One of the best conversations I had around mental health was with a friend who said to me, mental health, and working towards being okay in life is a choice as much as it is about support from our family and friends. Unless you make that critical choice to help yourself, no one can help you.
But when we talk about helping yourself, we often think about going to a therapist. If you have the means and opportunity, that’s amazing. But if you don’t there are a few things you can do in the meantime.
I. Take responsibility
One of my earliest lessons from my therapist was the importance of using the right words. It’s easy to say:
It’s my fault
It’s my mother’s fault
It’s god’s fault
I’m to blame
I’m horrible, I’m bad, I can’t do anything right
But as soon as you turn this into “I take responsibility,” the tone and the way your body and mind react shifts. Try it now. See how your body reacts to I’m to blame vs I take responsibility.
Side note (which you can totally skip if you want): This is the difference between Inferno (blame) and Purgatory (responsibility) in context of the Divine Comedy. For the souls stuck in the Inferno, they will blame right from God to Satan to their neighbour for their misfortunes. For the souls climbing Mt Purgatorio, they know there is no one else but themselves who can climb the mountain and reach Paradise. So, they work hard, feed on the prayers of their loved ones and keep moving forward.
II. Don’t lie to yourself
Self-delusion – I’m fine, there’s nothing wrong with me, it’ll pass, it’s just gas – is the easiest way to derail your mental health journey. Use these words if someone asks you if you’re okay and you’re not in the mood to talk to them. But don’t use them when talking to yourself. It’s okay to have bad days but then acknowledge you’re having a bad day. Sometimes that acknowledgment takes away the sting of what you’re feeling.
III. Don’t advertise
I don’t like to talk about my issues and I don’t like to talk about how I’m coping. Even if I have had a discussion with my therapist, I don’t like to talk about it with others. Mostly it’s because it’s too personal and raw but it’s also because I feel others’ opinions can sometimes have a negative impact on your progress. I mean how many times have you told someone you’re on a diet and how many times have you faced derision or why are you dieting pfft? You look fine. You should exercise instead.
It’s of course a personal choice. Some people find solidarity in community and via social media. I would still suggest you wait till the charge has somewhat reduced. If you feel the need to vent, a word doc or a tweet draft or a paper works just as well.
IV. It’s all about you
Don’t compare. This is another reason why I’m not for advertising. You have no idea the steps someone else has taken to reach where they have reached. I too share a sanitized version of what I’m feeling on my blog.
Your mental health is about you. Chart your own path. Find your own balance. Define your own peace.
V. Keep an open mind
I have found my epiphanies via songs, books, writing, conversations with friends, movies and sometimes just being. Mental health, much like life, is not a straight line. Be patient with yourself and be open to receiving your body’s signals. Another lesson I learnt early on: your mind may confuse you but your physical body rarely will.
Bonus point: Write it down
I have a running note on my Evernote of all the sessions I have taken around my health, fitness journey and body image. It works as a good reminder that you have made progress; you are moving forward. Apart from that I also have a daily Gratitude app which sometimes doubles up as a diary entry or a rant. On a bad day, if I can remember one thing – even if half my entries are around books and food – it makes me feel hopeful.
How about you? What’s the one thing you do every day to take care of your mental health?
This post is part of Blogchatter’s CauseAChatter