Let’s Talk About Mental Health, Shall We?

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Picture by Anna Tarazevich

First, let’s set the record straight. Attending to your mental and emotional health is not always about getting a counselor or therapist. However, if you think you need to speak with someone, it is absolutely appropriate if you’re ready to receive the help therapy offers! So there’s no shame in your game if you take that step. As a matter of fact, give yourself a pat on the back for ignoring the stigma that often comes along with seeking and getting professional mental healthcare and doing what is best for you. However, if you are not there yet, start by taking baby steps to a healthy mindset by focusing on self-care. What is self-care? It’s taking control of the things that you can control thus relieving your stress levels almost immediately. That’s rule #1 and yes, it’s also easier said than done. However, once you master this behavior, you will quickly see and feel things very differently.

So, how do you know if you need help with your mental health and self-care? Perhaps when you’re overly emotional (angry or teary eyed) all the time. When you can’t concentrate. When you’re feeling like something is wrong – not exactly unhappy, just wrong. When you feel joyless or like you’re trapped in your life, and everything is out of your control. These things are by no means a complete, comprehensive list of identifying behaviors and all of these feelings can come and go at different times in your life. However, when these feelings become a constant in your life, that’s an indication that you are out of balance and need to make immediate changes. Unfortunately, we don’t always recognize the urgency of our situation, but others can. So, just being open to outside influences is an important step.

Personally, I have been getting messages that change must happen in my life. A perfect example is when I was at a restaurant having a couple’s lunch with friends. Two ladies, who had sat nearby, stopped at our table on their way out to make a comment on my sports team shirt. Then one of ladies began telling us about a new TV reality show. It was about a soccer (football) team and how it was just what she needed because it was mentally uplifting. As she explained, with all the negativity that had been dumped into the world, especially in the last seven years, she needed to fill her mind with positive things. Her enthusiasm seemed to be less about the details of the show, but more about how it made her feel.

She realized she watched it for her mental health.

She realized that even a small change was made a big difference.

I realized she was saying almost the exact same things I said only one day before.

I have a dozen of these “coincidences,” so, for me, that was just another confirmation that was on the right track. As a matter of fact, I was only there having that lunch because I was acting on rule #1 -taking control over the things I could control in my life. Other self-care baby steps I have taken are:

-Putting myself on a “news diet” (especially cable news) and limiting my daily intake to one hour.

-Only watching movies and television shows that intrigue, inspire, make me laugh, and/or teach me something. My favorite thrillers and suspense genre have been put on the shelf.

-Recognizing and releasing the unnecessary burdens I choose to carry even as they weighed me down with negative emotions.

-Taking time to sit in the sunshine and feel thankful.

-Prioritizing life stressors. Everything I’m dealing with isn’t “5 alarm fire” serious, even though it often feels that way.

-Picking a direction because I can’t float forever. Of course, this requires answering the question, “What do I want?” and “What steps do I take to get me there?” Keeping busy working towards a goal allows me to concentrate on my idea of happiness. It also addresses the feeling of being emotional and/or mentally paralyzed or stuck in the mud.

-Planning time daily to do things that gives me pleasure – reading, writing, taking a long hot bath or even a nap. Because no one should have to wait for a day off if you can take an hour off.

-And finally, accepting that I can’t “save” everyone, nor can I solve everyone’s problems.

Do I have more work to do prioritizing time and space in my mental and physical world for positivity, little joys, and care for my health? Yes, I most certainly do and I’m ok with that. I know I’m not where I want to be – not yet. However, I am determined to find enlightenment in this journey called life…with every baby step I take.