I have struggled with mental illness for as long as I can remember, but until last year, I had no idea. I always felt overwhelmed and exhausted, but I thought everyone dealt with the same thing. I always assumed they were just better at hiding it or pushing through it. I remember wondering how people made it through day after day. How did they find the energy? I thought I was so weak compared to everyone else, and I often wondered how I could ever be successful if I could barely find the strength to make it through an eight-hour shift. Then, in 2017, all the dots connected. I was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety that was caused by an imbalance of happy hormones. In some ways it was a relief because I better understood why I was the way I was, but I also felt disappointed that I couldn’t overcome it by my own willpower. I was ashamed that I had been branded with this label.
There is a stigma that people with depression or anxiety are the way they are because they don’t want to get better – that depression and anxiety are just excuses for being lazy and if people tried hard enough, prayed hard enough, or just had a “positive mindset” that they could get through it easy peasy. It’s an often misunderstood, invisible illness. That’s why I think awareness is so important.
If you want to read more about my person struggle with depression and anxiety, you can find that here. For now I’m going to be talking about the things I am personally doing / plan to do in order to help me live the healthiest, happiest life possible:
I believe mental health is based on psychological factors, biological factors, social factors, and spiritual factors – I will address each in a separate section.
- Recognizing negative self-talk, stopping it immediately, and replacing it with something positive. If I can’t get the negative thoughts out of my head, it usually helps me to voice them to someone. This way, they can help me determine if it’s a genuine concern or if my mental illness is playing tricks on me. I only do this once in a while though, as I want to be careful not to be too negative or bring others down. It’s healthy to voice sometimes, but if you keep going around in circles and the other person has to continually convince you of the same thing over and over again, you may need to speak with a professional (which brings me to my next point).
- Speaking to a psychiatrist. Mental illness should receive treatment just as a physical illness would. I haven’t made this step yet, but I plan to soon and I am excited to see what the results will be.
- Practicing gratitude. I have fallen out of this one lately, but I found that nothing fended off negative thoughts quite like gratitude. Every morning, I would make a list of things I was grateful for and I would often end up dwelling on them all day. It started my day off in such a positive way and kept my thoughts on a positive path.
- Receiving any necessary biological treatment. My depression is mainly biological, so it was necessary for me to get medication. I’m not sure if the one I’m on right now is right for me, but I will wait a little longer to see. If it’s not, I will find a doctor that I can trust and explore other options.
- Eating right. This is something I have actively pursued more recently. I became a vegetarian and my health has improved dramatically. I also try to limit sugar, processed foods, and pasta/bread. However, I don’t go crazy. If I want a treat, I have it! The trick is everything in moderation. My body has never been happier with me.
- Being active. This is also something that I pursued more recently. I could never find the energy for a full workout, so I never did it. I got so down on myself until I realized there are other ways of being active. I can go for a walk, ride my bike, or play Just Dance – all things that I love! I try to do at least a half hour of exercise five days of the week. This doesn’t always happen on my bad days, but I find getting some fresh air often helps clear my mind a bit.
- Practicing other forms of self-care. Sometimes this can be as simple as doing laundry, showering, brushing my teeth, brushing my hair, putting on some makeup, or washing my face before bed. On really good days it can mean painting my nails, treating myself to a bath balm, putting on lotion, shaving my legs, or lighting some candles so my room smells nice. One form of self care I intend to pursue soon is getting massages every so often. I carry so much stress in my body, and I think having someone relax my muscles and work them out a bit could be very beneficial.
- Drink water and get enough sleep. So cliché, yet so beneficial.
- Spending time with people I love. I have a great relationship with my family, and spending time with them is always such a comfort for me. They love me for who I am, and are often very understanding if I don’t have enough energy to do anything but sit with them. I also surround myself with friends that I trust 100% and love even more. The people closest to me accept me exactly as I am and I love them so much. (My heart is swelling just thinking about them!) When I’m at a low, I often isolate myself. Sometimes for days, weeks, or even months. I’m trying to combat this by forcing myself to get out and spend quality time with the people I love because I always feel better afterwards.
- Placing my trust in God. The absolute most comforting thing to me is that I am a child of God. He loves me, knows me by name, and takes care of me through every step of my life. I often struggle specifically with fear of failure, but I find it helps if I imagine God saying, “Don’t worry, if you don’t get this, be assured I have something better in store – I’m closing this door because I’m opening a better one for you.”
- Being active in my faith. Reading my Bible, praying, going to church, and being active in the Christian community refreshes my soul. I find that when I am at a low, this is the absolute hardest one for me to follow through on. But once I do, it offers me an unexplainable peace and joy.
I am by no means a doctor, psychiatrist, or mental illness professional. I am just a girl who struggles with mental illness writing a post about what I believe I can do to help combat it and live a better quality of life.
Is there anything you do that you find positively affects your mental health? I’d love to hear in the comments below.
Thanks for reading,