Let's Talk Mental Health
Happy Tuesday and welcome back to the blog! After a long hiatus, I’m back and ready to hit the ground running.
Today I want to talk about mental health, something I have struggled with and continue to work on faithfully. I feel many of you guys can relate, especially with COVID and everything else going on, and I feel comfortable sharing a bit about what I’ve experienced and strategies I learned to help me deal with those issues.
I’ve experienced depression. I’m notorious for overthinking. I’m guilty of telling people I’m okay when I’m not. And I learned the hard way when I hold my emotions and thoughts in, I become intolerable. Honestly, I used to be toxic!
I started feeling this way while I was still in school, but it manifested more once I graduated. I didn’t have anything to focus on but my thoughts at the time, so it makes sense. I held on to anger and easily lost my patience. I was drinking a lot. I wanted to be alone; sometimes people wouldn’t heal from me for a while. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life and I wasn’t happy with what I had chosen either. I was surrounded by fake friends and coworkers who didn’t care for me at all and weren’t good people. This was a toxic situation for me to be in and it affected me negatively every day.
Everyone goes through something, but I also want to say I was contributing to my unhappiness. I fell deep into my depression and lost the will to get anything done. I would say I played the victim instead of taking charge and just doing what I wanted. I had so many excuses. I wasn’t someone anyone wanted to be around; I didn’t even want to be around myself!
At the urging of my mom and sister, I finally started therapy. I was skeptical at first; I couldn’t even talk to the people around me about what I was experiencing but I had to spill all my guts to a stranger? Being vulnerable made me nervous but it was a positive, eye opening experience. My therapist was so helpful and helped me see there was more going on about the way I was feeling. At the time, I thought I had anger issues and couldn’t let go of the last. That was part of it. As our sessions when on, I was able to identify that I was depressed and experiencing anxiety. It explained why my moods were all over the place, why I felt stuck. and unable to get to the next phase in my life. I was able to overcome my depression and start living my life again. My mindset changed; instead of being so negative I started looking at the positives.
Therapy helped me see what I was going through mentally was temporary and I could fix it if I bit the bullet and did the work. I didn’t have to keep going through these toxic emotions and moods. I want to share some of the ways I deal with mental anxiety and my moods.
I figure out the source of the stress. The first part to solving any problem is getting to the source. When I feel life is getting out of hand it’s usually due to me not tackling some issue or task that’s holding me back. And the longer I avoid doing that one thing, I get behind in other areas of my life because I can’t focus. I start feeling behind, missing and forgetting important information and dates, and sometimes I go through a period of burnout where I don’t want to do anything at all.
Once I figure out what’s causing the stress, I separate it from me. I’m not my problems; they are just unavoidable parts of life and whatever I’m going through is temporary. It helps me regain control of the situation and calm my nerves. From my experience, it’s ridiculous trying to solve problems and you have a million thoughts and feelings going through your mind.
I practice not reacting so quickly. Life is more about how you respond to a situation than what the situation is. I’m not saying there aren’t events that just completely mess up your day, but how you respond sets the stage for how it’s going to play out. Before when something bothered me, I would immediately get upset and respond irrationally. I've toned it down a bit but I’m far from preferring this. I like to remember that everything doesn’t need a reaction. Everyone doesn’t need to see you when you’re down. There are people watching closely, waiting for you to fail.
I’m working on better emotional responses to situations. I’m usually so quick to react and it ends up working against me rather than with me. It also drives people away from you. No one wants to talk to someone who is so quick to blow a situation out of proportion.
I like to get moving. Instead of dwelling on the negatives, I like to get my hands busy painting or writing, or I’ll even follow along to some workout videos. I might not want to do it but I push myself through. The purpose is to shift the negative energy to positive energy. I can’t be still and do that; the way my emotions are I will sit on something for hours unless I actively distract myself.
Active hobbies like writing, working out, cooking, painting, etc. are great stress relievers. Writing and exercising gets me out of my thoughts and that negativity turns into productivity. If you’re like me and emotional, it’s so important to have something that distracts you. When something bothers us, it’s easy to slip into a habit of complaining and going in circles. Instead of letting our emotions run wild, it’s better to have an outlet to calm your mind.
I started asking for help. Hardest thing in the world for me to do. Honestly, I don’t like asking for help. I will wait until the last moment possible. I want to make sure I can’t figure something out my own before I bring someone else into it. I used to ask for help made me look weak. That’s the furthest from the truth. There will be times when we can’t get some things done on our own. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s actually a sign of strength - you understand your limits and this prevents you from biting off more than you can chew. If you don’t have a family member or friend you can trust, calling a helpline or using an online chatting service is a good alternative. Whomever is it, make sure they’re someone you trust won’t judge you or will hold anything against you.
I stopped focusing so much on “chasing a bag.” I’m not saying don’t make your money or start your business. Definitely do those things, especially if you are blessed enough to be able to get ahead during the pandemics. But that shouldn’t always be our focus. Our current culture is very money focused and slightly materialistic. There’s so much more to life than money and things. And success can be so many things. Chase your happiness, chase your peace, chase healthy boundaries and fun hobbies, chase better friends and lovers! I’ve found that when we’re always focused on our next move or how to have more, more, more, we lose gratitude and don’t focus on the things we’ve already been blessed with. What made us happy starts to become not enough. That’s when we start to become greedy and unable to appreciate small wins and blessings. Take some time to relax and really thank the universe for allowing you to have what you have.
After struggling with my own issues, and still needing work, I’m a big advocate for protecting your mental health. You will suffer if you don’t take care of yourself and that’s no way to live. The way life works, there’s always going to be something that tries our resolve and patience. We just have to do the work to make sure we’re okay.
Get a therapist. Seriously. I refused to go in the beginning. I remember telling my sister I didn't want to feel crazy or have someone judge me. It's not like that at all. Do some research on your own, but as someone who has been through it, it's a service that can really help you. Remember what I said about asking for help? We can't solve all our issues on our own. A therapist can help work through our feelings, emotions and any road blocks we can't see for ourselves. This is someone you can vent and complain to about everything going on. Unless you're a danger to yourself, nothing you talk about will leave the room. Through therapy, and every one of the steps I've mentioned, I beat my depression and I've learned coping skills for anxiety and high emotional sensitivity.
Facing our issues head on is difficult and scary, but so worth it. The effort, the work, the results - it's worth it. We get one life, don't let it pass you by being too scared to change what you don't like.