A Healthy Brain is a Magical Brain: 5 Tips to Get Serious About Your Mental Health
If you broke your arm, no one would question a trip to the doctor. If you came down with strep throat, your friends wouldn’t roll their eyes at antibiotics. But for some reason, mental health issues like depression and anxiety disorders continue to go ignored and untreated due to the stigma surrounding them.
According to Healthline:
12% of all women in the United States will experience symptoms of clinical depression at some point in their lives.
That’s a lot of women! So if you think you might be experiencing depression, or just find yourself in an emotional slump, here are five ways to help you take care of yourself.
1. Write it Out
Sometimes we aren’t ready yet to share our feelings with anyone, a therapist, a doctor, or even our closest friends and family. That’s why writing down your thoughts in a journal can be so helpful. Not only do you not have to worry about making sense, a journal will never judge you or offer up unhelpful solutions. Writing down your feelings can give you a sense of purging. You don’t have to keep your feelings trapped inside you. Journaling is also a nice way of looking back on the progress you’ve made. It can help you learn the triggers that frequently set off your bad feelings. If you notice you’re always writing after seeing a specific person or when things get bad at work, it can be a helpful tool to find out what changes might improve your overall quality of life.
And if you don’t like writing, you can always express yourself with a different creative endeavor. You could try sketching or take a music class. But be careful not to add another activity in your life that might be a source of stress instead of comfort. The point is to find an outlet for your feelings without worrying about producing something good or even coherent. This is art just for you!
2. Get Moving
While it’s scientifically proven that exercise can make you feel good by the creation of endorphins in your brain, that doesn’t mean you have to start some insane exercise regiment just to improve your mood. There’s no one size fits all when it comes to self-care. If running twelve miles before dawn isn’t your thing, try yoga, which has great meditative properties along with taking care of your physical health. Going for walks is another nice way to get some easy exercise while also helping to clear your head. Sometimes when I’m stressed, I like to wander my local bookstore. It’s a way for me to get plenty of steps in, and also detach from the chaotic world for a little while. Focusing on your physical body isn’t a cure, but it might give you the break you need from what’s going on in your head.
3. Get Comfortable Saying No
Too often we feel obligated to say yes to activities we know will stress ourselves out. Doing favors that you don’t have time for might win you a Friend of the Year trophy, but it won’t improve your mental health. In other words, having free time doesn’t always mean you should be available. It’s also important to sometimes say no to fun activities. It’s easy to think filling every second of your week with social outings will keep sad feelings at bay. In fact, on occasion being social is exactly what we need. But any person with depression can tell you the number of times they’ve felt completely alone and miserable in the middle of a crowded party. So, before you offer to feed that neighbor’s cat or hop in the car for an impromptu road trip down the coast, listen to your gut. If you’re already feeling stressed just thinking about doing it, it’s perfectly okay to say no. Your mental health is far more important than friendship brownie points or a wicked cool Instagram photo.
4. Be Your Best Friend
If your friend ever came to you with feelings of sadness or depression, how would you comfort them? Or if something bad happened to them, would you tell them it’s because they’re worthless? How about if they made a mistake? Would you assume they’d never succeed again? I certainly hope you wouldn’t! And yet, so often this is exactly how we treat our own sad feelings. We are our own biggest critics and if we have depression, that critic is working overtime. While you can’t always stop the negative thoughts from coming, you can train yourself to recognize these unhelpful thinking styles and respond to them with self-compassion.
Dr. Kristin Neff, an expert on the practice of self-compassion, says:
Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings.
So think of the nice things you’d say to cheer your friend up and direct that positive energy towards yourself. Try making a list of all the evidence that proves your negative thoughts untrue. Sometimes it’s as simple as acknowledging how you’re struggling or suffering in your current situation, and giving yourself credit for hanging in there and doing the best you can. More information on self-compassion can be found here.
5. Know When It’s Time to Get Help
I cannot emphasize enough that there is nothing wrong with needing help to manage depression or anxiety. Mental illness is real. Depression is real. Anxiety is real. If nothing seems to be going wrong in your life and yet you can’t help but feel down or sad, it’s very possible your suffering from a depressive disorder. Never let anyone tell you that your feelings are just in your head and to get over them. All the exercise and positive affirmations in the world can’t cure clinical depression.
The good news is there are many things that do help with depression, like talking to a therapist or psychiatrist, or taking prescription medication. You don’t have to suffer through your feelings alone. And remember, finding the perfect therapist or psychiatrist can be as hard as finding a significant other. Don’t be discouraged if the first one isn’t a perfect fit.
If you are feeling so hopeless you’re considering hurting yourself, don’t hesitate to reach out. More information can be found at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and a counselor is literally a phone call away at 1-800-273-8255.
Always remember, your mental health is important and you deserve to be healthy, so don’t give up!
What are some of your strategies for dealing with bad mental health days? Let us know in the comments below!