Trying to Get on an Upswing

I was reflecting on my last few posts about goals and goal-setting when a thought popped into my head. I feel like once or twice a year, I get fixated on goal-setting and self-improvement. It’s a mixture of reflection and idealism. I try to think up better strategies for my goals and ways to achieve them. At the same time, I know that there are many circumstances that get in my way, some of which are of my own making. But there’s another aspect of goal-setting that I only recently discovered and that’s what I’d like to talk about today.

Mental health, like many things in life, has its ups and downs. There are some weeks when I feel like everything is working in my favor; my schedule has a flow, and I know what I’m doing. Other weeks…not so much. There’s mix between order and chaos, busy and bored, with most of my time somewhere in between these extremes.

I’ve gained a pretty decent sense of when I’m in the midst of an up or down, but there are times where things feel tricky. One of these times (that I’ve been able to identify ) is when I feel like things could be on an upswing.

There are many reasons why a person could feel like they’re on an upswing. Maybe you’re doing well at work, or enjoying a newfound relationship with someone. You might think you’re entering a new phase of life and hoping to settle in to what’s to come.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with thinking I could be on an upswing. It’s happened before and I know it will happen again. Sometimes it’s because of what’s going on around me. Other times, it’s simply a feeling and that’s where I run into trouble.

When I’m on the verge of being in this upswing, I feel like anything I do that get’s in the way of success is a massive road block. I’m almost afraid to set a goal because of the possibility I won’t achieve it. Sometimes it doesn’t even matter how big or small the goal is; it’s the fear of not achieving it that gets in the way.

Setting and achieving goals doesn’t have to have as much weight as I give it. Every goal I make doesn’t have to make-or-break my mental health, my psyche or my wellness. If I reach my goals I should revel in the accomplishment but if I fall short, I don’t want to be so dejected that I give up. Getting on an upswing isn’t just about what I do; it’s about my frame of mind in doing it. The more I can change and improve this approach, the more possible and common these upswings can be.


The Value of Taking Baby Steps Toward Mental Wellness

One of the most exciting things I’ve experienced was watching my niece learn to walk. It didn’t happen overnight; there was a long time of her getting comfortable at different stages of scooting, standing and moving, but one day it all came together, and she hasn’t stopped moving since. I thought about her today because it made me realize just how important those little steps are – a fitting metaphor for dealing with mental health challenges.

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Why I Don’t Always See My Mental Health Progress

When I was in the midst of managing a string of anxiety attacks a few weeks ago, I couldn’t think about much else that was going on that day. Fortunately I didn’t have work or any set plans since it was the weekend, but my anxious symptoms made me feel as though the entire day was a wash. But having some time to look back that day, I now realize that I handled the situation much better than I would have in the past. I still didn’t enjoy those symptoms and feelings of anxiety and depression in the moment, but I could see the progress I’ve made with a little hindsight. Unfortunately, it takes time to notice that progress, which can be hard to see when you’re in a difficult mental health situation.

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A Bad Mental Health Day Doesn’t Undo Progress

Recently, I had a bad day (that’s what I call going through any spells of depression and anxiety). A bad few days, even, since the residual effects of dealing with depression can linger in a uniquely difficult way. You can also call them bad mental health days if you want to be more specific. Either way, this was happening, and I felt powerless to stop it. But there was a calm after the storm, and during that time I try to collect my thoughts, process what happened and try to gain insight into that particular episode. It happened a few months ago, and I got through that moment differently. But in this moment, I needed a different reminder, and I got it (hint: it’s the title of the post!)

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Taking Steps Forward in 2020

For the first time last year, I didn’t make a New Year’s resolution. I had my reasons and I stick by them, but in the back of my head, I knew I was feeling some type of way about the concept of New Years’ resolutions. Mostly it’s because they’ve never worked out for me. There’s an inherent belief that when we do what we’re supposed to, things will go our way. That extends to a lot of things in life but in this case, that meant every year, I was ready for things to go my way if I stuck to my resolutions. That never really seemed to be the case.

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Don’t Let Anxiety Destroy Progress

For the past week, my anxiety has been something terrible. While it was triggered by something specific, it’s wedged its way into every facet of my life and crushed my thought process. Every day, I feel like I can’t help going into a downward spiral every second my mind isn’t concentrated on a specific task. And it sucks – to put it lightly.

I was going to write a post about how much this anxiety sucked, but something popped into my head as I started writing. I thought about how this recent bout of anxiety has diminished the progress I’ve made in recent months. It made me feel like all the progress I made recently was wasted. That it was pointless. That I would have to go back to square one when it came to my mental health.

This always makes me think of the term ‘relapse.’ While it’s more commonly associated with drugs and alcohol, I’ve also seen it used in regards to mental health disorders. And while I don’t like to use that term when it comes to my mental health, I couldn’t help but thinking that I was going through a relapse. I was afraid I was reverting to the old me – the one that got sent to the psych unit after a panic attack and suicidal ideation.

What stopped me from going down the rabbit hole of a relapse was reminding myself that my battle with mental health is not linear. I won’t just slowly improve until one day I’m rid of my demons. There are peaks and valleys to my mental health, just like anything else in life. Some days will be good and others will…not. I put so much pressure on having good days because I’m afraid that a bad day will negate all my progress. But is that true? No.

A bad day will get in the way of improvement. It might get in the way of doing some things that I would usually do. But it does not cancel out the months, the years of hard work that I have put in to get to this point. And the same goes for you.

If you work on something – your mental health, a special project, anything – for a long time and then have one bad day, do not discount all the progress you’ve made. You’re not perfect. You’re human. You are allowed to make mistakes. In fact, they are inevitable. So you can either let them get in the way, or you can grow from them.

But while this can apply to all walks of life, I tailor this mindset to mental health specifically because I know what negative thoughts can do to a person. My anxiety works me up into such a frenzy that I don’t think anything else matters besides the anxious thoughts in my head. But that’s not true. I have made progress recently – progress I am damn proud of. And I have grown strong enough to know that one day might set me back, but it won’t take me out of the game. That might not seem like much, but it makes a world of a difference when I try to get out of bed in the morning.

I know it’s easy to say, “don’t let your mental illness negate your progress.” It’s much easier said than done. I can’t even promise that I’ll always take my own advice. But I believe there is bravery in the attempt, and there is power to even have these thoughts in your head. So maybe all this post does is put the idea in your head. Maybe that’s all you need today. That’s okay. Because every day is a new battle, and we should use all the weapons we can get.

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