Self Care and Mental Health
Let me introduce you to my pal, Chelsea. We met through a mutual friend that told each of us we must meet each other because we were like minded and we would click. And we did. She poured her heart out here, and it is beautiful. And relatable. Start asking yourself about your own mental health. This is an important journey for life. Once you get to the bottom of this article, I would like to encourage you to make your own personal "sanity list." LP
The two most terrifying yet liberating words in the self-care community: mental. health.
But seriously, what is it? How do we define it? It seems to hold completely different definitions for each person. When faced with the decision to actually figure it out for yourself and understand your space in the world of mind/spirit/body, your space relating to everyone and everything around you, where do you start?
I can’t offer an end-all be-all solution or pathway. What I can offer is my interpretation of it, a snippet of my own journey thus far, and the hope that at least a handful can and will find similarity and solace through my experience. If not, you’ll at least have seen a decent example of how there are countless ways to define, process, and tackle mental health. The sweet spot here is how much of a treat it is to actually do this, unlike, say, going to the doctor and having to choose a treatment plan which involves a round of something you can’t pronounce and a whole lot of cottonmouth.
(Side note: I have mixed feelings on medications for mental health purposes. Only you know what’s right for you. Just do your homework on what you’re being offered and feel free to explore options which include holistic practices. Everything is worth considering.)
That being said, I do believe falling in love with mental health, with yourself, only brings you more love. More contentment. More light. You only have to be open to the possibilities.
Before I tell you a little about me, I want to check in with you. How are you feeling today? Joyful? Wonderful. Stressed? Me too. Angry? That’s OK. The most incredible gift we can give ourselves is the perspective that our mental health is ever-changing and always looking for us to just stare it down and say “Welcome.” The only hard truth about it is that you can work tirelessly to improve it but never have an entire week where every day is good or happy. For me, that’s been a tough pill to swallow. But in that truth and beyond it, it’s all about remembering the joy of having choice. Even when the choice is between “bad” and “okay.” I can promise you the space in between those two holds so much more hope. You cut yourself off from those gifts when you stew in the “bad” and resign yourself to only one mode.
You. Have. A. Choice.
Even when it feels like you’re stuck in the mud. Even when it feels physically impossible to climb out of that deep well. Upward movement can only occur if we try to make it so.
Try, try again.
I made a decision about six years ago to begin navigating what mental health means to me. Did you know part of developing your mental health routine actually involves your relationship to the phrase itself? I had been afraid of it for a long time, totally unwilling to give it space, which resulted in a bout of crippling depression. My mind was a long, twisting hallway of menacing locked doors, the contents of which might as well have been anything from Freddy Krueger to that enormous spider from Harry Potter (or whatever keeps you up at night). All nonsense aside, what I actually thought was behind them was the idea that I might do something to hurt myself. No part of me wanted to turn those knobs to find out if I was right or not, to see if those suffocating feelings were going to finally consume me for good. I hoped it would all just disappear if I left it alone long enough. Turns out the more I told myself I was depressed and burdened by those fears, the worse they got. Go figure.
But my resistance turned into a saving grace. One day, years into my struggle, I was gifted a deck of spiritual cards. I began flipping through them, reading the accompanying passages, and I swear if it had been quiet enough I could’ve heard all those doors unlock at once. Click, click, click, right down that metaphorical hallway. One of the first and most important things I learned from the cards is that those doors were meant for me. They were part of my mind, weren’t they? I owned them. I couldn’t leave them to disappear and I couldn’t give them to anyone else. That notion alone gave me back the control over my mind which I had relinquished years prior. I had to be ready for it, though. It took years of reaching out and too many nights spent crying on the floor, but I didn’t give up on finding an answer. It may not show up when you want it to, but it always arrives on time.
Those feelings and issues, though not at all understood by me at the time, were waiting to be looked at with a new perspective and wanted dearly to transform my life if I was willing to meet them with a little patience and grace. So I decided to stare them down, one at a time, and fall in love with the process rather than resent it.
I had to fall in love with possibility, with the hard work I knew was coming as a result of my making the choice to really sit down and figure out why I was so tired, so suffocated, so anxious, and so uninterested in my life anymore. Being depressed is exhausting. It is such hard work being sad and angry. But what I found was that being happy is exhausting too, just in its own unique way. Choosing to be happy made me tired in a way that somehow ended up bringing me joy rather than stripping it away from me the way being depressed did.
I think that may be one of the most important things to internalize if you’re in the middle of mental chaos. Negative breeds negative. Positive breeds positive, no matter the amount of energy exerted. It’s spiritual science. Get Neil Degrasse Tyson and Oprah on the phone and they’ll rant and rave for hours about this stuff. They aren’t happy because they’re rich, they’re happy because they understand inner power and the language of love. (May I suggest Oprah’s podcast, SuperSoul Conversations . It reminds me just how many people are in this boat and how they’ve found their light again.)
Be patient with yourself. Take the bad and the good in tandem and keep reaching for balance day by day. Allow yourself the awesome opportunity to redefine your world lens and accept the chaos. Not every day is perfect.
For reference, these are the keys to my routine; i.e. what keeps me sane and breathing:
Meditation. (there are SO many different kinds. I had to try a few before I found my winner)
Exercise (it friggin’ sucks, but it helps. the rumors are true) - Props to yoga for being such agentle and welcome sigh of relief every day, but something wild like kickboxing might be the
assist your subconscious needs to process what you’re unable to tackle in your waking life.
Journaling (if you write it down, it tends to magically sort itself out)
Water. Supplements (vitamin D for the win). Avoiding carbs and sugars, which actually
contributed to making me excessively depressed and anxious. If I’m ever doubting that fact I’ll
eat them again and watch how quickly they turn into villains in my system. (SCIENCE)
Plants, plants, plants. I can’t even explain this one, they just make me feel like I always have
friends around and the earthy colors are all kinds of soothing.
Thank you for letting me write my heart out on this one. I hope you’re taking something away from it and if I’m lucky, it’s given you the push you’ve been looking for. Always remember you deserve good things. Go find them.