For me, an important part of living with depression and anxiety is research. Back when I was first learning about my mental health struggles Google was my best friend, and I’d look up everything from symptoms to the best way I can overcome depression. I found a lot of helpful information that taught me a lot about mental health and what I was dealing with, but not all of the information felt helpful to me. And it usually came when I was on a page that would talk about ‘life hacks’ to improve my mental health or beat depression. While I love the concept of life hacks, their application to mental health simplifies the challenges we face every day. I struggle with the idea of using life hacks to ‘beat’ depression, and here’s why.
Writing this post brought up the same thoughts and feelings that came up when I wrote my post about routines earlier in the week. It’s not that I have an issue with the concept of life hacks – on the contrary, I’ve often looked up articles that have shared hacks on how everything from fixing a car to cleaning areas around the house. It’s more that I don’t like the idea that we can ‘hack’ our mental health with a few tips and tricks.
Creating strategies and techniques to manage our mental health are very valuable, but they are not the be-all and end-all to the situation. The language that surrounds life-hacks suggests that by doing a few things, our mental health issues will soon be gone, and for a lot of people that’s simply not true.
Most of the things I take issue with when it comes to mental health center around language and phrasing, and I don’t think this is by accident. We don’t realize the impact that words have on us, the way they can create a sense of normalcy and function. In order to learn new things, we have to overcome years of being inundated by phrases that don’t always mean what we think they mean, and that’s how I feel about people who say we can ‘hack’ our mental health. Society has always wanted to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible, but when it comes to mental health, that strategy can backfire.
I’d read these lists – hacks for mental health, psychological life hacks, etc. – and I would try to do everything on the list that I could, believing it would lead to an improved state of wellness. Instead, I felt more shame and anger when I was finished because I wouldn’t feel any better, and I’d feel bad about not feeling better…and down the spiral I go. Humans don’t like to admit that sometimes a solution doesn’t work for everyone, but we need to begin adopting that language with mental health. It’s not a one-size-fits-all situation, and the more we imply it is, the harder it will be for people to learn that managing mental illness provides more knowledge than getting ‘rid of it.’ Mental health is much more complicated than a listicle, and that approach has the possibility to create even more problems for the mental health community.