May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Mental health is a particularly important topic for me and one that is essential to talk about, especially with a brand focused on firearms and alcohol. This month I’ve shared a couple of posts with mental health resources, including crisis resources for those in need of immediate help, as well as some resources for ongoing mental health care.
For my last post of Mental Health Awareness month, I wanted to share a few ways that I take care of my mental health. As I started thinking about what I do day-to-day that contributes to my mental health, I realized that there are SO many aspects to my mental health care. In fact, many of the things I do in life are to take care of my health overall, which also has a big impact on my mental health. I could write an entire book about all the things I do to take care of my mental health, and that would be a lot to read for a blog post ;-)! So, I picked five broad topics that have made the biggest impact on my mental heath to share with you.
Before we begin, I want to preface this by reminding you that I am not a mental health professional. These are things that I have integrated into my life through trial and error over time—some on my own accord, and some that I have worked with a professional to figure out. Like most things I talk about here, these are things that work for me. They may not work for you, and that’s okay… Although I do believe that everything on this list is somewhat universal and may benefit most people. If you are struggling and are looking for more specific help in regards to your particular set of circumstances, I would encourage you to read the mental health posts linked above and seek a professional to help navigate whatever it is you are going through.
1. Establish a Routine
Establishing a routine has certainly made a huge difference for my mental health. It seems so simple, but it’s often the simple things in life that make the biggest impact! My routine provides a bit of structure to my day, but not in a rigid or oppressive way—it enables me to get the most out of every day, while also reminding me to take care of my mental and physical health along the way. It is especially beneficial in those times of added stress or when I’m struggling for any reason. My routine is like an intentional autopilot that guides me even when I’m not feeling my best. There are two aspects of my daily routine that have been the most impactful: a morning routine and a bedtime routine.
My morning routine sets the tone for the day and gets me started on a positive note. It has evolved over time, and continues to evolve as I move through different seasons in life. It’s okay for the routine to change from time to time based on the circumstances, but consistency from day to day is what matters most. For example, my current routine when I’m working from home every day varies greatly from my routine when I’m going into the office, but there are certain aspects of my morning routine that remain the same no matter what.
My bedtime routine helps me reflect on and put aside all of the stressors and excitement of the day. It helps get my body and mind in a relaxed state and enables me to get quality sleep. Speaking of…
2. Get Quality Sleep
Quality sleep is severely underrated in today’s society. It’s almost become a status symbol to get very little sleep, and I wholeheartedly disagree with that. For me, nothing is possible without enough quality sleep. Even one night of poor sleep will impact my mental health (hello cranky pants). When inadequate sleep compounds overtime into sleep deprivation, it’s a recipe for disaster for my overall health. Do some quick research on what happens to our bodies and minds under sleep deprived conditions—it’s frightening to say the least.
My bedtime routine contributes to getting quality sleep, but I also consider how my environment contributes to sleep. I make sure my bedroom is the most relaxing and stress-free zone in my house. There is no TV in the bedroom, it’s always clean and tidy, and I make sure the room is dark, quiet (with a little white noise), and cool for bedtime. With few exceptions, I don’t bring work or other stressful activities into my bedroom so that I can ensure my bedroom remains a calming space.
3. Go Outside
Nature is healing, both physically and mentally. I’ve found that the times I am struggling most coincide with times that I am not spending as much time outside. Sometimes that’s because it’s winter and the weather sucks, sometimes it’s because my job is extra busy and I’m stuck in meetings all day, and sometimes it’s because I’m in a funk and I’m becoming one with the couch. No matter what my circumstances are, being outside and breathing in some fresh air always helps.
My time outside is often doing something active, and that’s double the mental health benefits for me! Going for a walk or a hike, or even an outdoor workout or yoga on the patio is hugely beneficial for me. These days, I’ve been spending more time outside even when I’m not being active—tending to the garden, reading on the patio, and even working on DIY projects in the driveway. I always feel better after some time outside!
4. Fuel My Body Properly
When I eat like crap, I feel like crap physically. When I feel like crap physically, I feel like crap mentally. When I feel like crap mentally, I eat like crap. It’s a vicious cycle.
Our physical and mental health are very much intertwined. Learning how to fuel my body properly has contributed so much to my overall health, mental health included. This breaks down into a few categories:
- Eating healthy: balanced meals with adequate protein, carbs, and healthy fats; lots of veggies; and avoiding things that I know don’t make me feel good (like gluten).
- Hydration: I drink about a gallon of water a day, and I feel terrible when I don’t get enough water. Do not underestimate the power of hydration!
- Supplements: I’ve been working with my naturopath doctor to figure out what supplements I should and shouldn’t be taking. I feel so much better now that I have dialed in my daily supplement stack!
- Cooking at home: eating the majority of my meals at home means I have complete control over the ingredients and serving sizes! When I eat out too often, I end up in an unintentional calorie surplus and wind up feeling bloated and gross from excess sodium and sugar. I limit eating out to about twice a week—good for my body and my budget!
- Meal planning: I tend to skip this step when I’m struggling, but taking a few minutes to plan meals and shopping lists for the week helps me stay on track! When I don’t do this I have a really hard time with eating healthy and cooking at home, and my health suffers as a result.
- Moderation: I love me some treats, but I enjoy them in moderation—this includes alcohol! It’s important to remember that alcohol is a depressant. As much as I love my Pinot, excessive amounts won’t do any good for my health. Moderation is key!
5. Set Boundaries
Setting boundaries can be a particularly difficult one to tackle, probably because it involves really digging into emotions and being brutally honest with yourself and those around you. This is a complex topic, so I’ll keep it simple and concise for today’s purposes. Setting boundaries involves being intentional about who and what receives my time and energy.
For example, I know that spending excessive time on social media doesn’t do my mental health any good, yet it’s very easy to wind up mindlessly scrolling and constantly checking social media apps. I set boundaries with social media by turning off all notifications, limiting the timeframes that I can access the apps on my phone, and taking an annual social media sabbatical.
That’s an easy one to tackle, but it can get more difficult when dealing with the other human beings in our lives. I’ve found that having the difficult conversation and/or making the decision to establish healthy boundaries is always worth it, even when that means walking away from people and things that were once an integral part of my life. It’s all about protecting my mental health, understanding what is worth my energy and what is not, and shielding my circumstances that do not contribute to my wellbeing in a positive way.
I hope reading about these five topics has helped inspire you to think about how you are taking care of your own mental health. Maybe the things I mentioned above are things you are already doing too, or maybe they are things you may be able to integrate into your own life. Thank you for reading, and for sticking with me through Mental Health Awareness month!