Across cultures, we were experiencing a lot of mental health issues long before the pandemic, including – but not limited to – undue stress and anxiety, poor self-confidence, eating issues, and family conflict. All of these challenges have worsened over the past 18 months.
I encourage you to make an honest assessment of your emotional well-being today. Do you take care of yourself? Are you suffering unnecessarily? Do you pride yourself on being busy, when in fact you are exhausted? Do you hide depression or anxiety to protect the people around you?
Here are six steps you can take today to boost your mental health and the health of those around you.
Taking care of yourself emotionally starts first thing of the day – preferably before your feet touch the ground. Instead of checking social media or starting work, take a deep breath and think of three things you find yourself grateful for. It can be great, like your wife, your job, or your health, or as humble, like the weather, or the view from your window, or even the luxury of those first breaths.
Remember that many of the things that promote physical health also support emotional well-being. Take stock of what you put into your body and mind: food, drink, drugs, a steady stream of video shows, etc. Thinking about how you manage your intake to make your body healthier will undoubtedly have mental health benefits as well.
I cannot adequately express how these actions early in the day can affect the way you think about peace, well-being, and gratitude for the rest of your day.
Beginner’s tip: Don’t you think you’ll remember first thing in the morning? Write it down on a sticky note and put it on your phone before you go to bed.
Get out of your mind every day
When we feel anxious or depressed, our symptoms tend to occupy our minds. We examine new mental distress or difficulties, and the more we examine, the more we find. Furthermore, our fears, depression, and other emotional concerns tend to intensify when they remain our sole focus. If we go out and attend others’ service, we find our fears diminish.
We also feel better when we serve others, and we come away with a sense of satisfaction, accomplishment, and contribution—a mental health win. Volunteer at a poor restaurant or at your child’s school. Work on a telephone helpline for others who are experiencing emotional difficulties.
Over the past couple of years, there has been no doubt that we are so busy saving up precious little time to relax and do almost nothing. Today presents a wonderful opportunity to consider what we can take away from our daily lives that may enhance peace of mind and support our emotional wellness.
This is a day to remove the misguided pride of the word “busy,” and focus not on everything we can do, but on what really needs to be done – and what not. In fact, the pandemic has presented a unique opportunity to do just that. In the new worlds of working from home, many of my clients have discovered that in the past years, a lot of their time has been spent on non-essential activities, from busy work to scrolling on social media.
Others find that these activities prevent them from getting a good night’s sleep or connecting with family, which are critical components of emotional wellness. Removing some of this activity can help us protect time for some of these other pursuits that promote well-being and growth.
Rate your relationships
Evaluate how each of your relationships works with you. Do you give more than you get from a brother or friend? Feeling hopeful and refueling after a coffee with an acquaintance? Many of us spend a lot of time and energy in toxic or one-sided relationships, which can include social media connections.
You may also realize that you are not reaching and communicating adequately with others. Slowing down to connect more deeply and share your life and story with your family or close friends is among the most important ways you can strengthen your mental wellness.
check with your people
World Mental Health Day can be a welcome excuse to reset improved self-care. But it also provides an opportunity to check the mental health of the people around you: your family, friends, neighbors, and everyone else in your orbit. Some people with whom you feel very close but who are good at hiding it may struggle.
Check in with all the people you love, just ask them how they are and how they feel. For some, this may prompt them to assess their mental health, knowing that there is someone in their life who cares enough to ask.
Be willing to change and learn
Many of my clients stubbornly assert that they know what’s best for themselves, and often continue to follow bad habits even when they come to me for help.
Reward yourself with an hour per week of self-focus and self-care, whether it’s through therapy or other practices. You will learn a lot about how your brain works, and how to remove roadblocks that you may have been clinging to for years.
In doing so, you are not only concerned with your emotional well-being but you are normalizing mental difficulties so that others tend to do the same. I can’t think of a more impactful way to contribute to the collective wellness of our world on a day dedicated to mental health.