May is Mental Health Awareness Month and the perfect opportunity to start a conversation about what it means to the nearly 1 in 5 Americans who suffer from mental illness. Say that again. 1 in 5. Odds are, you know someone who lives with a disorder – or that someone could be you. The problem is these topics are not easy for everyone to talk about. Admitting to dealing with these issues is sometimes considered taboo. Anxiety. Depression. Stress. These conditions affect almost 50 million people across the country everyday. You are not alone in your suffering, and you can add your voice and spread the word about the challenges people face daily. In fact, stress and mental illness are attributed as leading causes for lost time at work.

So let’s talk about May!

This month there will be roll-outs across the nation as well as campaigns to highlight many facets of mental illnesses. Conversations about what it’s like, what the warning signs are, how it feels to give in to acceptance and how to find help. Sites like Mental Health America of Middle Tennessee (MHAMT) and Mental Health America (MHA) offer great resources including Free Screenings, Crisis Hotlines, links to therapists in your area and so much more. Take advantage and spread the word!

Tips to Boost Your Mental Health

Track gratitude and achievement with a journal. Include 3 things you were grateful for and 3 things you were able to accomplish each day.

Start your day with a cup of co­ffee. Coff­ee consumption is linked to lower rates of depression. If you can’t drink coff­ee because of the caff­eine, try another good-for-you drink like green tea.

Set up a getaway. It could be camping with friends or a trip to the tropics. The act of planning a vacation and having something to look forward to can boost your overall happiness for up to 8 weeks!

Work your strengths. Do something you’re good at to build self-confidence, then tackle a tougher task.

Keep it cool for a good night’s sleep. The optimal temperature for sleep is between 60˚ and 67˚ Fahrenheit.

“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” -Martin Luther King Jr.

Experiment with a new recipe, write a poem, paint or try a Pinterest project. Creative expression and overall well-being are linked.

Show some love to someone in your life. Close, quality relationships are key for a happy, healthy life.

Boost brainpower by treating yourself to a couple pieces of dark chocolate every few days. The flavanoids, caffeine, and theobromine in chocolate are thought to work together to improve alertness and mental skills.

If you have personal experience with mental illness or recovery, share on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr with #mentalillnessfeelslike. Check out what other people are saying by clicking here!