Mental Health Reminders to Rely on in Difficult Times

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Mental Health Reminders to Rely on in Difficult Times

In times of turbulence, it’s even more important to take care of our mental health. We have to remember that if we don’t take care of ourselves, we can’t show up for others; that when we’re hurting, we’re more likely to inflict hurt on other people.

Taking care of our mental health is key to sustaining the resilience needed to be the change we want to see in ourselves, our relationships, and the world. Below I’m sharing the strategies I rely on most when I’m feeling overwhelmed, anxious, angry, or triggered. I would love to hear how you process heightened emotions in your own life in the comments.

Please keep in mind that I’m not an expert, and these pieces of advice are gleaned from resources, conversations with others, and my own personal experiences. If taking care of your mental health gets to be too much to handle, reach out to someone who is professionally equipped and ready to help you work through your needs. This person should be someone who makes you feel safe, seen, and heard.

Acknowledge how you’re feeling in the moment. 

Noticing my feelings, instead of immediately trying to talk myself down from them, is helpful in processing anger, fear, and other rightfully uncomfortable emotions. There’s nothing worse than being told to calm down, even when it’s your inner mother calling. So consider acknowledging the intensity of your emotions as the first step in caring for your mental health.

Note your feelings as they come up and watch them as they pass through your body, rather than numbing them or pushing them down. Rather than resisting your current state, simply acknowledge where you’re at right now.

Come back to your body.

When my mom had a stroke last November, I wondered why I felt so calm when I visited her afterward. Why was the first time I truly broke down when I was back in my house and saw her walking through a door at home over video?

We respond to trauma differently. My typical immediate response is to get to work. I want to check in on others. I want to be stable, calm, and helpful. I don’t often notice heightened anxiety right away, but I do feel it in my stomach. Instead of crying, I physically get sick.

I know anger results in a buzzy feeling in my head. I feel impulsive and feel the need to address the situation IMMEDIATELY. When feeling triggered and angry, I completely lose the ability to check in. So what I rely on are body scans.

Slowly scan from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet, checking in on each body part and sensation along the way. Our bodies are often the first place to reflect negative emotions, whether or not we consciously notice it.

Remember what it felt like in your body the last time you were overwhelmed with intense emotion. Where did the sensation start? What part of your body did you feel it in most?

Slowly scan from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet, checking in on each body part and sensation along the way. Our bodies are often the first place to reflect negative emotions, whether or not we consciously notice it.

Return to the basics.

When my primary feeling is one of overwhelm, I often approach myself as I would my kids, parenting myself through the situation. I go down a checklist when I’m finding myself unable to return to my body.

I’ll ask myself, What might you have been missing in your general self-care routine? What do you need right now? Sleep? Water? A walk? Food?

In doing this we’re making sure we have the right tools for allowing the emotion to come, manifest itself, and move through our body naturally, without impulse, addiction, or other coping mechanisms that damper and disconnect ourselves from the situation. 

Sign off.

I don’t think we’re equipped as humans to have such consistently immediate access to so many other people, through the Internet and social media. And when we’re hyper anxious, we tend to have even less capacity to take in constant outside input.

It can feel weak, privileged, and wrong to sign off in times like these. But remember how much you are consuming in a day. We’re not biologically equipped to process the amount of input we take in on a daily basis. Set aside specific times for yourself to sign off so that when you do sign back on, you’re equipped with the energy and vitality needed to do the very necessary work that’s required of you.

Protect your energy.

You may notice you can feel your energy shift negatively when you’re interacting with certain people or in certain scenarios. The experience doesn’t even necessarily need to be outwardly traumatic to result in this negative shift, given how heightened our senses are right now.

Take note of what causes these shifts, and check in with yourself as you plan each day. Do you have the energy for a FaceTime call? To have a difficult conversation with your partner? To go grocery shopping? If not, set boundaries. It’s okay to say no. Protecting your energy is also protecting others. It’s an act of love and compassion to say “I need space.”

Protecting your energy is also protecting others. It’s an act of love and compassion to say “I need space.” . . . We don’t owe anyone anything we’re unwilling or unable to give. 

This is such a universal truth. I’ve started to notice that August and Bennett almost always have tantrums or emotional eruptions as we change activities—especially big ones like moving from playtime to dinner, or from bath to bedtime. It is no different for some adults. So allow yourself transition time between any activity that requires your output. We don’t owe anyone anything we’re unwilling or unable to give. 

Evaluate.

I was talking to a friend recently after a really awful workday—one where my mental tank was fully drained and I was finding it difficult to see any meaning in my work. She asked me, “Did you do anything yesterday that may have contributed to how you’re feeling?” I realized I’d stayed up until 2 a.m. the night before, as a way to cope and escape feelings of guilt and shame. It certainly had an effect on my ability to think clearly the next day.

We all have unique ways we can be helpful and supportive in times of unrest and instability. Taking care of ourselves enables us to more clearly identify our role and our alignment of energy, knowledge, and expertise. 

The next time a bad day arises for you, you may want to ask yourself if there’s something that led up to it. What was your schedule like the day before? Did you have an altered routine? Checking in can help us better care for ourselves in the future.

We have a long road ahead of us. Minding our mental health takes practice and just getting through some days can feel heavy. I think we’re all made of more than we give ourselves credit for, and hopefully, some of these tips can help you see, value, and protect your own strength and resilience.

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