As nice as it would be to have the ability to control everything that happens around us, most of the time we can’t. Things happen that are beyond our control and sometimes it takes a negative toll on our mental health. So how do you shield your mental health from the wrenches and daggers life often throws your way?
While there is sometimes an overwhelming amount of advice floating around the web, one effective approach is to commit to protecting your mental health. All it takes is simple acts like avoiding things that could trigger a downward spiral. Protecting one’s mental health will look different for each individual. For the most part, you should focus on avoiding anything that negatively impacts your wellbeing.
Ignoring Your Feelings
Society sometimes glorifies being “strong” and avoiding vulnerability. While it’s true that we’re all strong to different capacities, we don’t have to be strong all of the time. Being weak sometimes isn’t a bad thing, it’s part of the human experience.
When you’re feeling down, the worst thing you can do for your mental health is not acknowledge those feelings or brush it under the rug. When you ignore how you’re feeling, you’re engaging in emotional repression–– masking your emotions to conceal your emotional state––which can have a negative effect on your health. While it’s often used as a means of regulating your emotions this method can be counterproductive. Some consequences of emotional repression include:
- Making you more vulnerable to illnesses
- Increased stress-related psychological reactions
- Muscle tension and pain
- Nausea and digestive issues
Ignoring your emotions doesn’t make them go away. They’re likely to resurface when you least expect and in a more explosive way. So, allow yourself to feel every negative emotion and try to understand why they’re coming up. This is a healthier way of navigating low moods and being kind to yourself. Remember, all your feelings are valid––including the ones that don’t feel comfortable or positive.
Minimizing Your Experiences
Has someone ever come to you when they weren’t having the best day looking for encouragement or a listening ear? Have you ever responded with statements like ‘you’ll be fine’ or ‘others have it worse–be grateful’? These may seem like encouraging statements but they can be the total opposite. Why? Because they undermine one’s feelings and experiences. While it may be true that they’ll be ok and others have it worse, it doesn’t acknowledge how the person is feeling and what they’re going through.
It also sends the message that their struggles aren’t important which can be damaging for a person’s mental health. Instead, sympathize with others and ask them what you can do to help. If you’re the one going through a rough patch, you can do this for yourself, too. Instead of telling yourself to get over it, show yourself compassion and love.
Not Accepting Help
One of the most disappointing things can be reaching out for help and not receiving it. Not only can it make you feel defeated, but it can also cause feelings of rejection. Some revert to not asking for help at all because they don’t want to put themselves in a position to be vulnerable or let down. Although this is understandable, going through life without asking for help makes for a lonely journey. Nobody can do everything on their own, and even if you can, you’re likely going to burn yourself out. Conversely, asking for help can drastically improve your wellbeing.
Ask for help when you need it as the more help you have, the more time you have to rest and focus on things that bring you joy. Even if someone isn’t able to help there are several others who are ready and willing to so don’t let it discourage you.
When you have a mental health condition, it can be debilitating. Conditions like anxiety, depression, and substance abuse can lead to one becoming reclusive and withdrawn. However, when going through dark spells, you need your support system more than anything. Cutting off from people that could provide support gives you time to perpetuate negative thoughts and indulge in unhealthy coping mechanisms. Studies show loneliness and isolation are linked to serious health conditions like higher rates of anxiety, depression and suicide.
Instead, commit to finding ways to connect with people who make you feel good about yourself and show you, genuine love.
Being around the right people has immense benefits for your overall health. Research has shown a strong support system can improve your wellbeing, equip you with better-coping skills, and promote longer living. It can also have positive effects on depression and anxiety.