May is a Mental Health Awareness month, but I honestly think that it is always important to be aware, to remember and to take care of our mental and physical health. The reason why my anxiety disorder became much worse about 10 years ago is because I neglected my health.
First, many of us simply don't know what mental health is and how to take care of it, and second, even if we know how important it is, we often find reasons not to pay attention to the symptoms we experience, which leads to a burnout and even more mental and physical issues.
Today I am going to share 5 tips that I think are important for prioritizing my mental health. If it's something you would be interested in, please follow me.
Dedicate time for yourself every day
Many people these days seem to have a "self-care day", but I believe that something like a "self-care hour" is more beneficial. Whether it is waking up a little bit earlier in the morning, or having a solid nighttime routine, I make sure I find time every day when I can do something that I enjoy and value, something that is important for me. I try to disconnect during that time and just be present.
If you like this tip, make sure that you prioritize that special moment and don't feel guilty about it (plan it ahead, knowing your schedule).
Learn to say "no"
This one can be challenging, especially if you have very needy relatives or friends, but saying no is a skill, that we can all master. I used to be very selfless, and always said yes to people, even though it wasn't necessarily in my best interest. One of the main reasons for that was my fear of being judged. Once I realized (it took me a long time) that my selflessness was basically destroying me I started to say no much more often, even if it caused tension between me and other people.
I also had to learn to deal with guilt. I always thought that if I help other people, I will be rewarded, if I don't - I will be punished. Well, it does not really work this way. Of course, helping other people is a good thing, but we need strength within ourselves in order to be able to take care of others. When we constantly take away from ourselves to be there for other people, we end up either being empty, so we can't give anymore, or we expect them to give back, and it doesn’t always happen. In fact it can even severely damage your relationship.
In order to be able to give we should first enrich ourselves, we have to fill ourselves with the energy that we need to be there for others and to do everything that we want to do in life.
Learning to say no is essential for our well-being, in fact selfishness is not a bad word, it is the right thing to do - to be selfish when you need it. At the end of the day you only have one life and one body, you should take care of your resources first, remembering that eventually it will be beneficial for everyone.
Spend time alone
I think not everyone will like this tip, especially if you are an extravert or fearful of being alone. But I think there is so much stigma around aloneness in our society. We feel awkward eating out alone, because there's always a risk people will think we are lonely and miserable, we can't stand being single (very often for the same reason), etc.
Sometimes we are so "busy" doing things and interacting with other people, that we don't hear our inner voice: what is it that we want or need, what are our values.
Now, it is more on a spiritual side, but connecting to your inner voice is especially important even if you are not a spiritual person. I started to take my meditation time more seriously only recently, but I already see a big difference. I feel calmer and more focused, and I feel that my mental health isn't neglected.
I think that spending time alone can be not only about meditation, but also mindfully eating alone, slow walking, etc. The point is to learn to be ok staying alone with your thoughts, be present in the moment without trying to rush into the future or regretting the past.
Spending time with myself and appreciating silence from time to time is one of the best gifts I can give to myself.
Let me be clear: I don't believe that medication is always the answer, but it has tremendously helped me in times when I could not help myself (in times of severe anxiety attacks). Mental illness is a health condition, just like any other. Just because people can't see it, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. So, if you need medical help, I want to encourage you to get one.
Going to therapy isn't only about medical treatment, it's often working together with a professional in order to resolve our inner conflicts, understand ourselves better, learn how to cope (cognitive behavioural therapy or CBT). Imagine if something in your body is hurting and it's bothering you daily. You would probably go to a doctor, right? It's the same for our mental health: there is a doctor for it as well. Taking time to go to a medical professional for helping you deal with anxiety, depression or whatever it is you are struggling with, is not a waste of time and money, it is a form of prioritizing your mental health.
Focus on your physical health
Our body and mind are connected, although very often we forget about it. So, every time we spend time exercising, planning our meals for a week, or choosing to eat something healthy instead of fast food, we are prioritizing our mental health as well.
I try to focus on both, if possible. For example, yoga is something that I consider to be working well for my mental and physical health. Overall body movement can help to deal with negative emotions, anxiety, and low mood.
What you eat impacts how your brain works as well as mental health. I am going to talk about it more in my future posts.
There are different reasons why people don't think that their mental health is important. Very often it's lack of knowledge that the way we feel is not just our personality, that can not be changed; it's not us just being weak or strong; in fact if you struggle with mental illness, it doesn't mean you are weak.
Taking care of your mental health will help you realize that you can actually live the life that you would want for your best friend, but probably never even thought about for yourself. Try these tips and let me know how it is going, I will be really happy to read about your experience. Until next time on Pillows&Trees.