Today, I want to talk about the most important, over-arching, dominant, and impactive element of our wellbeing: mental health. Think about it — our heads, the very top of our physical bodies, where it all starts and trickles down from, and where it all comes back to. What’s going on in there is, hands down, THE most important thing.
(It is also a lifelong journey. Nobody has it all the way figured out – we aren’t meant to.)
You can be doing all the right things for your body – eating well, moving daily, taking your vitamins and supplements – but if your mental health is not in check, the rest of it will never truly work the way you want it to. Note: I’m not devaluing the importance of all these physical health efforts – they DO make a difference (in your mental health too), but there needs to be a constant effort to check in on, rewrite, talk to and care for what’s going on mentally in order to truly be well.
Your outsides must match your insides.
It’s truly only when we feel balanced mentally and emotionally that we can put an honest and authentic effort into our physical wellbeing. Reason being: otherwise, it’s most likely not coming from the best intentions.
For example, if my intentions for exercising are to alter my body in some way (i.e. lose fat, get a firmer butt, make myself look different some way) because I am currently unhappy with the way my body looks, I could exercise and eat kale salads every single day, achieve those physique goals, and STILL not love my body. Whereas, when my intentions are more along the lines of “I want to feel and BE strong, have more energy in the morning, sleep better at night, live longer…” then, hands down, my goals are much more easily achieved (and I no longer really care about the way I look; it’s just an added bonus on top of FEELING amazing.) See how much mindset matters?
When I am feeling most balanced, connected, grounded, and optimistic, the whole rest of it is much more approachable and I feel my very best.
Anna’s Tips for Mental Wellbeing
Solitude. Spending quality time with myself where I really just… hang out, is such a wonderful tool in getting comfortable with me. I’ll actually have little dates with myself. Sometimes I’ll spend them writing, reading, meditating, doing my nails or a face/hair mask, giving myself a little self-massage, watching a movie, going for a walk, making myself a yummy dinner, redoing my room… whatever I’m really wanting, but most importantly these special alone times are spent alone with no distractions, for me to devote time to myself the same way I would a partner/friend.
Boundaries. This can often be one of the most challenging ones – I know it is for me. Learning to create boundaries in areas of my life that do not serve me fully, which even exist in my closest, longest relationships sometimes, is extremely important for our emotional wellbeing. It’s okay to say no. It’s okay to ask for what you want. It’s okay to cut ties with people who do not truly make you feel good. You don’t owe anything to anyone but YOU.
Community. We are social beings who thrive off of connection. CONNECT! (This is where social media can often be really really handy). Whether it be through a club, becoming a regular patron (or even getting a part-time job) at someplace you really love the staff, volunteering, starting your own little gathering… I found the whole not-being-lonely thing particularly difficult right after graduating college – they don’t tell you that after you finish school, people are no longer just put in front of you. You’ve gotta do the work. It can be nerve-racking and uncomfortable, but it’s so necessary. Connect!!!
Relationships. This one for me is pretty tied to both of the above two. Developing and caring for deep, meaningful, and long-lasting *two-way* relationships with a select number of people is incredibly important, as is maintaining healthy boundaries so we don’t get lost in them. Healthy relationships keep us feeling cared for, often give us a new perspective, teach us something about ourselves we don’t already know and gives you a reason for living outside of yourself. My best friends are those I can go to anytime for advice, I can be 100% myself around them without any filter, and vice versa. I’m also lucky to have a close relationship with my parents and brother who make me feel loved and supported. And then, if it’s your thing, dating or engaging in (a) healthy relationship(s) can be incredibly gratifying. Life is a lot more beautiful when you share it with people you love.
Gratitude. Gratitude is a major key to happiness. Actual studies have shown that giving gratitude elevates your happiness levels. It’s so easy to fixate on things we see as failures / missed opportunities / disappointments / stressors – but what about everything that is going right? Like being lucky enough to have two legs that walk, a body that breathes and can move, a life of experiences behind and ahead of us, so much time, food, sunsets, puppies, a moment of belly-laughter, your favorite word? When you count your blessings, you start quieting that voice that tells you you’re not enough. Each morning after I meditate, I write just one quick blurb about something I’m grateful for, and I always take a deep breath afterward – even if it only lasts that moment, I feel at peace. Your turn!!! Get out that journal, and start off by listing 5 things you are grateful for.
Stress Management. It is CRUCIALLLLL to develop healthy coping mechanisms when it comes to stress. As we have all by now learned, stress is quite literally unavoidable, no matter what direction you turn. My go-to things to do to manage stress:
• writing in my journal
• going for a run or moving my body in some capacity
• practicing deep breathing
• drinking a glass of warm lemon-ginger water or herbal tea
• calling someone I love and trust
• getting in water… bath, shower, swim
• going outside and breathing in the fresh air
Sleep. We hear it all the time, because sleep really is the most important thing you can do for your wellbeing. My sleeping schedule is up at the tippy top of my list of priorities because any shortness of sleep REEEALLY affects me. I personally need at least 8 and a half hours aof sleep each night. If you can make a normalized sleep schedule part of your healthcare routine, I definitely suggest it. Some tips for developing a healthy sleep routine:
- force yourself to wake up early three days in a row. reset your internal clock!
- brain dump before bed in a journal!
- exercise / get some form of movement in daily
- drink enough water! enough to make your pee clear. just sayin.
- for me: eating my meals in smaller portions every 2-3 hours really helped my sleep quality
- block out all noise and light (I use ear plugs and an eye mask every single night. call me extra)
- chamomile tea before bed
- limit your caffeine intake and cut it off after 2-3 pm
- limit your processed food / refined sugar intake
- aromatherapy (I love lavender!!!
THERAPY. We need to remove the stigma of going to therapy, because talking stuff through, getting underneath the surface of what’s going on, and being offered a new perspective in a safe space is one of the most helpful, healing things we can do for ourselves. I truly believe that everyone needs and would benefit from therapy. There’s nothing weak about asking for help. In fact, I believe it’s one of the strongest things we can do for ourselves.
It can be really easy to get hung up on all the physical parts of what it means to live a healthy lifestyle. And to that point, the truth is that we are all so different, and we all have different needs. Particularly these days with social media, it’s so easy to assume all we need to do is eat some fancy smoothie bowl and exercise every single day to look and feel a certain way– but the truth is, social media is a highlight reel. You don’t know what’s going on between the squares. Imagine none of that existed, and get back to basics. Imagine you’re both your own parent, and your own child. What are your fundamental needs, and how can you make sure they’re being met?
Take care of you!!! You can’t pour from an empty cup. How do you all de-stress?