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To get started, I want to talk about a few ways in which we can take more care of our mental health.
What do I mean by that? Well, it’s important to have a healthy mind. We use our minds all day every day: we think about people, places, interactions; we think about what’s for dinner, how to get somewhere on time, which class to take next semester (or if we even want to go back at all). All this thinking (and worrying, and stressing) adds up.
Things like anxiety, bipolar syndrome, depression, adhd and other mental illnesses make it hard to take care of your emotional and mental health. Some people spend their whole life in a state that could be called mentally ill: they may have some down days or even weeks when they feel like they’re on the edge of a breakdown, but apart from that their symptoms aren’t too severe (they may just notice low self-esteem or mild irritability). Other people are constantly battling anxiety or depression or mania which makes it hard to be functional.
There’s not one way to feel better; every person has different ways of coping. I’ve seen some of the ways people use to cope, and those are things like running, meditating, writing, watching Netflix (sorry not sorry), going out with friends or even staying in bed for a few days.
The point is that it’s very hard to take care of your mental health, and I want to explain why it’s so difficult, and then give a few tips on how you can better your mental health.
Why It’s Hard to Take Care of Your Mental Health
1. We don’t know how our brain works.
So if you’re trying to get better — which I am assuming you are, because who wants to feel depressed or anxious? — you have no idea what’s really going on inside of your brain. You can’t see your brain, so you don’t really know if it’s all working the way it should be.
2. Mental illness is scary
If someone has a broken bone and complains of pain, we know that they have something wrong with their body: when there’s something wrong with our mind, even though sometimes it hurts, there’s no evidence that something is wrong.
3. Mental illness can seem “insane” (because it’s insane)
Mental illness is not a result of laziness or stupidity: chances are that if you’re reading this and you experience mental illness symptoms, you are one of the most intelligent, hard-working people I know. You just can’t always figure out why you feel badly, or how to feel better.
4. There are a million things to do
Unlike a broken bone, there’s a million things to take care of: friendships, school, jobs, money problems and more. And when you’re in the middle of these problems it’s hard to know where to start.
So, let’s talk about how you can take care of your mental health:
How to Take Care of Your Mental Health
1. Accept that there is an issue
If you tell yourself that something is wrong, you can take care of it. If you were to get a broken arm, the first thing a doctor would tell you is “you have a broken arm,” and not “it’s just in your head.” You wouldn’t stop there — you’d do something about it.
So when you feel like something is wrong, don’t just tell yourself that it’s in your head: try to find out what the issue is. It doesn’t have to be anything bad or dramatic, but if there are things you can change about your lifestyle, do so.
2. Talk with someone
Talking with a friend or a psychologist can help you understand what’s really going on in your head: it might be that you have no idea what’s causing the negative feelings inside of you. If you’re afraid to see someone, go online and find anonymous forums where people are sharing their problems — sometimes being able to communicate with others who are going through similar things helps.
3. Take care of your mental health like you take care of your physical health
It’s kind of weird to say, but when you go to a doctor and they tell you that you have mental illnesses, it might seem like there isn’t much more for them to say about the issue: if you’ve been taking your medication and avoiding alcohol, then you’re good. But there is a lot to do if you want to feel better: go and see a therapist, take care of your body by eating healthy or exercising , try to make friends with people who are positive influences in your life .
4. Do what makes you happy
Take time for yourself — go out with friends, take some time for yourself, go see a movie (if you can afford it). Make sure that you’re doing things that make you feel good — with mental illness, sometimes we forget that life is supposed to be fun.
5. Don’t blame yourself
You are not your mental illness: everyone gets sad or anxious from time to time. And even if that happens to you a lot, it doesn’t mean something is wrong with you.
6. Be gentle with yourself
It’s hard to change your lifestyle. It’s hard to keep on going when things aren’t fun or easy or simple (which they never are). But most of all: don’t be so harsh and hard on yourself.
As the great writer and artist Rumi once said:
At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a friend, a child or parent.
7. Take care of your mental illness, and it will take care of you
It might seem strange or weird to say that if you look after your mental health, then your mental health will look after you. But the more effort you put into making yourself feel better, the easier it gets — you can see a therapist once a week for an hour at first, but you can eventually develop the strength to do it once a month for an hour.
It also goes the other way: if you don’t care about your mental health, then you’ll feel worse and worse over time. It’s like that saying “you are what you eat.” Be smart with your life, and your mental illness will take care of you.
For more information, read about my recent experience with anxiety and depression and how I overcame it.