10 Tips for Improving Your Mental Health
They say that when life hands you lemons, cut them into wedges and have tequila shots. I believe it is all about how you look at a situation that will determine how you react to it. While it isn’t always easy to reframe things in a positive light if you are struggling with depression or anxiety — or any number of other mental health disorders — I believe with persistence, you can alleviate at least some of the struggle you may feel.
1. Learn to love your alone time.
While sometimes I can’t help but feel lonely, I am working hard on learning to really love any chance to have time to myself — time to be alone with my thoughts and feelings and to just accept them for what they are. When I’m alone, there is no need to expend precious energy on wearing a mask for the comfort of others. I can just be me.
2. Don’t dwell on the past.
Easier said than done, but oftentimes when we live in the past, we keep giving it power over us. Admittedly, I cannot forget mine, it is too powerful and has such a strong hold on me. I am learning to not dwell too much on it, as I do not want to let those who have hurt me have that much say in my life now. The past is exactly that. It is gone and it cannot be changed. The only thing I have power over is what I do now.
3. Do not expect anything.
I believe when we accept everything and anything done for us with a grateful heart, it means so much more. If we are expecting help or assistance, it can hurt us deeply if it does not come. Learning to accept just because I would do something for someone does not mean they will notice and do the same back for me when I am struggling has helped so much with my inner peace!
4. Accept you cannot please everyone.
I believe no matter how hard we try, people-pleasing will always end up hurting us and destroying our own inner peace. I’ve learned I cannot be all things to all people. Sometimes it can help me to settle for being something for some people so I will still have energy left over to look after myself too. This is something I personally struggle with. I want to fix the world’s problems, and accepting I cannot do it all is difficult, but is really helping me to heal.
5. Do not waste time or energy on things you can’t control.
This does go hand in hand with not dwelling on the past, but it applies to the present and future too. Sometimes I spend so much time worrying and being anxious about all the things that may go wrong that I send myself into a panic that accomplishes nothing except making myself sick. The only certainty in life is that it is uncertain!
6. Be happy for the success of others.
I believe the simplest way to find joy is to be happy for even the tiniest bit of success others have. It is heartwarming and inspirational to watch a friend or family member doing well, especially if it is on their own mental health or chronic illness journey! I believe you should not compare yourself to them. You are different people with different styles. Comparison is the thief of joy. Just celebrate their wins and know soon your time will come too!
7. Don’t give up.
Recovery is not linear. Sometimes we go up for ages and we might even start to think we are cured, then we come crashing down again. Don’t give up.
8. Set goals you can achieve.
I am terrible when it comes to setting myself goals. I set them too high, too hard, and then berate and belittle myself when I do not achieve them. The biggest learning I have come upon in recent times is I must be kind to myself and celebrate even the small wins. Setting unachievable targets is just another method of self-harm I have used to hurt myself in the past, but I work hard to be reasonable with myself now. If you too find it difficult to know what your goals should be, talk to someone who knows you well and who you trust. Ask them to help you.
9. Don’t fear taking risks.
It is OK to take calculated risks, but remember, failure doesn’t mean you should give up and not try again. I have found being someone who struggles deeply with anxiety and the need to try and control all outcomes and plan the future, there are occasions when I need to just close my eyes and jump, trusting there is something soft to land on.
10. Love yourself first.
Just like the drill on the airplane, “put on your own face mask first,” this applies to life in recovery. You must, I repeat, you must put your own health first before you can help others. This does not mean you isolate and ignore anyone else who needs help, support or encouragement, but it does mean you don’t need to rush around cooking meals and running their kids to school every day. What it means is you can support them with a phone call or text message, a friendly smile or a hug, until you are strong enough to offer more.
Life is hard at times, each and every one of us experience ups and downs. It is important to set reasonable expectations for ourselves so we do not burn out or do more harm while we are trying to recover.
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Thinkstock photo via Annykos.