Writing about mental health is really freaking hard so most of the time, I don’t even try. Everyone has their own weird, wonderful, utterly unique way of dealing things that it almost seems pointless to try to give advice on good mental health. What works for one person won’t necessarily work for another person. Mental health advice can be really triggering for some people but extremely helpful for others. It’s a bit of a shit situation really.
Having said that, sometimes you just need a reminder that you’re not okay. We’re all so used to getting on with it and pretending everything is fine and sometimes, we’re really not okay and we need someone to say ‘It’s okay to not be okay. What can I do to help?’
So this article may not be helpful at all but at the very least, I hope it’s a reminder to check in with yourself today and make sure your mental health is the best it can be right now…
Here are a few things that might help you maintain good mental health…
1. Finding the non-negotiables that contribute to the best you’ve ever felt
Have a think about the last time you felt utterly amazing. What made you feel so great? Were you going to yoga three times a week? Getting plenty of sleep? Hanging out with that person who makes you feel really good about yourself? Whatever it is, try to pinpoint it and keep doing it. For me, it’s exercise, cutting back on alcohol during the week (before I was pregnant of course!) and writing positive pages in the mornings. For you, it might be walking every lunchtime or having daily green smoothies. None of these things may help you right now but getting in the habit of regularly doing the things that make you feel great is always a good use of your time.
2. Understanding that sometimes the shit hits the fan and you have to weather the storm
Unfortunately, nothing is perfect all the time. Sometimes things are a bit shit and you just have to ride it out. Sometimes people get obsessed with being happy and satisfied all the time and it’s just not an achievable thing. Sometimes your poor mental health will be a direct result of temporary stress you’re currently under. If you learn to recognise those times (like a big project at work, renovating a house, your kid having a rough time at school) and realise that most of the time they’re temporary, you’ll be in a better position to cope with them. It will also help you recognise stress triggers that AREN’T temporary and will give you the chance to find a long-term strategy for those stresses.
3. Getting additional help sooner rather than later in the form of medication/therapy
Therapy is hard. Telling a complete stranger your problems, and establishing trust and rapport with them is hard. Asking your doctor for help in the form of medication is hard. And it’s made harder by the fact that by the time you need help the most, you’re at your most exhausted. Seeking help is probably the last thing you want to do in that moment but if your mental health isn’t improving, seek help. It’s no different to going to the doctor because you found a weird lump somewhere on your body. You don’t know what that lump is, how to fix it or if it’s going to get worse. The same logic applies to lingering mental health issues, so always seek help. BeyondBlue is a great place to start as is Counselling Australia.
4. Knowing your triggers and having a plan to avoid those things
My triggers are spending too much time on social media and not moving enough. If I skip the gym and then vortex for too long on Facebook in the afternoon, I start feeling really, really sad. I try to avoid this behaviour in the first place but if I fuck up and find myself slumped on the couch at 3pm, flicking through Instagram and feeling shit about myself, I leave my phone at home and go for a walk. It’s about knowing the triggers, avoiding them and then remedying them when you fall into their trap.
5. Prioritising yourself and letting go of the guilt associated with that
Self-compassion is incredibly elusive because most of us find it so hard to practice it. All self-compassion is, is us showing the same kindness and compassion to ourselves that we’d show to a friend. Why do we find this so hard to do? Possibly because it feels selfish? We all need to get over that. Protecting yourself, putting up boundaries and letting go of the associated guilt is essential to maintaining good mental health.
This week on Straight & Curly, Kelly and I are talking about mental health and how to keep yours in check. We also have an amazing Facebook group you should totally join. The people in there are ace.