Note: The following interview was conducted in Spanish by Nancy Ayala and translated to English:

Hilda Garcia Leon’s tips to live in love and improve mental health.

Before letting anyone into your day, you come first! That is the advice of Hilda Garcia Leon, from Central Oregon, who is an activist, mother, wife and is in love with life and nature. Leon is a Tapatia woman (Guadalajara Native) who wakes up at 4 a.m. to conquer the day with devotion and self-love. At that time, she removes herself from every role that she plays. At 4 a.m. Leon is not a daughter, nor is she a mother or a wife; it is only her, and she has time for herself. Starting the morning like this is what allows her to have an abundance of charm for life and her work with the community through the Latino Community Association, that along with a list of other tips that she shares with Mind Your Mind Central Oregon.

It starts with self-knowledge.

Our body is usually very good at communicating when something is wrong and sends us messages, but we spend so much time in it that we forget to pay attention. Sometimes the messages come to us in muscular tension, headaches, shortness of breath, throbbing in the chest, etc. For Leon, recognizing when her body communicates something to her is important because it helps her raise awareness and self-inspection.

“When I am anxious or nervous, I suffer from insomnia and it makes me want to eat! I have to stop and wonder if it is anxiety. When the stress or anxiety is too much, I start to notice a loss of interest in the things I like,” said Leon.

Exercise, and not for weight loss.

“I don’t spend hours exercising, nor do I do it to lose weight, because I don’t lose weight,” said Leon. “Just 30 minutes a day is enough to channel some emotions and that time is not negotiable since I know how much it helps me.”

According to Leon, physical exercise is not the only practice to help us channel the energy within us, breathing management can achieve great changes in minutes and it is not necessary to spend hours meditating. She believes that five minutes of doing exercise or practicing breathing techniques and calming the mind can contribute to good emotional guidance. The activist also advises aromatherapy for a final touch when it comes to getting to know ourselves.

Circles of trust.

Establishing trusted connections can be difficult, but not impossible. These ties can comfort us in complex moments and can be built with family members, work colleagues, members of a temple, etc. The point is to create a different perspective and be aware. These alliances can help solve problems and make us feel less alone, which is why it is important to have them.

Leon is sincere in saying that “It is not easy to vent without the fear of feeling judged, so I only talk about certain topics with my close circle,” she said.

Part of self-knowledge is knowing with whom and when it is time to vent. Feeling judged is usually a trap that stagnates us even more. Today technology has been a great support when seeking help.

“Feeling sad or angry is okay, not asking for help is not okay. It is easy to go onto Google and look for tips that help your well-being,” she added.

Free up time, and get busy.

Having agendas and different roles in society generates tasks that sometimes feel difficult to fulfill and like an obligation in which everything goes perfectly. As Leon would say, “We take care [of so much] trying to be the best mother, daughter, or wife that we forget to take care of ourselves.”

One of the ways worries are magnified and can harm mental health or emotional stability is when instead of taking care of our needs, we only think of others and we do not take special time and space for inner reflection, and to find ways to help ourselves which improves our self-esteem.

Understand your mind.

Today there is more freedom to speak and express ourselves, but first, we must know and understand ourselves and also develop empathy. Although in matters of gender, how negative effects threaten our well-being is different. We can all achieve balanced mental health, which generates inner peace and a more balanced lifestyle. Perhaps in past generations or old times, certain topics such as psyche and emotions were not discussed. However, that is chafing and it’s not judged as much. Currently, we are trying to create awareness and build a community that offers mutual support and in this way also remember that you are first, (prioritize) your mental health and self-esteem to be able to be in love with your own life.

Nancy Ayala trabaja como Consultora Lantinx en Quon Design and Communication. Ella está trabajando para promover la conciencia sobre la salud mental dentro de las comunidades Latinx del Centro de Oregon a través de Mind Your Mind Central Oregon. MYMCO es una asociación con los Servicios de Salud del Condado de Deschutes (DHS por sus siglas en inglés)  y el Consejo de Salud de Central Oregon, que incluye proveedores y defensores de salud en los condados de Crook, Jefferson y Deschutes.