"Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, spiritual and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, act and energetically vibrate. It determines how we handle life, stress, relationships and how we make choices. There is no question that mental health is crucial for quality living."- Indigo S.
In modern society, it's a common theme for mental and emotional well-being to fall by the wayside in the midst of mundane living; i.e., working, going to school, wanting to make more money, raising children, paying bills, feeling this ever-present pressure to always be "busy", constantly productive, constantly striving, always aiming for something "new" and "better", constant deadlines--both those externally/internally imposed,etc. Due to this lifestyle, it can sometimes be very challenging to slow down whilst living in a society that glorifies overworking & overcompensating 25/8 while undermining the quality/importance of mental and emotional rest & wellness. As a result, modern society is consistently plagued by growing numbers of mental/emotional disorders & diagnoses. Even for those who have certain mental/emotional disorders due to genetics, familial upbringing and experience of traumatic events, the societal structure that we currently live under has displayed a strong pattern of being lackadaisical, unaware, passive-aggressive or even blatantly unsupportive towards those who suffer from said conditions. This is seen in situations where action is only taken to create tangible support/awareness when it's "too late" and the worst has already happened, or not including "mental health days" as a valid reason for work absence, or even insurance companies who refuse to fairly compensate mental health professionals for their time/services, resulting in less options for those in need of professional, affordable mental & behavioral healthcare.
On the brighter side, what does one do with this information? You start where you are and do what you can. The list of practices to manage mental health is inexhaustible as every person requires something different. Nonetheless, here are some tips & practices I've gathered from both my experience and my personal research. (Of course, take what applies at your discretion and leave the rest. Also, consult your professional healthcare provider as needed.)
With effort, self-compassionate patience and mindfulness, reducing the effects of mental health issues can be done by implementing self-care and holistic health practices that are as simple or as intricate as you'd like:
~Physical Self-Care: Eating well,staying active, drinking water and getting some sunlight may seem overtly obvious but for some who are in the midst of experiencing a bout of depression/anxiety/etc; these simple tasks could feel like a draining chore if all you have the energy to do is self-isolate, sleep or stay 'zoned out'. Many have described their depression as feeling "numb" to everything without relief, or constantly feeling lethargic/drained. In these instances, the best thing to do is to try to be patient & compassionate with yourself (or to them, if it's a loved one). When you can, muster up the will to pull yourself up and do at least one thing for your physical well-being, whether it's just showering, brushing your teeth, eating a light snack, taking your vitamins, or changing into fresh clothes, do it. It's honestly the little things that can help to refresh you as you slowly, but surely dig yourself out of the hole that is depression (or any other mental disorder that's undermining to daily life/routine.)
Rest/sleep is also crucial, although for those that may already be feeling that lethargic/drained/just wanting to "sleep it all away"; sleep when your body tells you to, of course, but try to prevent yourself from sleeping beyond a certain time of day as too much sleep can be counter-productive by adding to the lethargy, that you already feel. Work around this by getting up by a certain time (even if you're sleeping in late). If needed, you can always take a nap later if need be.
~Mental/Emotional Self-Care: Get to know your triggers & reduce unnecessary stressors (people, places & things). Pay attention to who, where and what makes you feel drained, "blue", anxious, numb, "off", etc. These feelings are your cues to what needs to be eliminated and where your boundaries need to be instilled. Thus, if someone/something takes away from your peace, drains your energy, undermines your mental/emotional balance...then it needs to go. Life does happen so some things can't be eliminated as easily, hence, apply this if/when you can. If you can't eliminate it, try to limit your involvement and the amount of energy you give to it. If it's a person you are forced to be in consistent close proximity to that has this kind of effect on you, find a way to distract yourself when they're around you (whether it's watching a show, reading a book, listening to music or tuning them out via your imagination) and when you can, limit your time around them. If say,..social media triggers your anxiety or depressive thoughts, then it's time to take a break from it. Other than what's required, aim to give your time & energy to what's essential for your happiness and well-being. The more you involve yourself with what nourishes & interests you, the easier it is to manage when you have to deal with the unpleasantries that come along.
~Find your purpose. In my experience, the further away I am from my truth/my life purpose/my desires the more prone I am to anxiety and longer cycles of depression. In the instance of already knowing your purpose, congratulations! Devote your focus/energy to said purpose as often as you can; doing this is a nourishing act of self-care as it provides you with more meaning/value in your life. On the contrary, if you have yet to find your purpose, don't fret it. You have time, just pace yourself and stay open to finding it. Take the initiative and time to introspect by asking yourself these starter questions:
What is absolutely essential for my happiness/peace/wellbeing?? What are my core values? Is my reality a reflection of those values? What interests me? What am I gifted at? What are my strengths? Weaknesses? (As you introspect, you may come up with your own questions. Go with it, this is apart of your introspective evaluation, too.)
~Continuing with the theme of self-evaluation, I highly recommend journaling as a tool for mental & emotional self-care. I've personally found it to be an amazing way to ground oneself, practice mindfulness and gain more understanding of self, and becoming more in-tune with personal rhythms/cycles; this is one of many tools in my self-therapy/care arsenal. This practice can be super basic or super detailed, that's totally up to you. You can start with a simplified version of journaling by keeping a bullet journal.
Here are some suggestions for mindful questions/prompts you can answer daily:
~What were my most dominant feelings today? Most dominant thoughts?
~What all did I eat today? How did I feel after eating it? (physically,mentally,emotionally)
~What is/was my main focus today? What did/will I do for self-care today? Did I make time for myself today? One thing I'm grateful for?
~Something I learned/noticed today? Is there something I need to forgive myself for? Or maybe let go of? Did anything/anyone "trigger" me mentally/emotionally today? If so, what and why?
~How'd you sleep? Remember any of your night dreams?
~Notes to Self (anything goes here, such as, reminders, epiphanies, or even random/abnormal physical sensations i.e., cold, hot, dizzy, twitching, feeling spaced out or out of place, etc.)
These types of questions, when answered on a consistent basis, are good ways to become more mindful of yourself, your environment, your "triggers" and your moods/thoughts/patterns/habits/etc. It's helpful to create a routine of checking in with yourself to build a good relationship with Self. Some of the other benefits of keeping a journal:
~Less stress overall
~More likely to achieve goals
~Increased emotional intelligence
~Enhanced ability to emotionally heal trauma
~Stronger problem-solving skills
~Able to get clarity in confusing situations
~Able to sort & view your emotions/thoughts with more clarity
~Meditation (Simplified): Meditation doesn't have to be done in the cliche way of sitting crossed legged for 30+ mins chanting "Om". Is that form of meditation traditional? Yes. Is this form of meditation the only one that is valid or effective? Absolutely not. Different strokes for different folks. Meditation is essentially calming the mind and entering into different state of consciousness. When you meditate, you can alter the electrical activity of your brain thus causing your brainwaves to move into a different frequency(Hz). A meditative state can be achieved by being fully present and mindful in almost any activity of you're choosing. For the creative types, you can use moving meditation. Moving meditation is essentially when you're fully immersed in whatever activity you're doing. Whether it be dancing, writing, drawing, painting,etc...be fully in the moment & totally focused on what you're doing. This method is still effective even if you're just washing dishes, or listening to music; focus on doing it fully. These too are valid practices of meditation/zen mindfulness.
~My method of meditation for anxiety/depression management: Focus on the breathe. Inhale, exhale, repeat. You can count as you do this to help you keep focus, if you don't need to count as you do it, that's fine too. Stay focused on your inhale & exhale. Whenever your mind strays away from your breathing (as it most likely will, several times); there's no need to get frustrated with yourself, it's apart of the process...just bring your attention back to the present moment of breathing. Once you get into your own rhythm of mindful breathing then you can then start to take deeper, diaphragmatic breaths. Aim to do this for just 5 - 10 mins day while playing sound healing frequencies. There's plenty of sound healing music on Youtube, Apple Music & Amazon Music. I usually listen to some Jhene Aiko while I meditate because her music works wonders for me whether I'm happy, calm, anxious or depressed; especially her "Trigger Protection Mantra". Remember to be patient and compassionate with yourself throughout this process. See what happens, write down how you feel after each session to keep better keep track of your results/process.
~Create a self-care (SC) routine for yourself. Simple or intricate, it can be just one thing or five different things, it doesn't matter. As long as your routine works & feels good for you, it's fine. Make sure it's something you can easily stick with, that way it can more easily become habitual for you. With consistency, your SC routine becomes a new pattern for you thus making it easier for it to be your "go-to" when you're feeling anxious, depressed or otherwise "off" balance. As an example, my self-care routine involves:
~Taking a spiritual bath (I do this to clear my energy field. More on this in future content)
~Giving myself a mani-pedi & facial
~Giving my hair some TLC (wash, condition & style)
While I go about my SC rituals, I usually have some kind of music, or podcast playing in the background. While this is the core of my SC ritual, some days when my energy is super low and I don't feel like doing much for whatever given reason, I'll do the lazier version of my routine:
~Take a spiritual shower (Same purpose as above except quicker)
~Put my hair in a super simple hairstyle
~Put on something cute and comfy
~Eat something sweet
After I'm finished with the lazy version of my routine, I just chill & keep myself entertained unless I decide to do some work. Obviously, my routines are only listed here as an example and yours don't have to even closely resemble mine. The purpose of you creating/having a SC routine of your own is to give you a way to self-soothe, nurture and ground yourself into your body & out of your head--at least for a little while. On days where everything is too mentally/emotionally overwhelming or "heavy" to deal with, having a SC routine is one of the things that can help to keep you as grounded & as sane as possible.
~As the above suggestions are from my own experiences and personal research, they may be helpful to some but not as much to others. There are cases of depression/mental & behavioral disorders that are much more extreme. In more dire instances, here are few more fitting, appropriate resources to reach out for help:
*Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance 847-209-8208
*Safe Call Now 206-459-3020
*National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – Call 800-273-TALK (8255) to speak with a trained crisis counselor.
*Crisis Text Line – Text NAMI to 741-741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor to receive crisis support via text message.
*National Domestic Violence Hotline – Call 800-799-SAFE (7233) to speak with trained experts who provide confidential support to anyone experiencing domestic violence or seeking resources and information.
*National Sexual Assault Hotline – Call 800-656-HOPE (4673) to connect with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area that offers access to a range of free services. Crisis chat support is also available at Online Hotline.
*You can also contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Disaster Distress Helpline at 800-985-5990
I hope this article has been helpful for someone. I'll have more content on self-care in my next post. Thank you for reading. :) Stay Tuned..