I want to take a minute (or five) to talk about mental health.
If you’ve followed my revealing stories on the Kirschenbaum Productions blog, you know that I’ve had my ups and downs with depression and anxiety. After finally finding a therapist who took a more spiritual, “mind-body connection” approach, I was finally able to pull myself up out of the mire and find my way back to the optimistic, easy going person I naturally am.
But like many things in life, there are no “happy endings”. What does it take to maintain mental health in the face of obstacles, tragedies and overwhelming stress?
I’ve been faced with all the above, most intensely the stress of work, poor health, and dire financial struggles. All of these things make maintaining a balanced, healthy mind that much more difficult. Yet, through it all, I have been able to stay afloat. So how is this possible? What are my techniques? Well, let’s break it down!
1) Take Things One Day at a Time
As trite as that may sound, sometimes it is an absolute necessity. I learned when I suffered from my darkest depths of depression (when I was briefly hospitalized) that sometimes even that isn’t enough.
At the most trying times, I’ve had to break it down to one hour at a time. For that one hour you have to be totally present–you aren’t allowed to worry about the past or stress about the future. Your only concern, the only task at hand, is to focus on the moment and the hour ahead. What do you need to do to get through that hour? Concentrate on that, and when that hour is up, repeat the process. Take the day in increments and before you know it, you will be at the other end. Anxiety builds when you stress about tomorrow. Tomorrow can wait.
2) Do Not Fear Your Anxiety/Depression
Once you start to worry about having a panic attack, or slipping back into depression (and believe me–it’s common to have anxiety about anxiety), you are giving it power over you.
Something I realized is that after becoming aware of my suceptibility towards mental illness, I was immediately taking my power back. When you are aware, you recognize the symptoms and have tools to counteract them. Even when we do start to slip backwards, we will never be able to fully return to that place of darkness. You can’t “unknow” things. You can’t become unaware again, unless you purposely and deliberately make that choice–which is a whole other problem.
I recently had a phone conversation with my mother about worrying I might be moving backwards re: my mental health. I had started to have some destructive thoughts, the kind of thoughts I hadn’t experienced for years, but I realized: even recognizing these thoughts, hearing them and understanding what they mean was actually a step forward.
I’m aware of these habits now, conscious of my weaknesses. I am not afraid of depression anymore, I won’t give negative thoughts about self destruction power over me. And I know what to do when they start to occur, which leads to:
3) Actively Take Care of Your Mental Health/See to Your Peace of Mind
This could mean several things and depends on a certain level of that awareness, of knowing yourself.
If you see a therapist, this could mean scheduling an appointment. It could be taking time to practice meditation, taking time for physical activity (very important) such as doing yoga, going for a jog, or my personal favorite, taking a dance class.
Taking care of your physical health is so important. If our bodies are in a weak state it’s harder for our minds to stay strong. Treat your body like the temple it is, nourish it with good foods, take vitamins and supplements, and make sure you get enough sleep.
Even with the knowledge I’ve gained and these tools at the ready in my toolkit, it is still an up hill climb to keep my mind healthy. I’m still working on taking care of my body to care for my mind, but it is absolutely worth the effort. I have come so far and every struggle, every obstacle that comes my way is another opportunity to make me stronger (OY! Again with the trite sayings!)
I hope these little insights can maybe help guide and inspire you to work your way through your own struggles and hardships. Mental health is so vital to not just living, but thriving. Please take the time to care for yourself and treat yourself with infinite love and gratitude.