4 Ways you can start taking care of your mental health right now
You’ve been abused, harassed, bullied, or traumatized.
Is life over now?
It doesn’t have to be.
Here at the Call Center, we see you. We hear you, and we weep with you as you mourn all you’ve been through. We hate injustice like you do. We listen to you, but we also want to help you take back your life.
Abuse is all about Power and Control. Your abuser used tactics to make you feel powerless, to keep you under his or her control. He or she might have made you feel worthless, crazy, or like you deserved the abuse.
Those things aren’t true.
But patterns get stuck in your head. If a lie is repeated often enough, it almost starts to sound like the truth. So you can’t just “move on” and pretend like nothing happened. You have to take care of your mind because your mind controls everything else about your life.
October 10th is World Mental Health Day. At some point, someone decided we needed to make a GLOBAL holiday out of it. You think it might be important??
Trauma survivors or not, we need to start valuing our mental health. Think of all the things you do (or are encouraged to do) to take care of your physical health:
· Eat well
· Get regular medical check-ups
· Drink lots of water
· Take medicine or supplements when you’re sick
· Get your eyes checked
· Go to the dentist
The list goes on and on. Now think about all the things you do (or are encouraged to do) to take care of your mental health:
Most of us have NO idea where to start when it comes to mental health! But it is every bit as important as our physical health. Did you know that anxiety can give you stomach pain? That stress can increase muscle tightness? That headaches can result from frustration with life? That suppressed trauma can lead to obesity, insomnia, or chronic health problems?
It’s not just in your head! Your mental health is the most powerful influencer of your physical health. If you are unwell emotionally and mentally, your body will take the toll.
But there is good news. Our brains are incredible! If we take care of them and focus on good mental health, we can overcome great traumas.
So let’s revisit that list of things we should do to take care of our mental health and fill it up.
1. Practice self-care. Pay attention to and care for your own needs. It looks different for everyone because it’s based on your unique personality and needs. For me, it looks like resting and spending enough time alone. It’s stepping away from a stressful situation to breathe deeply, listen to music, or go for a run. I take time away from my busy life to do the things I love, things that give me life.
For you, it might be stretching, playing an instrument or going for a hike; sipping a hot cup of coffee or watching your favorite show. Maybe it's browsing Pinterest or shopping, taking your anger out on a punching bag, or getting a manicure. Find what you love and treat yourself to it. It’s not selfish; it’s caring for that precious brain in your head.
2. Talk it out. Give voice to the pain, trauma, and stress you have been through or are experiencing. None of us were meant to handle life on our own. It can be difficult to talk about the things that have happened to us, but it can also be very healing. Find someone you feel comfortable talking to. It could be a friend, family member, counselor, teacher, or advocate.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve been to counseling four different times in my life. And it has helped SO MUCH! I was able to share my story and have someone confirm how difficult it was. I learned to process my emotions and use strategies to deal with difficulties. There is someone out there who will listen. Tell your story, and start to feel power over it. You are not helpless. You are a strong survivor.
3. Pay attention to your thoughts. Check what goes through your head and filter out the bad. Often times, we are our own worst critics. I always know when my mental health is under the weather because that’s when the negative self-talk kicks in. I start critiquing and tearing myself down. But saying those things never helps. It makes me feel worse and like I'm stuck in a rut mentally.
Learn to be attentive to your thought life. And when you catch negative thoughts, throw them out. Replace them with truths. Have a list of positive affirmations ready to use when the negative thoughts attack you.
4. Learn to love yourself. Oof this may be the hardest thing on the list. Again, we are our own worst critics. But think of it this way: do you have a friend, sister, brother, or child that you love? Is that person perfect? No. If you think hard, can you come up with a list of their flaws? Of course! But do you stop loving them because of those flaws? Of course not!
In the same way, we choose to love ourselves despite our flaws. We love the good and the bad, the parts of us we find embarrassing and those we are proud of. Accept who you are and strive to be the best version of you.
If you’ve never paid any attention to your mental health, these things might feel strange at first. But challenge yourself to stick with it for at least a week, and see how you feel. You’ll start to feel freer and happier, more energetic and positive. Our brains can literally be rewired, but it takes time. Be patient with yourself and expect setbacks. Push through them though and you’ll find a better life awaits you. Your brain will thank you and you will feel healthier in every area of life.
Trust me, you are worth it.
For more tips on caring for your mental health, call 1-800-770-1650 or text IOWAHELP to 20121.