I am starting off this month-long series with Mental Health first. That was an intentional choice. I find it’s a major positive (or negative) momentum for our health; when our mood is good, all the other little things we know we “should do” for our health and well-being seems so much easier to do, right?
And when our mental health is suffering, well….everything else seems to slide down to meet it.
As I shared in the videos and posts all this week (on Instagram and Facebook), Mental Health is a big topic. It covers everything from a psychological crisis to persistent lack of motivation. You might recognize the latter as the existential ennui I’ve heard mentioned quite regularly recently.
First off, if you or someone you know is in a mental health crisis and is a potential danger to themselves or others, here are a few numbers to know:
National Alliance on Mental Illness Helpline: 800-950-NAMI (6264) or text “NAMI” to 741741
Now, let’s talk more about the more insidious types of mental health struggles that most of us face.
I want to start off with a little homework for you, if you’re willing.
Think of yourself as a bucket. Yep, you’re a bucket. The more full of live-giving energy-water you are, the better you feel, the better you can handle life’s stressors, and overall the better your well-being.
Now, dear bucket, things in life can add, subtract, or are neutral to your bucket’s contents.
People, environments, interactions, the entertainment you choose, your meals, the way you spend your time, everything is either a positive, negative, or neutral effect to your bucket’s fullness.
You know what adds to your bucket’s lifeforce. They make you feel good, feel whole, feel healthy.
You know what depletes your bucket’s contents. They make you feel anxious, on edge, irritated and wiped out.
Now, your homework is to intentionally think through all your interactions, all your actions of the day, and decide…. Are they filling you up or depleting you?
Next up, what to do about it?
I break this topic up into self-care at home, and professional support.
One is not better than the other, and your needs are not fixed. One day, week, month, year may require different amounts of each type. Honor that.
Professional support can come in many styles.
The first to come to mind may be a therapist, mental health counselor, or psychologist. One of my favorites in the Willamette Valley is Molly Rodden at Well Life Medicine Center.
Finding your professional guide is an individualized process, so talk with other providers you see to get a referral or perhaps try to match up your interests and needs in this giant mental health provider directory.
Self-care for mental health will look a little different for us all, though there are some general themes. Movement, nutrition and lifestyle play important roles in balanced mental health, and I will be discussing those in depth in the weeks to come.
A first step is to take a critical eye on your list of things that fill up vs. deplete your bucket and see where you can make improvements.
Bucket fillers go by many names, a few of which are self-care or stress-reduction tools. Call them whatever you want, here’s a short list of ideas on ways to fill your bucket:
The average person will find some of these ideas interesting, and some repelling. That’s ok. We don’t all have to fill our buckets the same way. The important thing is that you are filling yours in a way that honors your needs.
And what to do when things just aren’t going your way?
We have control about many potential stressors in our life, but not all. Most of us will have the occasional not-great day.
This would be an excellent time to reach out to your professional support, and in addition, have your go-to mental health “toolbox” set up. This might include:
Find your “well of course I can do that.” This will be unique to us all, and changes day by day. Maybe one day it will be taking a brisk walk outside in the sun (even if it’s cold). Another day it may be showering and putting on clothes. Or cooking yourself a homemade meal.
Find and do your “well of course I can do that.”
I hope this week has given you a new perspective on how you think about mental health, as well as new tools and ideas for how you can best take care of yourself going forward.