Mental health is just as important as physical health, but it doesn’t always feel that way. Although the topic of mental health has recently become more of an acceptable conversation, it’s still a difficult conversation to have. The listener can feel uncomfortable with how to respond, and the speaker can feel a sense of guilt for “not being strong enough.” The guilt that comes with experiencing mental health struggles can be one of the most difficult roadblocks to overcome on your wellness journey. Before I share a few tips that have significantly helped my mental health, I want you to truly understand that you should never feel guilty for doing what’s best for you.
For most of my life, I believed depression was only experienced as deep sadness. Therefore, in my early 20s when I was struggling mentally, I didn’t know to ask for help. Honestly, I didn’t know I needed to. I wasn’t sad or finding myself crying multiple times a day. I didn’t keep the blinds closed or fight feelings of grief. Quite frankly, I didn’t feel anything at all. I was completely and utterly numb. Happiness wasn’t easily experienced, but neither was sadness. It was only when I began to dread activities that used to bring me joy that I sought help. A life half-lived was not something I signed up for.
Over the years, through trial and error, I’ve found a lifestyle that works for me. This doesn’t mean I no longer experience dark days. Rather, I’ve learned how to accept instead of deny the bad days. Here are a few steps that help to take care of my mind.
The days I feel the most overwhelmed are typically the days I haven’t organized my thoughts on paper. When my thoughts are swirling in my head and I cannot seem to catch them, I feel completely out of control. Anything from uncompleted tasks to negative thoughts towards myself, if they are not dumped on paper, I will become extremely anxious and stressed. I’ve learned to carve out at least thirty minutes per day to do what I call a “brain dump.” Essentially, I turn my phone off, open my notebook, and write everything that comes to mind. Once on paper, I am able to see what steps need to be taken. This form of journaling does not have to have a grammatical flow. Rather, the point is to take all of the stressors in my mind and place them on paper. Once I close the notebook, I feel lighter. My mind feels clearer, and I am able to truly focus on the hour that I am in.
2. JOYFUL MOVEMENT
Exercise continues to be a suggestion when it comes to taking care of your mental health. This is for good reason! The endorphins and clarity of mind you receive upon finishing a workout is extremely beneficial for your mental wellbeing. However, many people struggling with their mental health find it difficult to view working out as anything but a punishment. For years, I only saw exercise from a negative viewpoint. I fully believed that a workout was pointless unless I was dripping sweat or incredibly sore the next day. This only led to dread of an upcoming workout. It wasn’t until I saw exercise as a joyful movement of my body that I began to look forward to the movement. Instead of pushing myself to immediately run three miles, I encouraged myself to go on a walk while listening to an audiobook I enjoyed. I added dancing and stretching into my workout routine and slowly began to rebuild my relationship with exercise. Now, I look forward to moving my body to help decrease stress and increase my overall strength. Plus, the endorphins don’t hurt ;)
Self-love is not selfish. Many people view the work of self-love or self-care as an excuse for being lazy or conceited. Sure, some may use it in this way, but the true meaning is in the way you speak to yourself. You cannot build a life you love by constantly degrading yourself. You cannot learn to give yourself grace by negatively speaking to yourself. Change the narrative of your inner dialogue by catching your inner critic.
Examples of reframing your thoughts:
From: “I’ll never be able to do that.” To: “I’m doing the best that I can. How can this be done?”
From: “I am a mess.” To: “I am human.”
From: “I am a failure.” To: “I am learning.”
Once you begin speaking to yourself like you would someone you love, you’ll be able to give yourself more grace when you face struggles.
Everyone’s journey with taking care of their mental well-being is unique. The steps we take to find peace could be completely different from the person next to us. Take the time to find what works for you and be patient with yourself as you go. You are worth the time it takes to heal. Never feel guilty for doing what is best for you.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to serve as medical advice or a recommendation for any specific product. Consult your health care provider for more information.
Hannah is a mixed media content creator who focuses on self love and mental health. She hopes to bring happiness and color to her audience through graphic design and strives to inspire others to try new things, get to know themselves, and show up as they are.