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This Mental Health Awareness Month, ‘Run Your Own Race’

April 25, 2024

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Here are tips and resources to help you get started on the route to a happier, healthier you.

On the eve of the 2024 Boston Marathon in mid-April, a reporter for one of Boston’s NPR stations shared a theme she’d seized on while covering the previous year’s event: “Run your own race.” Approaching May and Mental Health Awareness Month, that struck me as a simple yet impactful approach to our own mental health and wellbeing. 

The path to wellness is not a competition to see who can log the most steps or lose the greatest number of pounds. Strides vary. Paces vary. Strategies vary. What’s important is that you get where you want to go – a healthier place.

And the best way to get there is to run your own race.

Simple steps

Of course anyone experiencing a mental health crisis should seek clinical help as soon as possible, but for general improvement of mood and productivity, there are basic steps we can take in the course of our everyday lives — no life coach or personal trainer required. 

Here are a few tips and resources to help you get started on the route to a happier, healthier you.

  • Improve your sleep hygiene. Poor sleep can create a negative feedback loop and worsen mental health, as the Sleep Foundation explains. Exercise and at least 30 minutes of natural light can help, the latter due to its influence on circadian rhythm. Disconnect from technology two to three hours before you intend to go to sleep, and avoid doom scrolling altogether.
  • Be mindful of food and mood. The connection between food and mood — the subject of much ongoing research and treatment — is real, as the Harvard Health Blog explains. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Food and Mood Project explores factors including not only nutrition but also accessibility and cultural appropriateness. And for a comprehensive guide to healthy eating that includes recommended kitchen essentials and recipes, see the American College of Lifestyle Medicine’s “Food as Medicine Jumpstart.”
  • Exercise. Physical activity, even in small amounts, can be helpful for individuals experiencing feelings of depression and anxiety. Finding an activity you enjoy makes exercising easier, especially for individuals dealing with depression who may have trouble finding motivation or energy to engage in activity. Greater Good Magazine explores the relationship of body and mind, and addresses the question “What Type of Exercise Is Best for Mental Health?
  • Breathe deep. It seems simple. We all know how to breathe because we do it automatically, right? But how we breathe is important. Breathing correctly and deeply can help to ease stress and calm anxiety. The wellbeing platform Calm explains the benefits of conscious breathing in “How to breathe properly and why it matters.” And the American Lung Association offers “Five Ways You Might Be Breathing Wrong,” including guidance aimed particularly at those with lung conditions such as asthma (like me!) and COPD.
  • Avoid self-medicating. While recent findings show that even small amounts of alcohol can be harmful, many people do safely enjoy occasional, moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages or legal cannabis products. But consumption for the purpose of reducing pain or anxiety ultimately only makes matters worse. Self magazine provides insights on “How To Tell if You’re Using Substances To Numb Your Feelings.”
  • Embrace the power of pets. Not everyone desires or is able to enjoy animal companionship, but pets have proven to be sources of support for positive mental health. In addition to bringing us joy, pets enable us to experience the joy of caring for something beyond ourselves, as HelpGuide explains in “The Health and Mood-Boosting Benefits of Pets.” For those who can’t have a pet of their own, volunteering at a shelter, visiting a pet store or even dropping by a local dog park may provide a suitable substitute.
  • Nurture human relationships. Romantic partnership aside, sharing genuine social connections with other people is essential to mental health. America is experiencing a loneliness epidemic, and social media engagement isn’t a cure. (On the contrary; it may be a principal contributor.) There is value in being connected with others, in feeling a sense of community, in knowing that you have someone to turn to when you need support. And because the average American spends 24% of each week working, supportive relationships in the workplace are almost as important as those at home.

Care to see more suggestions? Check out Mental Health America’s “31 Tips To Boost Your Mental Health.”

Employer resources 

Mental Health Awareness Month is a great time for employers to demonstrate an ongoing commitment to building a mentally healthy workplace. 

Alera Group’s Mental Health Awareness Toolkit includes templates, tools, videos and additional resources to support you in raising awareness about how much mental health matters. You can leverage these materials during Mental Health Awareness Month and throughout the year. 


Unlike the Boston Marathon, the route to wellbeing doesn’t have a set finish line. Self-care and support from others are essential elements to health and happiness throughout life’s journey – wherever it takes us.

Run your own race. And may you enjoy the journey.


About the author

Gretchen Day, MPH, MCHES
VP of Health Innovations and Advanced Strategies
Alera Group  

In her role at Alera Group, Gretchen Day satisfies her passion for public health by working with businesses and their employees to improve workplace culture and influence change in their healthcare delivery system. Ultimately, her goal is to help individuals access better quality healthcare while advancing innovative thinking to bring about change in the way healthcare is delivered. Gretchen earned her Master of Public Health degree from the Penn State College of Medicine and Master Certified Health Education Specialist certification from the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing.  

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