Don’t Suck it Up and Keep Going. Tackle Your Mental Health Issues.
My body was glued to my bed, weighed down by anger, pain, and depression. I wanted to move, but I couldn’t. I had things to do, an organization to run, yet I was stuck.
“Get up. Move on.”
Yeah, I know. But how?
Professional obligations do not stop just because our personal lives are in chaos. In the past, I would tell myself to “suck it up” and shift my focus to work, rather than my mental wellness. Then one day that was no longer an option. Trapped by unresolved emotional trauma and depression, I went on a journey to find an alternative way to tackle my issues. I don’t have it all figured out. However, I have discovered 8 simple actions that help me to maintain my sanity in the midst of turmoil:
1.) I meditate everyday.
My approach? I use the Headspace app and make meditation part of my morning routine. I will not let myself leave the house without meditating.
Why it works for me? Daily meditation is teaching me how to focus my thoughts and prevent myself from obsessing over painful memories and toxic thinking. I’m finding that the more consistent I am with meditating, the easier it is for me to “bounce back” from traumatic events and return to peace. I remind myself to breathe deeply, acknowledge hurtful thoughts, and return to the thoughts that calm my mind, body, and spirit.
2.) I read, watch, and listen to inspirational content.
My approach? I read books on spirituality (i.e. The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation), watch inspiring movies (i.e. The Shack) and documentaries (i.e. HEAL), and listen to therapeutic music (i.e. Make Room).
Why it works for me? It feeds my mind with positivity and provides different perspectives on healing, allowing me to generate new, healthy ideas on how to deal with hurt.
3.) In my journal, I write goodbye letters to toxic people.
My approach? Accept. Appreciate. Apologize. Say goodbye. I accept the reality of the situation (i.e. this person isn’t the person I thought he/she was), appreciate the lessons I’ve learned from dealing with the person, apologize to myself and the person for my missteps in the relationship, and say goodbye to the person and drama that comes with him/her.
Why it works for me? Writing helps me articulate my emotions, let out my hurt, and accept the harsh reality. If I ever find myself wanting to let the person back in my life, I go back to the letter and read what I wrote. I sit with those lessons. In this way, I use the letter to help me make a sound decision on whether or not I should open the closed door.
4.) I talk to God.
My approach? I tell God the things I don’t feel comfortable sharing with others — my deepest thoughts, fears, and insecurities. I seek guidance and ask Her questions, like “I thought I was following your will. Did I do something wrong? How do I get through this?”
Why it works? When I pray, I’m reminded of my faith — my belief that all things are possible, even my healing and my happiness. In my prayers, I’ve received insight into my mistakes and have found purpose in my pain. One of the latest insights I’ve received from prayer is that sometimes I confuse impulse with intuition. I make impulsive decisions that “feel right” based on my physical and emotional desires. Instead, I should be using my intuition to guide my decision-making, which requires discipline, patience, and practice.
5.) I’m honest about my pain and lean on my support circle.
My approach? Recently, I sent a text to a group of my close friends telling them my truth about a failed romantic relationship and asking them to pray for me because I was battling grief and depression.
Why it works? There is a fear of failure and an even bigger fear that people will find out about our failure. Sharing my failure allows me to tackle both of those fears head-on and move forward. Depression plays tricks on our mind and leads us to believe we’re all alone and no one cares. That’s a lie. I’ve met strangers who care, who didn’t know me but have listened to my problems, have prayed for me and offered solutions or guidance to resources. I have an amazing support circle of friends and family, and when I am courageous enough to reach out to them, I’m reassured that I am not alone. There are a tribe of people who love me and support me.
6.) I write down my values.
My approach? I write down the top three things that are most important to me in a situation or a relationship. For example, I write down the qualities I value in a friend, a job, or a life partner.
Why this works? There is a quote by Malcolm X that I hold in my heart, “A man who stands for nothing will fall for everything.” When I write down what I stand for, I examine the relationship or situation from the lens of my values: love, loyalty, and honesty. Sometimes I find that I’m crying over a person or situation that isn’t even aligned to my values.
7.) I indulge in self-care.
My approach? I love to travel. If my budget can bear it, I book a weekend getaway, preferably to somewhere close to water and with exceptional spa services. When my budget can’t bear it, I do simple things: take a bath, light candles and listen to music, get a manicure and pedicure.
Why this works? By indulging in self-care, I’m celebrating myself and my survival. I’m letting my mind, body, and spirit know that I care about our well-being and am grateful for our journey.
8.) I create anchor thoughts/affirmations and repeat them to myself daily.
My approach? I replace insecure and negative thoughts with confident and positive ones. I remind myself that “this too shall pass” or “I’m strong and valuable.” A favorite thought that I learned from my Auntie Betty is “this is not my ministry.” That thought prevents me from getting wrapped up in trying to fix other people or their problems.
Why this works? I am writing my own healthy and secure narrative, rather than operating in the unhealthy and fear-based narratives that we often adopt from external sources.
In honor of Mental Health Awareness month, I challenge you to find and practice one new mental wellness technique. Stop sucking it up. Prioritize your sanity so you can lead, live, laugh, and love. Remember healing is an ongoing journey. We are always learning, and there is no one-size-fits-all recovery plan. Be patient with yourself.
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