on age-appropriate behavior. 
  • The Howard County Health Department is raising awareness to the fact that talking saves lives, and contains resources for those experiencing a crisis. 

Sharing our stories and experiences with others in the community is one way we can also help normalize these important conversations. CA’s Communications & Outreach Specialist, Lauren Morris, opens up about taking good care of herself and asking for help.

Remember, your mental health is a priority every month of the year. We’re so grateful for a community who is willing to share openly and lift each other up.

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