As someone who has struggled with mental health issues in the past, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I’ve written about my struggles with depression and anxiety here and here, so I won’t repeat my stories today. But, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to practice self-care for your mental health.
During the global pandemic and subsequent lockdown, anxiety was a reliable companion. I relied on several coping strategies to remain sane through it all. In fact, I’ve turned some of these strategies into good habits.
Sometimes I have a lot on my mind, and the only way for me to process my feelings is to write them down. There are days that I scribble furiously on yellow notepads to get it all out of my system. At times, I would stare at a blank page or computer screen, afraid of what others might think if I put my thoughts out there for everyone to see. But, whether I share my thoughts on this blog or not, clearing my head in this way is always a great comfort to me.
My office was closed this week, and it has done wonders for my mental health. I don’t think I’ve taken a week off since before the pandemic – because I had nowhere to go. I decided to treat this break as the gift it was and make the most out of it. One day, I went to Longwood Gardens with a friend and enjoyed the conservatory and all of nature in full bloom. At one point, we found rocking chairs by a waterfall and sat there for a while enjoying the peace and quiet – away from the endless errands, piles of laundry, and decisions waiting for us at home. I admit that I’m not wired to meditate or relax regularly, but I could get used to days like this.
Phone a friend
I also spent a lot of time with good friends this past week. I had coffee with a friend at my favorite breakfast place. I hugged a few friends who came to visit and shared a few laughs over some food and beer at a local pub with another. I also spent time with my family, which is always rewarding. As the kids get older, they tend to come and go as they please, so it is nice when they stop and check in with us for a while.
I don’t walk as often as I’d like to, but it makes a huge difference when I make an effort. Whether I’m walking off some steam or just need a break away from the computer to enjoy the fresh air, I always feel refreshed and rejuvenated – especially if I’m having a tough day. Walking has so many benefits. For me, it is an easy way to work out and catch up on podcasts. It also helps get the creative juices flowing and facilitates problem-solving, among other things. Yeah, walking is pretty great. I need to make more time for it.
At several points in my life, my therapist has saved me. At others, she has been an incredible source of validation and strength. I’ve never been ashamed of seeing a therapist, nor should I be. Therapy doesn’t change you – as many people think it might – it has helped me become the person I was meant to be, and as a bonus, I learned how to deal with everything else that came my way. I highly recommend it.
You didn’t think I would leave books out of my self-care routine, did you?! As you know, I have plenty of titles to choose from. On the days I’m in the mood to laugh, I’ll pick an essay collection by David Sedaris or Lisa Scottoline. If I’m feeling more somber and need a lift, I’ll choose a book like Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindenbergh. It almost doesn’t matter what I’m reading when I’m feeling stressed. It always centers me.
Remember that self-care isn’t self-indulgent; it is self-preservation.
What do you do to practice self-care when you need it most?