4 Ways to Protect Your Mental Health in Stressful Times
As a psychologist, owner of a mental health clinic, a partner, and a mother to two young children, prioritizing my mental health is incredibly key in order for me to nurture my overall wellness. When we are evaluating our wellness, one question I like to ask myself (and my clients) is, “Who and what matters to me?”
Imagine a watering can, and you have several different succulents. Each succulent represents something that is important in your life. You might identify things like your family, health, friends, work, and even you. You might also have values such as authenticity and kindness. Now the question is, where are you going to put your water when you only get one watering can?
Here are some ideas to help you prioritize your mental health.
1. Learn to Get Present
Our minds are so good at putting us in the past, the future, or worrying about things day-to-day. The idea of getting present is about shifting out of your mind and into the present moment. To do this, you might simply shift your focus to your breath. This is one of my go-to strategies that I do every morning in the shower as a way to ground myself for the day to start.
2. You Get to Choose
Oftentimes people will say that they have no motivation or energy to do something. Waiting for motivation or energy is like putting the cart before the horse. Motivation comes after we engage in the choices that we make. You get to choose what you do. You might not always be able to control your thoughts or feelings, but you can make choices each day toward what truly matters to you. Movement is incredibly important for my wellness, so each morning I wake up 20 minutes earlier than my family and go out for a walk. Most days I would prefer to stay nestled in bed, but this is a choice I make to be well for the rest of the day.
3. Let Go of Your Inner Critic
Our minds are powerful and filled with stories, from our early-childhood experiences and from other people around us. We hold a series of stories about ourselves and the things that have been told to us. Often these stories are critical. Begin to bring awareness to that critical voice you hold and see if you can practice letting it go. Often I find my mind telling me that I am not doing enough. When this shows up, I imagine placing this thought on a cloud and get back into the present moment.
4. Find Flexibility
When it comes to wellness, we like to attach ourselves to something that worked really well at one time. But we know, just like physical exercise for our bodies, that doing the same thing over and over again will often not produce the same results. Give yourself flexibility; what worked today may not work tomorrow.
Nurturing our mental health is key for our overall wellness. Wellness is not about getting rid of difficult thoughts and feelings but how we cope with them when they show up.