Look around (like, literally look around or scan your timeline or Twitter feed). You may have noticed that we’re making huge strides in destigmatizing mental illness, and that’s fantastic. The importance of treating your mental health as you would your physical health is a pretty well accepted principle. It’s becoming less taboo to talk openly about therapy and mental illness—there are almost as many celebrities talking about mental health as there are Keep Calm and Whatever decorations in literally any store you walk into. All signs point to the fact that we’re prioritizing self-care, and that’s awesome.
But when it comes to actually being mentally well, we’re a little murky on the follow-through. There’s no shortage of self-care strategies out there, but not everyone has the time and money to spend on a wellness retreat or horse therapy or crystals that may or may not chill you out.
And the biggest hindrance is Stigma: Let’s face it, while mental health has been in the conversation more lately, there is still a stigma around it. And while there are many professionals, celebrities, and others in the community trying to #breakthestigma; it still exists. There is a fear of being stigmatized as “crazy” if you seek out therapy, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
This time, I’ve culled some of the most impactful and least intimidating ways to take care of our mental health so that it becomes something we do—not just something we talk about.
- Give ourselves permission to take mental health day when we need it: While you should always be taking at least one day off work every week, always listen to your mental health and if you need an impromptu day in bed just to heal your mental health, take it.
- Fix Your Sleep Schedule + Get Enough Sleep: Establishing a proper sleep schedule, in which you get between 7-9 hours (the recommended amount) is so important for your mental health.
- Eat for Health and Happiness: A healthy, nutritious diet, omega-3 fatty acids, full of whole foods is amazing for your mental health. Your brain needs nutrients to function and your body needs them for fuel. However, you can have your cheat day once in a while.
- Exercise: No need to lift weights if you don’t want to. Find a type of exercise that you enjoy, eg- yoga, walking, swimming, boxing etc. (Not only does it produce endorphins – the happy hormone – it also allows you to relieve stress, improve your overall health, balance other hormones and give you a purpose).
- Establish a healthy morning routine: Starting the day in a positive way really improve mental health, as does having a solid routine. From waking up early, Leave your smart phone/ disconnect from constant media world, making your bed, and journaling before you start work.
- Learn to Say ‘No’: Don’t indulge longer in any activities which you don’t like.
- Practice forgiveness: People who forgive have better mental health and report being more satisfied with their lives.
- Feeling stressed? Smile: It may not be the easiest thing to do, but smiling can help to lower your heart rate and calm you down.
- “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” -Albert Einstein
Try something outside of your comfort zone to make room for adventure and excitement in your life.
- Cry: Our society and culture have turned crying into a negative act, but it shouldn’t be. Studies show that crying serves a purpose in our bodies – it releases stress and ultimately enhances our moods. Don’t hold it in, let it out!
- Avoid alcohol and other drugs: Keep alcohol use to a minimum and avoid other drugs. Sometimes people use alcohol and other drugs to “self-medicate” but in reality, alcohol and other drugs only aggravate problems.
- Develop a good opinion of your-self: Studies show that people with high self-esteem have more confidence in themselves and their capabilities.
- Enjoy the present: Learn how to focus on the present rather than being preoccupied with past or future events. This will help you savour life’s little pleasure that you would otherwise miss.
- Quiet your mind: Try meditating & Mindfulness Relaxation/prayer can improve your state of mind and outlook on life. Research shows that meditation may help you feel calm and enhance the effects of therapy.
- Set realistic goals: Aim high, but be realistic and don’t over-schedule. (Don’t beat yourself up for mistakes).
- Reward yourself: Give yourself a treat every time you advance a week in the program.
- Break the monotony: A little change of pace can perk up a tedious schedule. Alter your jogging route, plan a road-trip, take a walk in a different park, hang some new pictures or try a new restaurant.
- Find work-life balance: Spending too much time and energy on one part of your life, your work life balance may be off. Learn to do both! Find the strategy that works best for you.
- Have fun: Do something with friends and family, Spend some time with a furry friend, Relax in a warm bath once a week, Be a tourist in your own town, Dance around while you do your housework, enjoy 15-30 minutes of me time, Make Time for Self-Care Try prepping your lunches or picking out your clothes for the work week &Take time to laugh.
- Get help if you need it: At some point in your life, you may need to ask for help. If so, don’t hesitate! It takes courage to seek help but it can really change your life. Know that there are many resources out there, talk to your physician he/she will guide you in finding the best resources.
Investing in Mental health will reap you life-long benefits. When you feel good about yourself emotionally, you will take care of yourself physically and be more productive, and a better caretaker for yourself as well as others in your life.
Taking the first step to seek therapy can be difficult, nevertheless you and your mental health are worth that step. Once you take it, you will be glad that you did.