Meet Chirlane McCray.
She is a feminist trailblazer and the wife and "No. 1 Adviser" of NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio. She is also the chair of the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City, a nonprofit that raises money to support a variety of initiatives. In the past year, McCray has put the issue of mental health at the forefront of her causes and recently announced the investment of $78.3 million annually to provide mental health care services in the New York City area. She also launched #shatterthestigma, a social media campaign aimed at destigmatizing conversations surrounding mental illness. For her, it's an effort that is not only political, but personal: Her father suffered from depression, and her daughter, Chiara, has been open about her own struggles with depression, anxiety, and addiction.
As Mental Health Awareness Month comes to a close, McCray sat down with BuzzFeed News to share her insights into an important — and often forgotten — aspect of the conversation surrounding mental health: self-care. Here are some of her tips for coping with life's difficulties — and seeking help when you need it.
1. Don't shy away from negative emotions...
"What you feel is what you feel. I like to think about carrying my weather with me. If I feel like I'm in a space where there are clouds and rain and lightning, then it's like, 'Something's not right,' and I need to do something about it, figure out some coping strategies, and if that's not working then it means taking another step."
2. ...And figure out what helps you process them.
"I have a lot of tools that I use. This morning I was listening to Chaka Khan and India Arie. It really helps me boost my mood. I love to move around. Dancing is a big thing for me. I love nature, so walking around the garden, looking at plants, just being in touch with the Earth helps me so much. Poetry. Writing. It's a long list."
(For ideas on other activities that can help you process emotions and practice self-care, check out this useful list.)
3. Remember that what you share online can be a barometer for yourself and others.
"I think that technology is great because we can actually sometimes see that people are not feeling the face that they're putting forward to the world, and that way we can help people. Especially with young people, they're putting it all out there, and I think that it's actually a helpful tool for their friends to be able to notice when something's not right so they can help get them to a better space."
4. No matter how busy your schedule is, carve out time for yourself...
"Sometimes we think, Oh, I don't have time to do this because our lists of tasks for the day is so long. But I know that if I don't dance, if I don't sing, if I don't meditate, if I don't take time for myself, I'm not going to be able to get up and get out there and do the work that I need to do. I need to be in a good space."
5. ...and make sure it's a regular habit.
"[Making time for myself] is definitely a challenge, but I have to do it. I would love to get to a point where I could say, 'Oh, it's going to take me two hours a day or an hour.' I just know it has to be there and it has to be regular. [I] can't save it all up for two weeks in the summer. It has to be part of my routine."
6. If you know you need help, find someone you can trust...
"The best resource I found [when seeking help for my daughter] was actually another person. I found it really hard to figure out, What's the good level of care here? [Therapists] are strangers. So, it really came down to finding one person who I trusted. I trusted her judgment and she pointed me in the direction of other people I could go to who'd be able to provide a certain level of care. I can't recommend that more strongly ... Just find that person that you can trust who can help."
7. ...And don't wait to do it.
"If you live with stress for a long period of time, it really builds up and builds up and becomes what we call 'toxic stress' and trauma and it's much harder for people to make a comeback from that. So it's really important for people to get it early. If you feel like something's not right, reach out."
(If you'd like to find a therapist and aren't sure how, this beginner's guide is a great place to start.)
8. Remember that therapists aren't the only ones who can help...
"Sometimes healing doesn't require a psychiatrist. Remember that, and know that there are healers actually all around us and people who have the ability to help with the healing process. But we do have to seek them out."
9. ...And don't get discouraged if you don't find someone right away.
"Sometimes it does take a little time to find the right person. Even though you need that person now, don't be discouraged. It may take a little while, but that person is out there. There's a resource, whether it's in your church, in your hospital, through your community organization, a trusted friend. Just keep looking, keep reaching out. It is the first step to healing."