I’ve been talking about how May is Mental Health Awareness Month and how passionate I am about starting conversations about mental health and also importantly, how self-care relates to mental health.
I’ve had mental health issues since I hit puberty at age 11. I didn’t know what anxiety and depression was and my mental health issues caused me to completely socially isolate myself, develop extreme anger issues, and eventually I sought to “balance” my mental health by finding the “perfect” relationship.
19 year-old me thought that if I could just find someone to love me all of my depression issues would simply fade away.
That was a journey fraught with disappointment, as you can imagine.
Eventually, I realized that wasn’t going to work. I took a really honest look at my life and I realized that I had to start seeing through the bullshit. Through the years and years of lies my mental illness had told me about my unworthiness, about my depression, and about the things that were keeping me from being happy.
If you follow me on Instagram then you probably saw my post about mental health yesterday:
View this post on Instagram
One of the greatest assets to my self-care practice and my mental health, has been the ability to call myself out on the bullshit my anxiety/depression put into my head. A year and a half ago my anxiety was sky high and I was in a very toxic relationship. I’d keep telling myself my anxiety was… because I had anxiety but the truth was my relationship was canceling out all of my coping skills and making anxiety so much worse. I’ve been guilty of saying “I’m just meant to be depressed, it’s who I am as a person.” When really it means that I’m giving up and not trying ANYTHING to make myself feel better. Anxiety can often make me feel like I’m not worthy of love and then I sabotage because “it’s just going to fall apart anyway.” When you’re able to discern what is bullshit (I’m unlovable. I’m always going to feel this way. It never gets better. I’m just unlucky. I’m a terrible person. I deserve to be treated badly. etc) you gain this huge amount of control and empowerment over your life. See through the bullshit. #mentalhealth #mentalhealthblogger #mentalhealthawareness #mentalselfcare #emotionalselfcare #breakthestigma #mentalhealthmatters
Self-Care for Mental Health in necessary!
If you want to manage your mental illness it is necessary to take that kind of look at your life. Even when it feels uncomfortable and it makes you feel sad/disappointed in yourself you have to be honest about the lies that your mental illness tells you and the things you do to perpetuate those lies.
Truth and Honesty
We like to see self-care as something soft and comforting – and often it is – but sometimes self-care can feel harsh and abrasive, but it’s for our greater good. See Tough Self-Love.
The first step in practicing self-care for your mental health is seeing where you are contributing to it. I know, that’s an uncomfortable thought. Again with the honesty – mental illness happens. It’s no one’s fault. It’s not something you can just “get over” or make disappear.
But often we make choices (consciously or subconsciously) that can contribute in a negative way.
- Not seeking help (Therapy, meds, researching coping mechanisms online if the first aren’t viable).
- Maintaining toxic relationships that take a toll on your mental health, especially when you feel like no one else is going to love you because of your mental health issues.
- Giving up on yourself and feeling like you’re a hopeless case.
- Believing the things your mental illness says when it tells you you’re worthless or broken.
Mental illness is hard. It takes a toll physically, mentally, emotionally, and throughout all of your relationships. I’ve gotten so frustrated with myself over my response to triggers, over days when I am feeling completely drained and I literally can’t move, and when my anxiety is so high that I mentally “check out”.
- Be kind to yourself. Even when you’re frustrated with your brain.
- Stop judging yourself by what other people can accomplish. Living with anxiety or depression can make it hard to function in the way that others function. Judge yourself by your own scale.
- Practice positive self-talk. Cheer yourself on even on the bad days and celebrate the days that are good.
Mental illness doesn’t go away on its own. Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away. Often you have to modify your life, and that’s okay. Whether it’s making time for therapy appointments, remembering to take your medication, or carving out time for self-care – you have to take action for your mental health.
I choose not to take medication for my anxiety or my depression.
This means I have to focus a lot of time on my coping skills (I don’t have kids so that’s something I am fortunate to be able to do – I need a day of quiet to deal with anxiety? I can easily have it.) However, I am a huge fan of people doing what works for them and often that is medication and there’s nothing wrong with it!
There is such a stigma around taking medication and there shouldn’t be.
No shame! We do what works for each of us individually. Check out the hashtag #myfavoritepills
- Set boundaries. My anxiety got so much better when I set boundaries and focused on being social in the ways that I wanted to, rather than social things I felt obligated to do. #Introvert
Letting go of toxic relationships was also essential to my healing in many ways.
- Know your triggers. If something triggers your anxiety or depression it’s something to work on. Abstaining from it or learning how to cope without those triggering feelings can be life-changing.
- Follow your treatment plan. Whether it’s one a doctor or therapist creates for you or one you create for yourself – do the work.
- Don’t give up on yourself. Things do get better, it’s just a matter of finding out what works for you.
Self-care is defined as the actions you take to care for yourself and your needs. It’s different for everyone. Meditation for one person – kickboxing for another. It’s completely individualistic. Your needs are YOUR needs, but here are some ideas that relate to mental health.
- Rest. I learned a long time ago that pushing myself through anxiety and depression never works, it just makes it hit back harder.
- Pay attention to your self-care battery. Know what depletes you and what recharges you.
- Give yourself what you need. Whatever that thing is.
- Deprivation is not healthy. Don’t deprive yourself of the things that make you feel better, even when you’re busy and it’s hard to find the time.
- Make time for yourself.
A support system is important. You need good friends and good, healthy, relationships around you.
- Go to therapy. If in-person therapy doesn’t sound like it’s for you there are other options like Betterhelp and Talkspace.
- Reach out for help when you need it. Talk about it.
- Remember that mental illness is just that – illness. You don’t have to hide in shame. You’ll discover that so many people understand what you are going through.
- Ask for what you need from the people around you. When you’re able to vocalize your needs when it comes to your mental health – things change. In my marriage, it’s so freeing to be able to say “My anxiety is at a 9 today so I need time and space to myself.”
- Create a strong support system. Know who you can talk to when things get bad. Need a starting place? I have a great (and free) group called the Soulsisterhood and we talk about mental health all of the time.
- Break the stigma. Nearly everyone has their mental health struggles. You are not alone.