The other day, I shared an article about my experiences with writing through tough times and what I do to keep on going. Obviously, things haven’t changed much since then, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the same with you.
One of the buzzwords in the past year or is mental health. Given what we are dealing with, this comes as no surprise.
So, my question to you today is this: How are you taking care of your mental health these days?
Buzzword designation aside, even before this pandemic, mental health was already an important issue. Now, even more so.
What exactly is mental health, though?
MentalHealth.gov defines it as:
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.
It also identifies contributing factors such as:
- Biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry
- Life experiences, such as trauma or abuse
- Family history of mental health problems
Now that we are all on the same page about what mental health means, let’s talk about how we can nourish ourselves in this regard.
One more thing, though — if you think you need professional help, I urge you to look for a psychiatrist online. It may be cliche at this point, but there is nothing wrong with asking for help. It may literally save your sanity or your life.
Let me just say that I do talk to my psychiatrist via Zoom regularly, but if you do not want to seek professional help, then allow me to share some simple things that have helped me take care of my mental health aside from talk therapy.
I won’t pretend that I do this every day, and truth be told, I usually write when I am feeling down or overwhelmed. Or extremely happy. As writers, though, I think we can all agree that writing our thoughts and feelings is cathartic. This is especially true if you are not the “sharing type”. What we can’t tell others, we can tell our journals.
Get enough sleep
Getting enough quality sleep is one of my biggest challenges. I used to be a night owl and I am an insomniac. So, you can imagine just how difficult it is to get enough sleep and sleep soundly. One thing that I have found helpful is establishing a nighttime routine.
Try to go to bed at the same time every night. Of course, there would be exceptions, but training your body — and more so your mind — to go on sleep mode at a certain time every night goes a long way.
Other practical things to help you with this:
- Diffuse lavender essential oil. If you have a diffuser, turn it on an hour before bedtime. Lavender is known for its calming properties.
- Take a warm shower.
- Dim the lights and read a little if you want.
- Turn all digital devices off (or on Do Not Disturb/Silent mode) and place them where you cannot reach them till morning.
That last bit will help you get to sleep AND stay asleep. I can’t count the times I woke up in the middle of the night to check my email on the phone. Unhealthy!
Cake, ice cream, chocolate, cookies — anything sweet, I’ll eat it. And not in small amounts. When I am stressed, I tend to “sweet eat” my way to oblivion.
Sugar is not bad in moderation, I think. Some studies have shown, however, that sugar may contribute to mental health issues such as depression, addiction, and anxiety. Even learning and memory!
What to do?
Try not to stock up on sweets. Forget buying that cake or tub of ice cream for “emergencies”. Get dark chocolate instead. But, do not deprive yourself. Treat yourself once in a while. Deprivation only leads to bingeing.
Talk to friends and family
You know that friend/family member who does not communicate regularly? That friend who sends a message or calls once in a blue moon.
Here’s the thing. When you are not in a good place emotionally or mentally, and you don’t feel like talking to anyone, that’s probably the time you really need to. Even if you have to drag yourself by the back of your neck and send a “Hey”.
Yoga and meditation
I’ve already mentioned this once (or twice) in the past, and if it’s not your thing, then skip this part. But if you want to give it a try, I suggest checking out Adriene Mishler. She’s a yoga teacher (among other things) who shares free yoga videos on YouTube. I used to pay for a yoga app, but when I discovered Adriene (thanks to my sister) a couple of years ago, I never looked back. Aside from the physical exercise, the “letting go of things that do not serve you” mental exercises have been a lifesaver.
Take a break
And I mean a real break. There was a time when I worked 12-14 hours a day, seven days a week. You can imagine how that worked out for me.
If you’re living that life, please, take a break. Weekends without checking your work email or writing/editing/whatever you do for work. If that’s not possible, take at least Sunday or half of Saturday off. The important thing is that you give yourself permission to detach from work and immerse yourself in things that you enjoy (that is not work!). Can you promise to try?
There you have it. This is how I have been taking care of my mental health. How about you?
Let’s help each other. Add yours to the list by leaving a comment below.