Happy June everyone!!! It’s so hard to believe that we are already in June – time has just been flying by. I wanted to spend some time today talking about mental health as we begin to transition into the summer months.
We have been surrounded by some good news lately in BC in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic: the province is slowly beginning to open up, and it looks like the end is in sight. Finally!!! It feels it has taken a long time to get to this point, but I am so glad we are finally here and more people are getting vaccinated. Speaking of which, I got my first dose of the vaccine last weekend, which I am very happy about as it feels like a sigh of relief after all the chaos the past year and a half has put us through. It seems we are slowly taking steps forward in a positive direction, bringing me hope for the summer and hopefully the chance to enjoy more adventures and connect with more friends – whom I haven’t had the chance to connect with in so long.
Though I am optimistic for what is to come, it is still a reality that we are in a pandemic. We aren’t quite out of the woods yet, and I am definitely still feeling some of those negative impacts of the pandemic. Just a few weeks ago, I remember feeling so upset and lonely that I couldn’t see my friends who are far away due to the pandemic. Though I am hopeful I will see them again soon, that is still a very real feeling, and it’s hard to cope with these ongoing impacts. There are still days I feel it more than others, and times when my mental health takes a hit. Know that if you are still struggling with your mental health, even if you feel like you *should* be happier since the world is beginning to open up, that you are not alone. Some may say that we have been dealing with the pandemic for so long now, that we should be “used to it” and grateful that things are getting better from here on, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t still have those moments where it hits you. The past year and a half has been a lot to deal with for everyone, and if you are struggling, it doesn’t mean you’re failing – it just means you’re human.
So today, I thought it might be a good idea to share some of the things that benefit my mental health on a regular basis. Perhaps you can relate, or perhaps these will present some new ideas for you. Either way, I hope you can find some ways to continue to prioritize your mental health as we deal with the ongoing impacts of the pandemic together, while simultaneously finding more ways to connect with one another again as our world opens up.
Setting clear boundaries and sticking to them
Boundaries have become increasingly important in my life, especially while working from home during the pandemic. I need clear boundaries to ensure I am not overworking or working overtime unless it is absolutely necessary, while also allowing for other activities outside of work as well, to ensure a balanced lifestyle. One of the ways I do this is by scheduling my day with a clear start and end time for work, plus activities before and after work to mark either the beginning or end of the day. This also includes saying no more often to maintain that balance! Don’t feel guilty saying no (a hard but worthwhile skill to build)!!
Nurturing positive relationships
Probably one of the most important ways to prioritize my self care and mental health is nurturing positive relationships. For me, this includes:
- having regular check-ins with my counsellor, doctor, and chiropractor – ranging from every couple of weeks to once a month
- connecting with friends, in person if possible or if not, then thank god for Facetime 🙂
- surrounding myself with those that add value to my life, and hand in hand with that is saying no to negative/toxic relationships
- prioritizing spending valuable time with others to continue building these relationships
Having healthy habits may seem like an obvious way to take care of your self and your mental health, but for me, it is something that takes a consistent, conscious effort.
- One aspect of this is taking part in various forms of exercise and movement – including walks, runs, yoga, pilates, barre and more. Whatever form of exercise works for you, do that! Studies have consistently shown that exercise can reduce the negative impacts of depression and anxiety, so it’s always a good idea to get moving if you’re feeling off. (Which I know from experience is sometimes easier said than done, but wherever you are at: just start.)
- Getting fresh air and connecting with nature is also important to me, and is something I find very grounding. I do my best to go for at least one walk a day in nature, more if possible, and encourage you to try a similar practice!
- Maintaining a healthy diet is another part of healthy habits. I do my best to nourish my body in a way that feels good for me. This may look different for everyone, and that’s okay – do what feels best for you.
- Allowing time for rest and relaxation is also essential – and this is a particularly difficult one for me. I have to continually recognize that resting is okay, and in fact, necessary to be taking care of ourselves. If you’re looking for a sign to take a break and relax, this is it!! Don’t overwork yourself, rest is an important part of the process.
Another aspect of my mental health that I have been working on lately is developing more awareness, about my self and my habits.
- I do my best to be aware of how I am spending my time, and with that, to be intentional about how I choose to use my time in a way that feels good for me. Honouring my intuition is a big part of this as well. I feel like so many times we don’t trust our gut, but gut feelings are there for a reason: to guide us. So lean into it and trust yourself. I have had a hard time doing this in the past, but I am learning to lean into that feeling and trust myself more.
- Writing is another form of awareness-building for me, which I do often through the blog here at chiaragoesglobal.com, and also through journaling daily. It has been an immensely beneficial practice for me and I encourage you to give it a try!
- One other small thing I have been doing lately is starting my mornings, specifically my work day, with a positive affirmation and a few deep breaths before I dive into the day. It’s another short grounding practice that helps me approach the day’s tasks with a level, clear, focused head, and I’ve found it makes a big difference. My Saje diffuser in the background doesn’t hurt either. 😉
The last thing I do to maintain my mental health is take my medication everyday for depression and anxiety. I specifically put this item last on the list because I want to be clear that medication is not the be-all and end-all for my mental health and wellness; it is simply one of the ways I maintain my mental health. It has made a very big difference for me for the past six months that I have been on it, and for that I am SO grateful. I will continue to talk about it to de-stigmatize those who are on medication for mental health concerns. You have absolutely NOTHING to be ashamed of if you are on medication, and if you are thinking about trying medication, I highly encourage you to discuss your options with a medical professional and licensed counsellor/therapist. I would also caution you from believing that medication will *fix* everything, as I don’t believe that is the case. Though it has been very beneficial for me, there are many other things I do to maintain my mental health apart from medication, as you can see from this list. I encourage you to do some experimenting and find what works best for you to feel your full, true self.
Does the above list sound overwhelming to you? That’s okay. Keep in mind that it took me essentially a year to get to this point, where these habits have been built in to support my mental health – and it is still a conscious daily effort to keep them in check. If you are looking for more ways to support your mental health, start small and work your way up slowly. Take it one step at a time. I talk more about this process for me in my 2020 mental health journey blog post. Each day is a choice to take those small steps towards taking care of yourself, and we need to take care of each other too.
Check in with your loved ones and check in with yourself. Times are changing in the pandemic world, and I am so so hopeful it will bring lots of good things, but it will be a transition for all of us and we need to take care of ourselves and each other during this time. If you have more ways that you maintain your mental health, let me know in the comments – I would love to hear more ideas! Sending love to you all ❤