Last week I’ve had a bad day. For the first time in weeks I felt anxious and stressed and was simply not in a good mental state. I didn’t take good care of myself that day, I neglected my morning routine and that immediately affected my mental health.
Although I’ve become mentally stabler and happier over the years and although I am generally in a good place at the moment there are still days like this one. Days that just suck, days where it’s hard not to put yourself down and hard to treat yourself with kindness.
That bad Friday, I ended up postponing my new blog post to another day and instead did some things that give me strength and happiness like cooking and seeing my best friend. And luckily the next day was already much better. Nevertheless, that bad day was a good reminder how important it is to take good care of my mental wellbeing. So I decided to share a list of things that helped my mental health with you.
Things I Had to Learn
1) Ask for help when you need it
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Still many of us have internalized that we have to do things ourselves, that we can’t burden our loved ones with our problems and that it’s a sign of weakness or failure to need help. It’s not. In my opinion asking for help just shows that someone knows what they need and that they’re not afraid to trust other people with it. For me it’s a sign of strength and trust.
2) Treat yourself with kindness
I don’t mean this in a „treat yourself-wellness-self care“ kind of way. I mean this in the „do the hard work“ kind of way. Because it is hard to unlearn thinking badly about yourself, to unlearn putting yourself down through your thoughts or „ironic“ jokes. If you find yourself spiralling into derogatory thought patterns, that’s not okay. No one should speak about you this way, not even your own mind.
What helped me, was to imagine I was talking to a good friend instead of myself. I imagined what I’d say to them if they were in my situation and how I’d treat them. It doesn’t always work that easily but at least it’s a starting point to shift your perspective.
3) Respect your boundaries and expect others to do the same
Okay, I admit I’m not that good at setting boundaries and getting others to respect them yet. But I’m working on it and I know it’s important to demand to be treated with respect. So I decided to include it nevertheless. My friend Elisa has also recently published a video on this topic. I’m not a big YouTube person but this could still be a helpful resource on this topic for you.
4) Identify Unhealthy Behaviour and Patterns
This is also a difficult thing, if you ask me, because it demands that you critically reflect your coping mechanisms, your thought patterns and behaviour. It took me longer than you’d expect to realize that the way I acted might not be the logical response to an unhealthy environment or situation but in itself something that was not good for me, mentally or physically, and that I needed to try and break these patterns.
5) Develop healthy coping strategies
This point is similarly difficult as the previous one but also just as important for your mental health. I used to retreat to unhealthy coping strategies a lot – for example: As a teenager I partied and drank excessively to deal with my pain. In the end, it didn’t help me. If you’re also prone to unhealthy coping strategies, finding alternatives can be a way to create a healthier situation for yourself.
Habits That Helped Me
1) Talk to someone or write it down
Talking to someone about your problems or what’s ging on might make you feel less alone and see it from a different perspective. It’s scary to open up and trust someone whether it’s a mental health professional or a good friend but it helps. A tool that was very helpful to me personally was journaling, writing down and reflecting on whatever was going on in my life. It helped me to get my problems out of my system and to reflect my thought patterns. Looking back on what I’ve written also taught me a lot about how my mind worked.
2) A consistent sleep schedule
Maybe it’s my mid-twenties kicking in but there’s nothing better than a good night of sleep. I was surprised to realize how much better I felt, when my lifestyle became slower, I started to get more sleep and eventually developed consistent bedtimes. Personally I’m a real morning bird and don’t like sleeping in but I believe that any type of consistent sleep schedule can be helpful as long as you get enough sleep. It also gives your daily routines a clearer structure and time frame which I, as a person who needs routines, found quite helpful.
3) Staying hydrated
Okay, to be honest. I haven’t done any statistics on how much better I feel when I drink enough water. But it’s simply common knowledge that it’s healthy to drink enough. Personally I don’t see any drastic differences in how I feel when I drank one or three litres of water. But staying hydrated and drinking a few litres everyday gives me the impression that I’m taking good care of my body – which makes me a little more content. So the effects of it are rather psychologically for me.
4) Fresh air and exercise
As someone who is working from home and doing online university I am still struggling with getting out and breathing in some fresh air everyday. But it always makes me happier when I do. So I’m working on it. I’ve also never been a sporty person and always hated exercising in any way. But I eventually started working out despite that because I know how good it is for both my physical and my mental health. And now, a few months later, I’m still dreading the sweaty time on my yoga mat. But nevertheless working out is something that I wouldn’t want to miss anymore because it really supports my mental wellbeing.
5) Having a morning routine
As some of you might know I have been struggling with depression in the past. Structures and routines are really important to me because they help maintain a stable mental health. Still getting out of bed is something that can be really hard for myself. So having a set morning routine was something that supported me in starting my day. It also helped me during the lockdown and pandemic. Because the changed circumstances lead me to study and work by myself at home and robbed me of my usual structures, creating and having my own routines has become increasingly important.
6) Actively taking breaks
I’m an incredibly ambitious person and a perfectionist who is always striving to get good grades and do great. Unfortunately this has also lead me to put too much pressure on myself. I ended up overworking myself, having one ten or twelve hour day after another, never really shutting off and being constantly on the verge of a breakdown.
It took me a while to learn to actively take breaks, to take time to relax and do things that help me recharge. Sometimes I still find it hard to turn offers or possibilities down that would just be one thing too much or to stop thinking about my responsibilities and to do lists during my time to recharge. But I am actively taking breaks and I feel so much stabler and happier ever since.
The Most Important Thing to Keep in Mind
Seek professional help if you need it. I know I’m speaking from a privileged position here and that not every country has the same health insurance politics as mine. So it’s simply not accessible or affordable to many. But it’s still very important and I hope that all of you who need it will receive the professional help they need. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Don’t let any stigmata or prejudices stop you from getting the treatment you need.
This post turned out to be much longer than I intended it to be. Thank you for everyone who has read this far. I hope you are fine.If you have any other tips on small things that have improved your mental health, please tell me in the comments. I’d love to hear about your experiences.
Next week is my birthday! I’ve been working on a small surprise for you because I wanted to use the occasion to give something back to the community that has been supporting me. The subscribers of my newsletter will be the first to know what I’ve been working on. You can subscribe here. If you don’t want to subscribe, that’s completely fine too. I’ll also publish my surprise on the blog a few days later.