As we continue on with Mental Health Awareness Month, I’ve taken a real interest in trying to define and explain what the concept of mental health looks like. I never thought the answer would be simple, but I did think that there would be a consensus. In the mental health community, it seems like there is.
Outside of that? It seems a bit up in the air. And since there are plenty of people who might be dealing with their own mental health challenges for the first time, it’s not the time for whataboutisms or judging what others are doing to stay mentally healthy. One way I can do that is to explain how I approach my mental wellness.
Recharging Your Mental Batteries
One of the most important things I can say about an approach to mental health and mental wellness is that it can take time. And for me, it did. It took time to understand what was happening to me. It took time to go to mental health professionals to figure out what was going on. And then, once that was defined in a way I felt comfortable, it took time to learn how to live with my mental health disorders. Six years later, I’m still learning. But one of the ways I’ve found success is how I approach my mental health.
I’m an introvert, and one of the common descriptions of being an introvert is that your energy levels are like when you fill your car up. Every person has their own limit on how much interaction is too much interaction, but when we reach our limit, we also need to go back and fill up the tank (recharging my batteries is also a solid comparison). And while that’s true for my personality, I’ve also been able to compare it specifically to my depression and anxiety as a way to cope with how I’m handling things. Let me explain.
Handling Negative Thoughts is Draining
Even now, after years of dealing with symptoms of depressive and anxiety disorders, I still have negative thoughts. And if you’ve had negative thoughts, you know how draining they can be. If not, you can imagine – it’s not fun. Even though I have a healthier approach to dealing with these negative thoughts, it can still take a toll. So I get tired, and I break. It happens often less, but it still happens. It used to be so frustrating because I thought that breaking down would be giving in to the depression and anxiety, that I would be showing weakness and it would be harder to bounce back.
But once I shifted my perspective and realized that it’s part of a larger fight, I began to see that pattern. If you spend days, weeks, months – even years – fighting off negative thoughts, suppressing those symptoms as much as you can, it can intensify what happens if you finally break. It’s happened to me before, and it’s not pretty. More time passes than it used to, but I still have my moments when I break. And as long as I am in a safe space and understand how I’m feeling, I give myself that time. I fill my car back up.
Our Own Versions of Mental Health
I have plenty of other approaches that help, but that one’s been one of my most successful ways of describing what I go through every day. Like other forms of health and wellness, we all have different approaches. If something’s proven to be effective, it’s not a bad idea to give it a shot. If you haven’t already, I hope you can find approaches and strategies that work for you. Even if it isn’t in the most Instagram-able way, as long as it helps you get back on your feet and ready to attack the world again, you’re on the right track.
I shared my version of mental health. Now I want to know what yours look like! What’s your version of mental health, and how do you deal with your wellness? Let me know in the comments.
Yesterday I got a LinkedIn connection request from someone who works at a charitable organization that tried to help people “suffering from mental health.” I messaged back saying he might want to reconsider that wording. I figure that if people think of mental health as the mental equivalent of physical health, then they’re probably headed in the right direction.
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That’s a great point, thinking of it as an equivalent is a really good way to change people’s perception of what mental health can be.
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I mainly manage to maintain my positive mental health with Mindfulness and breathing exercises. Whenever I get a quiet moment, perhaps in the garden or lying on the sofa once our grandchildren go to bed – I practice a few minutes of mindfulness. I just like keeping it up to date so that it’s there, ready for me to use, if ever I need to 🙂 Caz x