I know I have shared a lot about MY story on my blog, and I hope it has encouraged some of you. One thing I have noticed is with a mental illness or struggle, we (or I) tend to be inward focused. This is something I am very guilty of, in my marriage, relationships, work, etc. So, I wanted to offer some encouragement and pieces of advice for those of you who do struggle or if you know someone who does.
1. Educate Yourself – We can get so wrapped up in this “thing” that is making us “crazy” that we don’t exactly know what is going on with our thoughts and feelings. It’s important to gain as much knowledge about the “thing” you have. It wasn’t until I started reading about anxiety and depression that I had a diagnosis and could pinpoint certain triggers. It has also made me interested in learning about other mental health disorders that I am not familiar with. I am not a doctor or therapist, but this was one of the ways I started to understand the way I was wired, and I wasn’t afraid of it anymore. Once the fear of the unknown is out of the way, you start to become confident in managing/coping with your struggle. THAT is when I started seeing improvement. Once YOU have a better understanding, you can help educate others on how they can help you.
2. Evaluate Your Friendships/Support Group – The people you choose to surround yourself with are critical. Are these people encouraging you, reaching out, and most importantly, do they want to see you win? It wasn’t until I was with a group of girls at church that I understood this. They were consistently pointing me back to Christ week after week and people I completely trusted. I don’t think they have to be an expert on mental health to be there for you, but they do need to want to be there. It took me over a year to accept this, move on and value the trusted friendships I have now in my life – quality over quantity. We were simply not made to do this life alone!
3. Healthy Living – We have all been told the secret to weight loss in 50 different ways with a new fad every 6 months. But, the truth is it’s not really a secret. And what we put into our body directly affects our mental health and overall well-being. I have never wanted to eat healthy. Bad food tastes better, plain and simple. It wasn’t until recently, I started this journey of healthy living, and I can say it has made a difference in my behavior, feelings, focus and overall mood. I won’t go into too much detail here, but I can’t say enough positive things about healthy eating – it WILL affect every area – especially your mental health. Cutting out sugar alone would do wonders for anybody, after you make it past the first few days. We are not naturally “vegetable” people. I’m sure we would all much rather have a piece of bread or a chip. I would encourage you to really look at what you are eating and take baby steps as needed to make changes. It doesn’t happen overnight for anyone, so cut yourself some slack.
4. Regular Heart Checks – This is the toughest one and I believe this is the one that gets ignored. While we talk about our mental health, have you ever done an inventory with your life? Sounds too deep for most people, but it wasn’t until I took an inventory last year that I was able to identify certain things from my childhood, teenage years, relationships, etc. that played a role and shaped me into the person I am and the beliefs I had about myself. And, by beliefs, I mean lies from Satan. For me, this looks like regular prayer and checking in with trusted friends about what is really going on in my life. Not just saying “I’m fine,” but instead digging deeper and talking openly about faith, recent struggles, and regularly confessing, asking for forgiveness and making amends with the people in my life. An example would be my struggle with insecurity and how that plays out in my thinking and influences my desires, conflict, actions, etc. The entire point is to get to the root of the issues or WHY we did something, not just apologizing for your actions. If you are able to get to the root, you become more self-aware. Self-awareness is key in healing and making small steps for change.
5. Spiritual Life - In my opinion, the most important “tip” is your relationship with Christ. For me, this looks like listening to worship music in the morning on my way to work or getting into the word. That is where I will find the truth and peace that I regularly search for in this world– and nothing will ever satisfy that need like Christ. This also looks like memorizing scripture to have in hand when Satan gets into my head (daily) and feeds me lies about myself, my worth and who I am. I am able to combat the lies with truth. This is something I have been struggling with lately and to be honest, I can tell. If Christ isn’t the foundation – everything else starts to crumble. So, I need to practice what I preach 😊
6. Therapy/Counseling/Church – This can be a very shameful topic for most people. If we seek help, we can start putting labels on ourselves subconsciously. We are “unwell” or “crazy.” You don’t have to have a traumatic event happen in your life to go to therapy or seek help! This does involve putting yourself out there by talking to someone. This is when the fear creeps in, the fear of being misunderstood, thinking you won’t get better, or just deep sorrow. If you can get past that first (very hard) step of going, you may find the complete opposite. I have seen several different therapists over the years until I found one that I connected with. And after I found the program at church (ReGeneration), it completely changed my life. I no longer had to pretend to be okay, to be something I am not, and I am able to be completely honest. If you can find that with a therapist (or anyone that you feel safe with), keep going! Isolation can be a dangerous thing and if we are not careful, we will never come out. Seek help & stay there!
7. Be Kind To Yourself - You will have good days and bad days, no doubt about that. There is grace for everything and if you "relapse" or think you "should" be better in the healing process, you are being too hard on yourself. We are promised trials and storms in this life and if you have a bad day, notice your thought patterns. Are you speaking kindly about yourself or beating yourself up because you "failed"? No, you didn't fail. Tomorrow is a new day and we can start over as many times as we need to. No, you are not "crazy" and things WILL get better!
Different things work for different people based on your gifts and the way we are wired. These are just some tips that have helped me over the years. Believe me, I am not perfect, and I will not claim to know everything. One thing we can all agree on is to take it one day at a time, one moment at a time – recognizing you are not alone in your struggles.
Thanks for reading!