7 months ago
7 Ways to Improve Your Mental Health
The last few years haven’t been the best for our mental health, but there’s hope. We’re finding a new “normal” together. Pandemic and world/social issues aside, my daughter’s cancer diagnosis hit our family hard, and understandably so. Going through treatment while isolating from everyone we know and losing any sense of control I thought I had was hard. Putting your child’s life in the hands of doctors and chemotherapy is the ultimate mind f*ck. There’s no other way to say it.
The pandemic, lack of childcare, a newborn, and treatment made very little time for self-care, even in the form of therapy. I know that prioritizing my mental health is one of the most important things I can do, but sometimes, life circumstances make it feel impossible. This goes far beyond booking a massage, which, by the way, book the massage. It’s about a real look at how you live your life, what brings you joy, and saying no to the things that don’t. Once I got back to therapy and started to change some not-so-healthy daily habits, I noticed a big internal shift. Things are far from perfect, but I’ve come a long way.
7 Ways to Improve Your Mental Health
Find the right therapist
I had a great therapist who helped me work through difficult family dynamics and childhood trauma, but she wasn’t the right person to walk me through my daughter’s cancer treatment, and that’s ok. I took a pause from therapy during treatment since it was just too much to coordinate with treatment and a newborn. When I was ready, found Ashleigh through a friend. I reached out to her last September to talk through how I could best support Margot, and we started talking about some of what I was going through. She has been the most incredible resource, and we’ve been working together since. Being able to do therapy via zoom, at night after the girls are in bed makes making it work easy.
Allow yourself to grieve
This applies to both big and small losses. To life not being what you thought or hoped. To the end of relationships. All of it. My hard is different from your hard, and that doesn’t make what either of us are going through easy. When dealing with the grief I’ve experienced the last two years, just as I’m starting to feel it, I’ll say “but she’s going to be ok” or find something to shift my mindset. That can be a good thing, but sometimes, you need to allow yourself to feel the pain – this is something I’m working on with my therapist, and it’s been so helpful. There is good in finding things to be grateful for, but bottling up all your feelings won’t help you, either.
Reevaluate your relationship with social media
It took years, but I finally have what I think is a healthy relationship with social media. When you do what I do, the burnout is very real, and if I’ve learned anything the last few years, it’s to do what feels right, when it feels right. No more getting the perfect shot or posting because I should. The days of getting glimpses into the lives of thousands of people are over. It’s the ultimate distraction, so I understand why I did it, but scrolling less and unfollowing people that I didn’t need to follow made such a difference. Less noise. More living in the moment. If you’re following thousands of people, consider asking yourself why. If you follow someone that leaves you feeling frustrated, unfollow them. Set an hour limit on instagram and spend more time living your life.
Set some real (emotional) boundaries
If you’re feeling drained and haven’t made your own needs a priority, consider setting some emotional boundaries. These boundaries are what make us comfortable (or uncomfortable) so knowing what you need and if you don’t make sure your needs are met, no one else will. Most of us avoid setting boundaries because we worry about what comes next. How will others feel? What if I don’t follow through? When you figure out what your needs are, you’re going to have to learn to say no – to do things a little differently. And that isn’t easy. But I’m telling you, these boundaries can be life-giving. And they don’t have to be rigid, either. It can be as simple as saying “actually, here’s what works for me” and stopping there.
This may be my word of 2022, and it’s one I plan on talking more about. In the past, if, for example, I received a less than kind message from my mom, I would get worked up and react almost immediately. My anger and frustration would consume me, and I never (ever) received the response I needed. Then one day, I stepped back before replying, which is something that’s always worth doing if and when things get heated. The next day, if I didn’t have anything productive to say, I wouldn’t reply. If a blog reader or instagram follower sends an unkind message, I delete it immediately – there is just no point in reading or engaging.
Walking away from my old company and just letting it all go is one of the best things I’ve ever done for my mental health. I am now living a life that is more in-line with my values – it is a lot less stressful. Cutting ties with people who did not support me was so good for me, and my family, too. If you have asked someone to stop treating you a certain way (that’s boundary setting!) or find yourself constantly fighting for what works for you, it may be time to take a closer look, and consider
Unwind before bed and get enough sleep
I am probably the last person that should be giving anyone advice on sleep. Ok, I am definitely the last person, but hear me out. Over the last week, I was asleep by 11PM as opposed to my usual midnight – 1AM bedtime (I know, so so bad) and I felt much better the next day. It is often the case that I end up working after the girls go to bed, especially if I take time to work out, clean, or do something for myself during the day.
As a parent, I have so little time to myself and nights are really all I have for me. I get so sucked in and will sit at my computer until midnight (bad, bad habit) or stay up late watching a show. Prioritizing sleep will leave you feeling well-rested, and your mind and body will thank you for it. Let’s work on this one together in March. Who’s with me? No phones after 9PM and I’ll set the bar low – no computer after 9:30PM if and when I have work to do. Unwind with a book or even a show if that’s what does it for you. Let’s get some rest.
There are almost always silver linings. Sure, we’re not seeing friends right now and treatment has been hard, but my girls are safe at home. I’m able to connect with friends over the phone and Marco Polo. We’ve even had some warmer days (more time outside!) and are getting closer and closer to the end of treatment. Try journaling for 5 minutes a day – write down the things you’re grateful for. It is so important to allow yourself to grieve, but it’s equally important to remind yourself of what’s good.