The jig is up— social media knows about mental health maintenance. Everyone, the boys at Fortune 500 included, jumped on the self-care bandwagon. As a result, I find it necessary to offer a perspective beyond a selection of skincare products.
After a decade in therapy, I narrowed my mental-health-survival-guide tips down to five. I figure if everyone masters these five techniques in their lifetime, wars will cease and we can kiss global warming goodbye. Until then, here’s my pitch.
Mastering Self-care for Mental Health
At the top of the charts is the newly crowned “mental health queen,” self-care herself. Self-care is commonly mistaken for her sister, self-indulgence. While they are relatives, and self-care is guilty of borrowing clothes without asking, they aren’t twins…
Self-care means exactly what it says: taking time to care for yourself. While practicing self-care, you proactively partake in activities that preserve and protect your physical, emotional, and mental health to promote inner-happiness. Self-care is particularly important during times of stress (i.e. COVID). There are two main sides to self-care: implementing routines and indulgence in relaxation.
To achieve the benefits of self-care, you must actively acknowledge the steps you need to take to improve your mental health. Plan a routine that is realistic and tailored to your personal needs. The easiest way to implement self-care is to identify the baseline necessities lacking in your day-to-day. Introduce those needs one-by-one into your life. Jot your plans into the calendar and share them with others to ensure your accountability.
Examples of Self-care Routines:
- Eat healthier
- Get a consistent 8 hours of sleep
- Shower consistently
- Make your bed each morning
- Keep a clean living space
- 1+ Relaxing Activity per day
- 1+ Indulgent Activity per day
Self-care routines are a lot like the process of taking a shower: before getting in, showering seems like the worst idea in the world. Once under the spray of hot water, you never want to get out. While completing tasks, you feel accomplished in your productivity and pride in your actions. The hardest step in self-care is starting. Once you practice your self-care regimen often enough, it is second nature to care for your mental health.
Indulging in Relaxation
When starting your self-care journey it is important to ignore the media frenzy that occurred once Capitalism jumped on the “self-care bandwagon,” having realized the marketing potential and profitability. Self-care can be buying up every face mask and essential oil known to man if that’s how you relax! It’s important to note that you don’t have to purchase an entire skin-care line to participate. Self-care is about making time for yourself to relax and indulge in the things that bring you joy. Your mental health boosts when you participate in hobbies and activities that pique your interest. If you enjoy painting, drawing, or collaging, then get to creating! Sing, dance, or spend hours falling down a youtube hole— allow yourself the time to unwind from the stressors of the outside world while indulging in your passions.
Mastering Positive Self-Talk
Second in command is positive self-talk. Positive self-talk isn’t particularly glamorous— in fact, quite a few cynics (ignorance) raise their brows at the mention of her. Ignore the skeptics! She’s simply ahead of her time…
Self-talk is our internal dialogue. It is the mixture of conscious and subconscious thoughts that we believe about ourselves and the world. These thoughts subliminally influence our responses and reactions to events.
Self-talk can be positive or negative. It is important to recognize the state of your mindset for the betterment of your mental health.
Do you know that voice in your head that kicks a fuss when you’re feeling down about yourself? It revels in reminding you that “you’re worthless… you’re terrible, unlikable, disgusting”— that’s negative self-talk. Negative self-talk echoes every hostile thought that you have about yourself. It blares antagonistic remarks megaphone-style throughout the confines of your skull. How do we combat these cruel thoughts? Arm your mental health with positive self-talk.
Positive self-talk soothes the wounds that your internal dialogue inflicted on you. I acknowledge that, once you’re fully immersed in negativity, it’s difficult to imagine your mental health’s recovery. In the beginning, positive self-talk feels not only pointless but laughable. Regardless, disregard the instinct to belittle positive self-talk. Power through the doubt, and in no time, positive self-talk comes naturally.
How does positive self-talk work?
Imagine a scenario in which you let yourself down. Negative self-talk takes the reins, saying “I’m pathetic. I make everything worse.”
At the beginning of your positive self-talk journey, remember to contradict your negative thoughts. After you acknowledge your self-talk taking a turn for the worse, stop, breathe, and reply to the cruelty. Be kind and honest with yourself. For instance, say (internally or verbally): “I’m not pathetic. I don’t make everything worse. I’m trying my best to fix the situation. It may take time, but eventually, I will achieve my goal.”
You can speak in a stern, matter-of-fact voice or in a gentle, thoughtful voice. The tone in which people correct negative self-talk varies— everyone has a preference. The tone you use also depends on the severity of the negative self-talk comment. You mold your mentality by contradicting negative thoughts and combating them with positive. As a result, the more you regulate your self-talk perspective, the more you notice the positive effects on your mental health.
Mastering an Introspective Mentality
The middle child, introspection, is a Type A (for Achiever) personality. You have a question? She has the answer. In fact, she has ten answers complied on an Excel sheet for convenience (yes, of course, she knows Excel).
Introspection is the process of examining your own thoughts and emotions. As an act of reflection, introspection allows us to muse on our thoughts, emotions, memories, and examine what they mean. With introspection, you find the root of an issue by contemplating the emotions that influenced your actions. You discover your motives— think, “why did I do/say/think that?”
Once you question the reason behind your impulses, you deconstruct the associations, biases, and beliefs instilled in your subconscious through social and environmental influences.
Self-reflection is an indispensable source of personal knowledge— through the continuation of introspection, you recognize your irrational and baseless prejudices. The judgment you instinctively place on others (and yourself) has an explanation. Introspection allows you to accept the root of your justifications for hate and dismantle the emotional reactions behind it.
On the flipside, introspection illuminates the origins of your enjoyment for certain activities, personalities, and appearances of things. Introspection provides knowledge that’s not accessible through any other approach. Only you know your individual experiences and the reasoning behind your reactions to those experiences.
Cynics may scoff at the thought of introspection, deeming the practice pointless. The irony of introspection is when those who doubt introspection practice it, they lose their cynicisms because they identify the foundation of their defense mechanisms.
Mastering The Four Agreements
Fourth on our list is a 4-in-1 deal: The Four Agreements. The Four Agreements likes yoga and appropriating Buddhist (Toltec, actually) symbols as decor pieces for her at-home office. She commands your attention with unsolicited advice but it’s hard to remain angry because she’s always on point…
Don Miguel Ruiz and Janet Mills’ self-help book, “The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom,” provides four basic rules of thumb for personal mental health. The four agreements are a mantra of sorts based on ancient Toltec teachings.
We’re programmed by society to dwell in our faults and insecurities. As a result, self-doubt limits our ability to live a genuinely happy and personally fulfilling life. Living by the four agreements, or at least keeping them in the back of your mind, helps you exist freely.
Two of the agreements center around honesty: “be impeccable with your word” and “always do your best.” When being impeccable with your word, you consciously acknowledge when you’re being dishonest. Expressing yourself honestly and kindly is simple once you recognize patterns of deceit. Advocate for your mental health by sharing your genuine opinions. Speaking respectfully improves your mentality— you find solace in sharing your truth politely despite any opposition.
When you always do your best, you act through explicit honesty. By doing your best, you put forth your full efforts in all aspects of your life. It’s important to note that “your best” changes day-to-day. “Your best” on a bad day is a different “best” then “your best” on a perfect day. Give yourself the space to breathe and recover— don’t attempt to meet an abstract standard of past performance. Do the best you can do at the current moment in time.
The remaining two agreements focus on your perception of events: “don’t take anything personally” and “don’t make assumptions.” Our brains observe body language and facial expressions to infer how others perceive us. Unfortunately, many people over-think the nonverbal communication of their peers.
To deprogram the habit of scrutinizing deceptive social cues, it’s vital to stop making assumptions. For example, your friend yells at you and you did nothing harmful. Understand that, while their anger is directed at you, it’s not because of you. When you take someone’s outburst personally, you feel shameful over something you didn’t cause. Once you stop taking things personally, you can separate yourself from peer’s reactions. Having the agreements in your mental health tool kit allows you to live unhindered by the fear of disapproval.
Mastering Patience for Mental Health
The youngest, patience, is regarded in the same way that most parents raise their youngest child— not at all. Often neglected, what with the invention of 5G Internet and Reality TV, patience is rarely considered as an option.
“Mastering patience” is a simple sentiment, but I am fully aware of how daunting and impossible it may seem. I still work towards it every day. Patience is essential when striving toward good mental health— patience for yourself and the people in your life. Patience is also needed to find the right medication (if you go the medication route), psychiatrist, and therapist. Everything takes time. Inevitably there will be roadblocks and detours you’ll need to take, but keep going. One day, you’ll wake up content in happiness and revel in the purity of a mind without stress.
The mentality of an individual heavily influences their mental health. If your thoughts are negatively fueled by impatience, ask questions that rewire your brain’s reaction to stress.
- What is causing your impatience?
- Is your impatience unrelated to the goal itself?
- Is your impatience proportional to the situation regarding the goal?
- Have additional steps presented themselves to you since beginning the path to your goal?
- Do the ends justify the means in order to reach your goal?
- Do you have any alternative options? What are they?
- Do you want to keep your goal, or go toward a new goal?
After reviewing these questions and reaching a conclusion, stick to your decision. Your decision puts the responsibilities required of the goal onto you. Obstacles happen, and that’s okay because you thoroughly weighed the pros-and-cons and agreed to endure the pitfalls on the way to victory. If time passes, and your impatience continues, reevaluate the worth of your goal.