Think about it. As children we spend time learning to walk, talk, play, and all sorts of things with our physical body. We also learn social norms like what’s expected from our family and social circles. Hopefully, we are also taught compassion, empathy and other ways to be nice humans.
As we get older our parents relinquish the care of our physical bodies. So, then we are the ones solely responsible for exercise, applying sunscreen, eating well, and taking vitamins. Hopefully, we see a doctor every year or so for check ups and get our necessary screenings.
But what do we do daily, weekly, monthly for our mental health? We have nothing built into our social norms and existence that speaks to mental health. Most of us weren’t taught what to do with emotions and feelings. We weren’t taught about the inner workings of the mind. And none of us made it out of childhood without some degree of trauma, but it is rarely addressed.
If you are one of the brave few who looks to a therapist to work through trauma, emotions, and feelings, then you tend to keep quiet about it. Society says we must have perfect mental health all on our own, no help needed. Asking for help brings shame. Asking for help is seen as a weakness.
Mental health is the most important health, and we are failing right now as a society. We are not able to cope with the many things coming at us. From politics to pandemics, we are constantly bombarded with reasons to stay upset, angry, overwhelmed. And sadly, there’s a never-ending list of problems to occupy our minds.
So, what are we to do?
First of all, recognize you’re not alone. We all have our sh*t, every single one of us. Start opening up to trusted friends and loved ones, and you’ll see. I didn’t even know I had anxiety until my friend started talking about hers with me. I was extremely grateful and relieved that the things I was experiencing weren’t unusual. And we’re closer now because we have talked about our struggles and laughed at the ridiculousness of our anxious thoughts.
Secondly, start to practice radical self-care. Eat well, go to bed on time, exercise, meditate, practice gratitude, and do things that bring you joy or at least contentment. Daily self-care rituals will look differently for each person. But, once you begin the habits, they will build on themselves. My daily self-care routines keep getting longer, and I keep feeling better.
As part of radical self-care, consider Yoga and Ayurveda. These scientific systems have taught practitioners about how to care for the mind (and body) for centuries. Yoga goes beyond the physical postures and teaches us about the inner workings of the mind. Ayurveda, too, helps us with mental health by helping us recognize when we are out of balance. We can then help ourselves back into balance with self-care, diet, and yoga.
Finally, get help from a professional. Find a therapist or talk with your primary doctor about your concerns. There are many services available, some for free, but we have to ask. I know it’s scary, and makes us feel shame, but we must be brave. All humans want the same things, we all want to be loved, happy, and healthy. We need to reframe mental health as just simply another part of our overall health. You’d go to the doc if your arm was broken, it’s really the same thing, isn’t it?