Yessss, these two words…Mental Health.
It’s funny how sometimes we hear the words “Mental Health” and our minds instantly dart to depression, suicidal thoughts, schizophrenia, mental illnesses and so on. While these do exist within the mental health sphere, there is a lot more to catering to our mental health than these. As such, it is pertinent to continue to discover and imbibe ways we can prioritize our mental health and keep ourselves healthy all year long.
I am fully aware that there is this weird negativity ascribed to any thing concerning mental health in general and most times, the Nigerian society tends to subconsciously relegate “mental health issues” to the “crazy”, “sad” or “depressed” in the society. However, for me, prioritizing my mental health is one of the things I am consciously working on this year.
Clearly, our mental health (which includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being which affects how we think, feel, and act) and mental fitness or lack of it has the ability to positively or negatively affect vital areas of our life. Our mental health helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make decisions in life. It therefore goes without saying that if you are mentally fit, if you are fully present and at peace generally, and if you constantly decide to be happy in the midst of life and its eccentricities, then you are bound to achieve more.
“Your mental health is a priority. Your happiness is an essential. Your self-care is a necessity.”
Look, and I say this with all the kindness and care in the world; No one is going to take care of you the way you would. You are mighty loved by family and friends and have a special purpose here on earth. Your family and friends would love to dote on you as much as time and energy allows them. However, each human being tends to put their self-preservation first ahead of another. It is a natural instinct and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. So if you want to be physically and mentally healthy, you have to take the first step.
It all starts from YOU.
So, how, my friends, can you prioritize you mental health this year and in the coming years? I’m glad you asked! Here are five seemingly little but practical ways you can prioritize your mental health and protect your mental space.
It’s basically no news that selfcare is now one of the most used words in the world. Everyone seems to be taking to it and it is not rocket science why. You have to take care of yourself. It is absolutely important for your mental health and mental space. You have to look after yourself and sometimes, put yourself first.
This may entail saying a simple “no” to some requests(which i discuss below) or you taking decisions that may not make others happy. This is so that you are not constantly left feeling stressed out or overwhelmed or burned out. It may also entail changing your lifestyle to a healthier one by paying attention to what you eat, exercising and getting enough sleep. No doubt that a healthy lifestyle would impact greatly on your mental health as a whole.
When you put yourself first sometimes, you feel satisfied, at peace and are able to do more; more for yourself and more for others as well. How is it said again? “You cannot pour from an empty cup”
It’s amazing what power this little two letter word holds and what peace it brings. So I learned this pretty much late in life and used to be so stressed out and burned out due to the loads of commitments and deadlines I would bring upon my self just because I could not say no. I would inconvenience myself for others to my own detriment and I was constantly unhappy (this is not to say that sacrificing for others once in a while is not good, but there has to be some kind of balance in place)…and being unhappy or constantly burned out is definitely not the recipe for productivity or getting things done. Because honestly, if your mind is tired of doing so much all the time, then you’re bound to be moody, irritable, confused, frustrated, lack the necessary concentration or just be downright unproductive.
“Love yourself enough to set boundaries. Your time and energy are precious. You get to choose how you use it. You teach people how to treat you by deciding what you will and won’t accept.”
~ Anna Taylor
In a fast paced world, full of distractions of every kind, it is pretty easy to get subconsciously enveloped by it all. Things move by so fast(sometimes, it seems time moves by too fast!) that we’re constantly trying to catch up, you know? And while it comes with its perks, the internet and social media has made our connectivity and access all the more heightened. We are connected to everything and everything is connected to us. Access to you has never been easier.
So then, it becomes necessary, once a while, to unplug from it all…take social media breaks if necessary, disconnect from the world from a bit. Instagram would still be there when you get back, take long walks (you’d be surprised at the amazing effect walks have on the mind and mental health). Be okay with listening to your mind and your thoughts (which I discuss more about below) rather than having it crowded with information all the time or being pulled in different directions by people that have access to you. Practice selective availability.
I watched a TED talk on the negative effects of social media on your mental health and if you have time….mehhnnn you should watch it! You would be blown away. I have put a link here for you. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Czg_9C7gw0o
So this is something I started pretty recently and I actually have a full blog post on this just sitting in my drafts (yeah I know…don’t mind me), but I promise I’ll post up soon. But I’ll share an excerpt below so you see how this helps to keep you mentally healthy.
“No, meditation is not just about sitting cross-legged with your eyes closed and constantly making humming sounds. Meditation is a lot more than that as it involves a using particular techniques like mindfulness to focus your mind on a particular object, thought or activity. By doing this, you are able to eliminate unwanted thoughts and clear the mind of any overwhelming feeling. You are also able to train your mind to be more attentive, aware stable and calm no matter what may be happening externally.
You can take five to ten minutes of your day or even an hour meditating. You can sit in an absolutely quiet place, in an upright position, close your eyes and focus just on your breathing or any other sound. When thoughts try to creep in as they normally would do, you mentally swat them away and maintain that quiet calm. You will find that it is harder than it sounds.
“With a calm mind, you are more likely to be able to act by rational choice and appropriately to the situation. When you are in a grip of an emotion, that’s going to bias your perceptions of what is occurring to what fits that emotion. Themes that don’t fit in, you are not going to recognize. So, a calm mind is an essential precondition for being able to respond to the reality, not the unrealities that you are preoccupied with.
The Dalai Lama says that if you are only aware of how you felt afterward, that’s pre-kindergarten. If you are aware immediately afterward, that’s kindergarten. High school is being aware during, and college is if you become aware as the emotion arises. That’s what we would all like to do, so we can choose whether to engage or not, in order not to have episodes that we’ll later regret. And I think it’s possible for everybody to learn this.”~ I promise I’ve forgotten who said this but I’ll find out soon”
It is simply amazing the benefits of meditation and I think this quote does justice to the positive effect meditation has on our mental health in general. When done, you’re left feeling refreshed and with a clear mind. So maybe try practicing it sometime? Yes? Mastery might take a while but practice makes perfect.
I hope this blog post was helpful in some little way. Let me know your thoughts in the comments! How are you staying mentally healthy this year?