That photo says it all – self-care isn’t selfish. That doesn’t mean we do it enough though. We are going to talk about how mental health can impact your daily life and how we can strengthen your mental health. It’s becoming more common to openly discuss these things, but today, I want to get really raw.
How Mental Health Can Impact Your Daily Life
What Mental Health Means
Just so that everyone is on the same page, I want us to understand what mental health means. According to MentalHealth.gov, 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.”
Before we get too far in, let me attest to the fact that mental health determines how we handle stress. My mental health has recently been in an incredibly weakened state. I want to share that with you.
My Story and Battle with Mental Health
Earlier this year, I sold my home. That was an adventure for sure! I no longer wanted the responsibility, especially to maintain the yard. I made the decision, it was a great decision too!
But, that very weekend as I moved into a temporary apartment, I came in the following Monday to an email that changed my whole career and the next 4+ months. The university that I had worked at for two years was facing an event that could potentially have a detrimental end result for staff and students. In April of 2021, all enrollments were halted.
On the positive side, they kept us on with the hope of things turning around. For the next few months, we didn’t do much but clock in and out and were still paid our usual salary. You couldn’t really ask for better!
And then in July 2021, the company announced all staff would be laid off come September 2021. The hustle to find another job became real. But then, on August 2, 2021, we came in that morning and the company completely let us go.
A few things you should know are that I am completely responsible for myself. I won’t ask or accept anything. The first day I got the news in April began an intense depression and a weight of stress I didn’t know how to cope with. For a while, between May and July, I was back in therapy, but after August I could no longer validate that expense and stopped going.
If you’re not a Christian, that’s cool! This still may apply if you believe in something else. When I first got the news this past April, I turned to God. I asked that He would provide for me, I asked that He would put me in something better, something to be able to afford the new home I was moving into. I prayed that God would help support me and keep me strong as I battled depression, anxiety, stress, and felt the toll on my relationships.
I cannot tell you the number of interviews I have had. I am a skilled professional with a graduate degree. I have worked so hard and, without coming off as privileged, I have been through some hell and knew what I deserved. I know what I am worth.
Every time I doubted God, I reminded myself of all the times He’s brought me out better. My family didn’t want me and at 17 I was on my own. God has brought me out of that with three degrees, a published book, a beautiful home.
I was extremely blessed with my job at the university at the best time in my life to begin again and support myself far better than I could have imagined. Even selling my home worked out flawlessly with what I made and the time it sold, as well as the process.
Even now, I have finally accepted a job that I have been praying for since before my job at the university. It is literally one of my dream jobs and will lead to so many opportunities in the industry.
My point is, whether it’s God or something else you believe in, hold onto that. I know it’s hard. Some days you just can’t even move. There have been so many evenings where I would aimlessly wander my home, plop down somewhere random in the middle of the room, and just sob. I have had so many sleepless nights and stressed myself out so badlyand that my nails are nubs. I know those things sound weird, but those who have experienced these feelings will understand.
Some days it has been hard to eat. I’ve felt worthless, un-purposeful, as though I was a waste of life. I’ve wondered how much easier life would be with God in Heaven, instead of here on earth. I have been so stressed that I have literally stressed Maddie out.
This is all to say that I understand where you are, the emptiness you feel among the stress, and how it can affect everything you feel, how you act, what you do, even your relationships. Thankfully, my friends and my person have been the greatest and I swear if it weren’t for them….I don’t know guys!
Mental Health and Your Daily Routine
We discussed that mental health can affect your daily routine and it certainly affected mine. I went from a solid, determined routine, to floating aimlessly through life. I didn’t feel like I was doing anything meaningful. I felt empty.
When your mental health is in a weakened state it is important to maintain some sort of routine. For example, I would devise a timeline for my day. It didn’t matter how small. I started with:
Time with God
Take a Shower
Clean the Kitchen
Maintaining some type of schedule really helped me feel as though I was doing something. Dr. Brad Brenner suggests that “creating predictable scenarios through habits allows your mind to adjust, understand what to expect, and alleviate anxiety over the unknown.”
We know that developing a routine leads to healthy habits and it takes 21 days to develop a routine. A lot can happen in 21 days, something life-changing can happen!
I want to make a note really quick that routines are not always a solution. Depending on your mental health and current state, you might want to implement therapy, support groups, or even helplines.
If you’re experiencing a mental health crisis or struggling with poor mental health, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for immediate support. If you’re experiencing a medical emergency, call 911.
Mental Health and COVID-19
I think we all thought 2020 would be the worst year, but honestly, I feel 2021 has been worse. The pandemic still has not ended and continues to spiral, scare, and spark controversy. Many people are still quarantining and I know that leaves us in a tough spot.
While I live alone, I have my people. But if I weren’t dating who I am, if my people weren’t on the same page as me with their beliefs, I would probably be lonely. Right now, I know if I need to see someone and be social, all I have to do is say so.
But for those of us who don’t have that opportunity, my heart goes out to you. It does. Because I know that’s hard and it is lonely. Even if you are the type of person who is okay being alone, eventually it’s too much.
The CDC recommends taking a break from social media, and I agree completely! They also say to focus on your physical health through exercise, meditation, and trying to consume nutritious foods. In addition, find something new to do that you enjoy and spend time, whether virtually or at a distance, with friends and family and spend time in your faith.
The Link Between Mental Health and Physical Health
Many do not know, but there is a link between mental health and physical health. I tell people all the time, fitness and health are so much more than exercise and veggies. We need to focus more on managing stress and anxiety and beating depression.
The Canadian Mental Health Association says “The associations between mental and physical health are:
Poor mental health is a risk factor for chronic physical conditions.
People with serious mental health conditions are at high risk of experiencing chronic physical conditions.
People with chronic physical conditions are at risk of developing poor mental health.
Most people discuss the chronic health issues to obesity or lack of exercise. Clearly, mental health has chronic health issues as well.
The CMHA continues with “Key aspects of prevention include increasing physical activity, access to nutritious foods, ensuring adequate income and fostering social inclusion and social support. “
In order to have better mental health, an individual needs exercise, nutritious food, solid financial security, and an active social circle. Do you have all of these? What resources are in place to ensure everyone has access to these items?
Ways to Strengthen Your Mental Health
It’s extremely important that we continue to grow awareness to mental health and come together to find ways to strengthen our mental health. Making simple changes to our lives can help us to better manage stress and anxiety and improve our mental wellness.
10 Ways to look after your mental health includes:
Talking about your feelings – to a friend or a therapist.
Staying active – at least 20-30 minutes of physical activity a day.
Eat well – choose homemade, nutritious foods over fast food or junk food.
Drink better – decrease alcohol intake and drink more water.
Keep in touch – do not isolate yourself, call a friend.
Ask for help – we all have a lot going on, don’t be afraid to ask someone to chip in.
Take a break – from social media, from the day, set aside time for yourself. Did you know that "35 percent of teenagers now describe their use of social media platforms, such as Instagram and TikTok, as “almost constant” ? This has been proven to decrease mood, increase depression, and negatively affect overall mental health.
Do something you enjoy – invest time into a hobby you love.
Accept who you are – you’re okay, you aren’t broken, you aren’t a burden. Love who you are, I love you too!
Care for others – doing something for others, no matter how small, will bring you joy.
And remember: If you’re experiencing a mental health crisis or struggling with poor mental health, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for immediate support. If you’re experiencing a medical emergency, call 911.