There is no denying that there is a LOT happening in the world, good and ugly. Sometimes these things lead to stress and anxiety, which can affect us physically, mentally and emotionally. Mental health support is important for our overall well-being. Keep reading for 6 tips for mental health support to start feeling better.
Living in an uncertain world
Uncertainty is a reality of life. For all the planning we may undertake, unexpected circumstances, such as an illness, can occur.
There’s a lot of uncertainty in our society right now too. This uncertainty can be challenging at times for me. How about you?
The pandemic continues to rage on, with infections and deaths climbing in most parts of the world. I’m trying to be vigilant about protecting my health. However, that means a lot of isolation because I can only control my own bubble.
But my biggest struggle during this pandemic is watching many people be so casual with their health and other people’s health. With a contagious virus affecting people in random ways, it saddens and disappoints me that people are so careless and disrespectful to others. Maybe it’s being a three-time cancer survivor and losing people to cancer, who very much wanted to live, that makes me understand no one is invincible and our health should be protected and cherished.
The attempted coup at the U.S. Capitol in early January rocked me. I struggle to really understand and release the emotions associated with these actions. I never imagined that terror threats and attacks on our democracy would come from fellow Americans, especially those in government. Despite many people brushing it off, our democratic system is on slippery ground and that causes a constant unease for me.
As if all these aren’t enough to tire us, many of us are also juggling health, career, family, finances, housing, and more. Anyone else ready to throw your arms up and yell “Enough!”?
You’re not alone
The one certain thing is there are a lot of uncertain circumstances affecting us. Add in a cancer diagnosis or other health challenge, canceling trips and other fun activities, work stresses, missing family members and friends, or every day life management, you may want to draw the blinds, turn your phone off and simply sit under a blanket.
If you’re feeling waves of emotions and mentally tired, no matter what it’s related to, I first want to assure you that you’re not alone. I feel it too.
I’ve ridden waves of ups and downs the past few years. From a divorce to undergoing surgery to replace my titanium knee (again) to my third cancer diagnosis and treatment, and then a pandemic….yep, I’ve struggled emotionally at times. I’ve felt mentally drained. Incredibly lonely. Frustrated, angry, uncertain about this new normal. And while I’m fortunate that I tend to naturally seek optimism in situations, it doesn’t exclude me from at times feeling overwhelmed with heavy thoughts and emotions. Sadness, anxiety, loneliness, anger, frustration, and more are all emotions that I’ve faced plenty the past few years.
Seeking the good
People often ask how I stay positive in the midst of challenging situations. Admittedly, staying stuck in negative thoughts and attitudes is more tiring to me than focusing on the good in my life (and there is fortunately a LOT of good!). I’ve learned managing life’s challenges are easier when seeking solutions and possibilities. Looking for the positive in any situation helps move my attention from the seemingly negative, which in turn lightens my mood and makes me feel better overall.
I also am particular with who I regularly surround myself with – I gravitate towards people who add positivity to my life rather than those center on complaining and negativity. The 6 tips for mental health support listed below are all tactics I use to help keep me balanced.
Having support from others can also greatly help us move forward. It’s important to know when to ask for help. For many of us, asking for support may seem selfish or awkward. But it’s not! It in fact is a very selfless, courageous, positive act to acknowledge that you’re wavering a bit and could use some support, whether a little or a lot.
6 tips for mental health support
1 -Stop worrying and focusing on the negative.
Focusing on the things that aren’t happening, you don’t have and all the negative help reinforce all of those and can actually make you keep seeking the negative or ignore the good that could be surrounding you. It’s easy to get comfortable with our emotions and behavior. So much that we don’t realize the impact on our daily lives. You don’t recognize you’re stuck in a negative loop because it simply seems like you’re responding like anyone would. Focusing on the gratitude in your life can help change your mindset from negativity, and also benefit your health (I share tips for focusing on gratitude here). Shifting our focus to gratitude and positive things can also clear our vision to see different solutions and outcomes.
2- Turn off social media.
Social media sites can be wonderful for engaging with friends, family and even strangers with common interests. But they also can sometimes be detrimental for our mental health. It’s easy to compare ourselves against others when scrolling through our feed, but I like to acknowledge that social media posts are often ‘highlights reels’ – glimpses of someone’s life.
If social media is starting to upset or depress you, unfollow or unfriend those who always post negative or upsetting material, even if family and good friends (they won’t know if you unfollow/snooze!). Upsetting posts can be something different to each of us and you don’t have to explain yourself to anyone. And there will always be people who give their judgement, whether you ask for it or not. I still chuckle at a stranger on social media who declared I am too positive about my cancer journey and must not have had a tough treatment. Um, sure. I simply replied, ‘thank you for your input,’ and moved on. Take a break if you need to. Social media should benefit, not distress, you.
3 – Surround yourself with supportive, happy people.
Be selective about who you give your time and energy to. Yes, we all have bad days and moments of complaint. But have you noticed that some people seem to always have something to complain about? Being around these types of people too much can influence and affect your moods, behavior and outlook. So find people who will support, encourage and motivate you as much as you do them. Being around happy, supportive people can ease anxiety and negative emotions, while also attracting more friends and happiness to your life.
4 – Embrace nature.
Studies show that time in nature improves our mood, attention span and overall well-being. The pandemic certainly has pushed people to get outdoors. Sales of bikes, kayaks, campers and other outdoor equipment increased since the onset of the pandemic. Nature has always been my grounding and relaxing haven. Whether I’m hiking in the woods, biking, relaxing on a blanket under a tree or camping, I can feel my emotions improve and my body physically relax.
5 – Talk to a professional.
Ask a trusted doctor or close friends for recommendations. Many therapists offer telehealth visits, especially with the continued risk of COVID-19. So you can relax at home while talking to a professional. Most insurance plans cover mental health appointments. If yours doesn’t, some counselors offer a sliding scale or cash appointments. If you don’t click with a counselor, don’t get discouraged! I met with a few counselors before finding someone who I click with – her personality, approach to finding solutions, even holding me accountable and more made me comfortable.
6 – Join a support group.
If you’re uncertain about individual counseling, there are wonderful opportunities to engage with people going through similar situations (or do both!). Many support groups are led by trained professionals.
Take care of you
These are just 6 tips for mental health support. There are many other options if you’re feeling blah physically, mentally and emotionally. The most important thing is knowing that you aren’t alone and there is assistance to support you. How do you cheer yourself when feeling stressed or down?
If you need to talk to someone immediately, contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255.