Written by: Taylor Boyle & Erin Mongiello, Marketing Department
Mental health advocates have been screaming from the rooftops about the importance of prioritizing mental health alongside physical health for ages.
Pre-modern era, we looked at human beings with a more holistic approach. As we have moved away from holistic care with the boom of the pharmaceutical industry, the discussions about the well-being of the whole person have been diluted to minuscule amounts. Not to mention, many intergenerational and cultural systems do not encourage openness about internal struggles of the mind.
The scientific truth is that every single person on this planet has mental health, just like we all have physical health. It appears then that the question “are you in good mental health?” should rank right up there with “are you in good physical health?” accompanied by the necessary treatment to follow. And yet, we see the words “mental health” still provoke strong reactions, often among the “non-believers.” (Yes, non-believers, even though we just established that “mental health” is not an option). Oh, the stigma and how we loathe thee.
As a society, we have been given a rare opportunity to illuminate the prioritization of mental health in the wake of the height of Covid-19 and we must take it. The conversation surrounding mental and emotional well-being has become more prevalent in post-pandemic life as many people saw the ripple effects of isolation, fear, and uncertainty. We are in a pivotal state of undeniable staggering statistics surrounding anxiety, depression, and suicide and the necessity for implementing even the basic systems of mental health care is in our faces.
We are not all in a position to design systems of care but on the very basic human level, we must start by creating space within ourselves, our relationships and in turn, our communities for care and open dialogue.
Food for thought: Who can you go to when you need emotional support? How would you react if a friend or family member approached you when they recognize they are struggling emotionally?
With that said, how do we start and what does prioritizing your own mental health really look like?
Here are 7 of our favorite pieces of advice:
1. The Airplane Oxygen Mask Rule Exists for a Reason
Self-care isn’t selfish. It is not self-indulgent. It is not open for discussion. It is not available for guilt trips by people who lack respect for boundaries. In order to help anyone around you, you have to put your own oxygen mask on first, or you both suffer. We tend to prioritize everyone or everything else around us by over-pouring ourselves into certain “cups.” However, all that gets you is burnout, overstimulation, and resentment. In order to maintain our own mental wellness, we need to take time to rest, replenish, and refill our own cups first! We can do this through our favorite self-care practices. Unplug. Journal. Read a book. Pamper yourself. Do something that brings you joy. Don’t forget: things like therapy, taking medication, and sleep are all forms of self-care!
2. Rest is Productive
Probably the hardest lesson for any recovering people-pleasers out there who measure their worth by their productivity. However, we established that we have to refill our cups. Rest is a part of doing so. Your mind, body, and soul all need time to charge their batteries. Rest is productive. Now, say it with me - rest. is. productive.
3. Think Of Your Mind, Body, & Soul
So often we hold one of these as our primary focus. The truth is that these are all more interconnected than we are taught. Most mental disorders have physiological manifestations. Avoiding tough emotions through rigorous exercise may help you lose weight but those emotions don’t go away and will keep surfacing, preventing growth as a whole person. Going to therapy to build a happier, healthier foundation is a great step but neglecting your physical health limits your ability to build that foundation.
How are you feeding all three? Combat your negative thoughts with positive affirmations for the mind, go for a walk or exercise to feed the body, and do something you love or remember and reflect on your dreams to feed your soul.
4. Calm Any Chaos with Organization
Create a routine or schedule that works for you to organize your chaos. Busy or overwhelming week ahead? Grab paper and pen and make a list to plan out how to manage your time. Utilize your calendar as well (digital, too!) Don’t forget to plug in time for self-care and things you love to really ensure you're prioritizing yourself in the plan! And remember: creating a calm space helps to make room for you to organize your thoughts!
5. "No" is a Complete Sentence
How often do you say “yes” to events, tasks, projects, etc. when you know your plate is getting ready to topple over? To put it simply - you can say no. Yes - that’s it. You can just say no. Susie asks you to bake brownies for the bake sale. Nope, Susie, I don’t have the capacity for that right now but maybe next time. Your friend asks you to help him move. Unfortunately, I am all booked and my schedule is full. You don’t owe anyone an explanation (except maybe your boss) but we do encourage declining politely.Chances are that people that push back on this by making you feel guilty or respond with anger benefitted from your lack of boundaries. No is a completely acceptable and appropriate answer.
6. Be Your Own Best Friend
All too often we partake in negative self-talk patterns when things aren’t going great. Let's rewrite the narrative and consider “would I say this to a friend in need right now?” If the answer is no, let's rethink your inner critic's response. Be kind to yourself and speak kindly to your mind as if it was your best friend.
7. Identify Your Support Team
We all need to have a team of people to turn to when we don’t feel our best, especially when things feel overwhelming or unmanageable. It’s important to establish a support system who you can call or run to especially in times of stress, anxiety, or depression. Feeling heard, seen, and validated by someone you trust can really go a long way in tackling a tough time. This team might consist of family, friends, coworkers, etc.
Sometimes you might not feel that the people in your life may not understand or have the time to listen to what you need. If this is the case, let’s find people who do. Maybe this is a professional? Connect with a therapist or a life coach, if that’s more your style.