Our mental health can sustain us in ways we can’t imagine or leave us feeling starved. Dr. Matt Townsend, who is known on all avenues of media for his warm and refreshing outlook on life, love, and leadership, uses the word “starved,” as an acronym in his book, “Starved Stuff: Feeding The 7 Basic Needs of Healthy Relationships.” He breaks the word down so we can use it to help find real-life solutions and inspire and motivate healthier living. Here’s how we’re using his acronym for mental health awareness and checking on our relationship with ourselves! May is mental health awareness month.

S-Safety! We all know that being in unsafe relationships isn’t ok. You wouldn’t want someone you loved to be in a relationship where they were abused on any level and yet we sometimes even do it to ourselves. Are you offering yourself the same kind of safety you would want from a partner?

T- Trust. We all need confidence in our thoughts, feelings, and experiences and that starts with us. We need to find ways where we can trust our own thoughts, feelings, and unique power without validation coming from others first. To do this, we must trust who we are with consistency. In relationships we don’t want to always have to guess about our partner or live on eggshells, right? Are you offering that trust to yourself?

A-Appreciation. You are awesome. Do you know that? There is no one else in this entire world like you! Yet, to fully appreciate you, you must recognize what you need to feel seen and valued. Are you appreciating yourself just the way you are, just as you would a beloved friend or partner?

R- Respect. Do you have the confidence to speak up for yourself? To protect your preferences of how you want to be treated and honored – it’s hard right? Self-respect is harder than you might think. It’s hard to set boundaries and communicate your needs, but your mental health and well-being rely on this. Are you willing to respect yourself in all the ways that meet your own needs?

V-Validation. Your lived experience is real. While every “like” on social media and praise report at work may feel great, true validation comes from within you! To do this, you need to offer yourself a chance to know yourself. Maybe you do that in therapy, journaling, or out on a run, but validation is about prioritizing your authenticity. Will you offer yourself the acceptance to be you, flaws, and all, but all while welcoming a stronger sense of self?

E-Encouragement. There’s a voice inside you that can empower you to a deeper and fuller life of everything you could ever dream of, but you have to let it speak the words of support we all need to hear. Let your inner voice be the one to confirm to you that limitations are temporary, stumbling blocks are meant to be pushed away and you are mighty! For a strong and vibrant relationship with yourself, you must offer yourself the encouragement you need to hear, maybe even the encouragement you needed to hear for a while! Will you work on being your biggest cheerleader?

D- Dedication. The commitment to self is a loyalty of the heart, body, mind, and soul that says, “I got you and I am not going anywhere.” When you think of relationships, you might immediately think about infidelities as a breaking point, but how often do we betray ourselves? True self-dedication allows us to stay the course and ebb and flow as our bodies and minds change, grow, and learn along the road. Will you offer yourself the commitment to stay the course?

If we slowly start by adding one letter to our lives at a time, and we add in the letters of “starved,” there’s an investment in the self that cannot be divided. Our mental health is depending on the investment in self-check-in, growth, education, and connection with our true selves. It’s hard to do that in the mundane day-to-day of life, it takes a focused and deliberate effort. In addition, to s-t-a-r-v-e-d, prioritizing your basic needs of sleep, nutrition, physical activity, connecting with others, and managing stress are wise investments. Great health doesn’t usually just happen, physically or mentally, it takes sustained effort to fulfill us, otherwise, we can end up distrusted, underappreciated, disrespected, unvalidated, discouraged, and uncommitted to our mental health, perhaps you could even say, STARVED!


Mary Hoadley

Director Of The Wellness Center