Balancing Accomplishments with Our Mental Health

When I was in college, I was very interested in motivation culture. I’m sure most of you are familiar, but to, that meant a lot of videos, speeches and mixtapes about being your best self and going after the life you want to live. It was one of my first real attempts at improving my mental health, and the results were…mixed. I viewed depression as a battle – one I was going to win. But my excessive interest around this self-improvement and self-help content was centered around getting rid of my depression. This approach made it nearly impossible to appreciate any sort of accomplishment – big or small – and in the years since, I’ve tried to create a more balanced approach to balancing my mental health with accomplishing and working toward goals I’ve always dreamed about.

For many years, my life goals and mental health goals existed in silos. One didn’t impact the other, and it led to a poor approach to mental health that didn’t center wellness. In fact, it didn’t center anything – when you make it a life goal to ‘beat’ depression (which is a vague if not unrealistic term) I looked at life as either being one step forward or two steps back, and I viewed it solely in terms of productivity.

Every day that I was able to do things – make meals, go to class, go to work – I saw as a step forward to rid myself of depression. Any time I failed to do those things? Two steps back from beating depression. Looking back, it was an extremely unhealthy approach to wellness, and it’s easy to see why it wasn’t that effective. However, it played an important role in creating a healthier long-term approach to mental health – one that makes it easier to celebrate accomplishments.

Living with mental illness means balancing the things you do with your perception of what they are. It means knowing that cognitive distortions happen in real-time. It can mean pushing the goal posts as far as possible to make you think that you’ve never succeeded and then, when you finally do, to beat yourself up that you’ve only done it once. It can feel like a constant push-and-pull of what we do versus how we think about it – but there are ways to combat it. I hope that in my next post, I can share some of the techniques I use to balance accomplishments with mental wellness because as I said, it’s a constant battle.

I also think it’s important to note that when I think about accomplishments in this context, I don’t just mean the once-in-a-lifetime ones. For many people, waking up and getting out of bed is an accomplishment. Eating multiple meals in a day is an accomplishment. Having a day where you have a couple fewer negative thoughts than the day before is an accomplishment. But all of these positive steps are accompanied by negative instincts, and it’s healthy to find ways to deal with these instincts. The sooner we work to manage these thoughts, the easier it is to handle their impact, and build a healthier approach to how we view our accomplishments.


10 thoughts on “Balancing Accomplishments with Our Mental Health

  1. Anonymous April 20, 2021 / 1:01 pm

    Thanks for this post, Nathan. I’m getting a better understanding by reading your observations, and I wish I had been more aware when I was working with students. Best wishes to you.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Nathan @ MBNB April 20, 2021 / 1:44 pm

      Thanks, Jim! It’s definitely easier to write upon reflection than when I’m immediately experiencing it. All the best to you as well!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. glaphacox April 20, 2021 / 5:04 pm

    I’m not totally sure where you are going with this. Maybe I will understand better with your next post. I have a general problem with goals which is directly related to my depression/anxiety.


  3. April 22, 2021 / 10:14 am

    I think I forget to see all those small things each day as accomplishments i.e. some days I can’t get out of bed and some I can. On those days I might also be able to have a shower too, which are I suppose accomplishments.

    Thank you for putting it into perspective Nathan 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nathan @ MBNB April 23, 2021 / 2:47 pm

      All depends on perspective 🙂 there was a long time where depression sapped me of energy in a major way, so I had no choice but to view those little things as accomplishments. I’m glad the mindset stuck with me after all these years!

      Liked by 1 person

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