By Erika Heddesheimer, New Horizons Adult Advocate
Prioritizing your mental health can be hard. I did not start prioritizing my mental health until I reached a space in my life where it was openly discussed and okay to be vulnerable. I realized that unless I was taking care of myself, I couldn’t put my full energy into taking care of others. You need to put your own mask on before helping those around you, as they say, otherwise you’ll end up not being able to help anyone.
Not prioritizing yourself and your mental health can lead to stress, burnout, and negative emotions. Mental health matters to me because, just like physical health, it has the ability to impact your entire life. Understanding and taking care of yourself allows you to know yourself better, to support others more effectively, and will allow you to work toward your goals in a healthy and productive way.
Mental health is never perfect, and to our dismay, doesn’t just get better overnight (although, sleep is great for your mental health). There are many skills, both physical and emotional, that we can use to take inventory of our mental health and cope with the negative emotions we all come to face in our lives.
Unfortunately, we cannot always just remove negative emotions or circumstances from our lives. Self-care is one of the best ways to cope with those difficult emotions and situations you experience. Self-care can come in many forms, and allows an individual to better process and react to the things effecting their mental health in the first place.
People often think of meditation and mindfulness when they think of self-care. While these can be useful practices, that kind of self-care may not be helpful for everyone. Self-care is anything you can do to be selfish for a moment and focus on what makes you feel good. Sometimes self-care is working out and staying hydrated. Sometimes self-care is takeout and a movie. Prioritizing time and activities to focus on you is one of the best ways to protect your mental health.
Self-care cannot be the sole route to better mental health, though, as important as it is. Sometimes you need physical coping skills, rather than emotional, to get yourself through a hard time.
When your mental health is suffering, completing tasks that may improve your situation can seem daunting in the moment. Big problems, or even small daily tasks, can be easily be put off or ignored. Over time, though, they may grow to seem unmanageable and never be addressed. Creating a list is a good way to first outline what needs to get done. Include everything in your lists, even small things like brushing your teeth or sending an email. Once your list is made you can focus on checking off small things, one at a time, and eventually the things to get done won’t seem so impossible. Especially when you are going through something, or when your mental health is not at its best, it’s okay to walk before you run.
Ask for help.
Learning to ask for help can be one of the hardest things to do, especially for victim-survivors. Trusting people can be hard. Admitting that you need help can be hard. But we cannot do it all on our own. Support systems are essential to being happy and to being the best version of you. Talking to friends and family or establishing a relationship with a behavioral health professional are ways that you can lean on others for support.
For more resources and information on taking care of your mental health, please visit the Mental Health First Aid website or call New Horizons at 860-344-9599.