Let’s Talk: Mental Health Essentials
Mental health is a difficult thing to bring to the light, since it so often sits in darkness.
It can be hard to share the ocean within us, whether it’s for fear of being misunderstood, fear of not being able to find the right words to describe our feelings, fear of being rejected, or the discomfort of being vulnerable–with ourselves or with others.
To be honest about what we go through internally is hard work that often gets overlooked. Our mental well-being requires tuning and maintenance, just like an engine would (the mind and the body are, after all, our own organic machines.)
These past two years have weighed heavily on us all in different ways – friendships and relationships have changed and some have struggled with their businesses and families, while others have had major life milestones interrupted. Whatever it might be, each of us is deserving of the unconditional love and support we might need.
What can we do to stay grounded? That will look different for everyone, and it will take some dabbling if you haven’t really ever taken the time to cultivate that practice. Depending on your life experiences, this might come more or less naturally to you than for others. I have seen ‘self-help’ lists circulating on social media, and although some of the advice is helpful (“drink water every day”), here I will share some of the deeper ways we can tend to our mental health.
When things get heavy and overwhelming, remind yourself of the people, things, ideas, or values that give you purpose. This can be something physical, such as your children or spouse, or something intangible, such as a guiding belief system or your moral compass. This could even be something as small as getting out of bed and making the best-tasting cup of coffee in the world. It doesn’t have to be anything profound, just meaningful. When times get tough, grounding myself in purpose helps me see the light of day.
Belief in Something Greater
This does not have to be anything religious or spiritual. It can be as simple as a belief in a force greater than one’s self, such as the innate goodness of people or the purity of your dog’s love for you when you walk in the door. Check in with yourself to find out what’s truly important and to see what moves your heart.
Sleep and Naps
Never underestimate the power of the body’s restorative power! If your body is telling you it needs rest, honour that request and take some time to yourself. Since the body and the mind are one, listening to what our physical body needs is a great way to support our mental health as well.
Sometimes, you need to get on the other side of the window. When mental burnout happens, it’s important for us to evaluate how much time we have spent outdoors in the fresh air and sunlight, away from our sources of stress. Even 10 minutes of being outside of a stressful environment can provide needed clarity. This requires some honesty on our parts, as classic over-workers can have trouble seeing these red flags (such as hyper-focusing on work for hours without a break.)
Back to Basics
A while back, I made the decision to get back to the basics of life with my evenings after work. My absolute favourite thing to do when I was younger was read a book by myself (I would set up camp in my favourite spot in the house, and my mom would occasionally check on me or drop off a snack.) Somewhere along the way, I stopped reading for pleasure and dropped the habit of reading altogether. I became a Grown Up™ who “didn’t have time” for the things that made me happy when I was a kid. Is there something you used to love to do that’s fallen out of your orbit – gardening, drawing, knitting, tinkering with mechanics? Taking time to check in with what makes us happy is a step in the right direction, especially when we sense that we’re near a brink.
Ultimately, you know yourself best, and you will know which one of these might be more essential one day over the next. We live in a world that values productivity over most things and it can be difficult to avoid getting swept up in that unbalanced tide.
Grounding yourself in the things that give you true meaning and bring you joy can provide a foundation for your mental health as we journey further into 2022 together. Sharing your story with others can also provide much needed understanding and connection – it just might surprise you to see who relates to your experiences and reaches out.