I remember when I was a cute little curly haired kid running around the playground at school, I felt a sharp pain on the top of my head. I stumbled slightly, and grabbed my head with my right hand. When I brought my hand into focus, it was a crimson red hand print. At that point I was not aware that a person could bleed from their head (Doesn’t your hair just…absorb it?). I realized I’d been hit on the head…with a brick.
Why do people always laugh when I tell that story?
What happened was, there were kids nearby who were attempting to get what we called ‘lucky beans’ from a nearby tree. The pods would hang from the branches but slightly out of reach. To get the beans to drop they began throwing stones. The ingenuity of kids lead them to throwing something larger. They thought this might aid their quest which also increased the possibility of smacking me on the head.
Which they did….
I remember running to the school counsellor crying all the way. Not one kid stopped me to say “hey you know your head is bleeding?”
One trip to the doctor later, I was experiencing getting stitches for the first time.
Getting stitches on your head sucks…
I have told many people this story, usually when they bring up injuries that they have sustained.
“I broke my leg three times!!”
“I got bitten by a snake!”
“I got thrown out of a moving car!”
…I have weird friends.
The peculiar thing is…I never felt ashamed to tell that story and nor do I feel ashamed today. I never feel ‘less than’ or silly or even slightly embarrassed to tell it. I tell it because it is interesting and something people can relate to in terms of injuries sustained in life.
Like I said, it normally makes people laugh (I have weird AND sadistic friends).
Now let me share another story.
When I was a cute curly haired little kid I did not feel connected to the people around me.
I often felt I had something lacking, which was why I thought I did not have any real friends nor did I deserve any. I felt alone and I did not think much of myself.
Many times I thought I would remain alone forever. I’m so…different and awkward. I did not like myself at all.
I’ve worked through all of that, but there are some days when I still feel that way despite being older and more mature. I guess sometimes we really are just bigger children rather than fully functioning adults.
Yet the strange thing is…I feel shy telling people that story. I feel embarrassed to share my past and present vulnerabilities with others.
They may think I’m weak or that I’m not well in the head. They may think I’m sharing it to get attention and sympathy. Besides…why would I share something like that with people? They don’t care how you feel. They are not concerned with your state of mind.
‘If you LOOK healthy, then you MUST be healthy.’
But such is not the case.
Over time I could gloss over any vulnerabilities, hide any sadness, conceal any humanity and display a more socially acceptable construct of myself. Thus avoiding the ridicule I may face should I show the truth.
By avoiding it with other people I began to avoid myself. The issues of insecurities and low self-worth became part of who I was.
In short, I was not practicing ‘emotional hygiene’. A phrase coined by psychologist Guy Winch which likened the idea of taking care of your emotions just as one would take care of their teeth by flossing daily.
The mind is not taboo to discuss with the world or with yourself. Your emotional well-being is just as important as your physical well-being.
How can you expect to interact with people, handle your career, manage relationships and simply walk through life if you feel like you may crumble at any moment?
How can we avoid this?
How can we take care of ourselves?
1.) Talk to people close to you
We may believe that remaining silent and alone is a sign of strength, but a man who has many allies will always be stronger than any man standing alone. The people who are close to you, care about you and your emotions, and feel honoured when you trust them enough to show them a more vulnerable side of you. If you are going through a rough time speak to people about what you are feeling. Many times, the simple act of being listened to can be enough support you need to get you through the next few steps in life. There should be NO SHAME in it. The people who care about you would not turn you away.
Not only is this a method of receiving the support you need, but by being open about this, you indirectly give others permission to be open about themselves. This reduces the stigma attached to the discussion of our human emotions and allows a greater freedom in the world we live in.
So surround yourself with good people and allow yourself to be taken care of by these people who have your best interests at heart.
2.) Take care of yourself physically
By taking care of your body you will indirectly take care of your mind. Exercise, the most basic premise of taking care of your body, releases endorphins that allow you to de-stress. It is recommended we exercise at least 30 minutes daily, even if it is a walk in the park. Try to eat healthier foods, cut out smoking and GET ENOUGH SLEEP. Being tired all day is the easiest way to get bummed out by the smallest things. You only have one body, so take good care of it. Staying physically healthy can definitely aid your mental health.
3.) Remember your worth
Sometimes horrible events occur in our life and our thoughts to spiral in a pit of negatives. Our emotions are on the verge of collapse because we have forgotten our worth. As a result we stay away from others, we do not treat ourselves, we do not do anything for ourselves other than exist. We need to remind ourselves who we are and what we are worth. Treat yourself with the kindness and respect you deserve. Take care of yourself. Pamper yourself. Treat yourself the way you would treat somebody you love and self-love needs to come first. Do not self-criticize and do not make comparisons to others. Remind yourself everyday about the good qualities you have and the things you have in life to be grateful for. Most importantly accept yourself for who you are. Nobody is perfect and neither are you. Work on the things you can change and accept the things you cannot. There is only ONE you in this world and never will there be another like you, that alone should remind you that you have greater worth than you think.
4.) Take care of others
The best way to create happiness in your own life is to give happiness to others. Take care of others around you. Just as you need them, they need you as well. Helping others does not only give you a fulfilment knowing that you’ve helped somebody in need but it can give perspective on your life’s difficulties. Volunteer your time, donate when you can and help your friends in need. Even a listening ear can be enough.
5.) Practice mindfulness exercises
If you belong to a religious group, take some time daily to connect to your God spiritually in whichever way you desire. The act of faith is healing for the mind and soul. You may also wish to try meditation. Meditation is not entirely reserved for Buddhist monks, but the practice of meditation has NUMEROUS health benefits. Benefits which include reduced anxiety, depression and pain. It also enables us to have improved focus, improved decision making, enhanced learning capabilities and so much more (Seriously! Google this!). The act of meditation is simple and I have discovered a wonderful video on the basics, which you can view here. It takes no more than 5 to 10 minutes of your day to allow yourself to have a better mental health status.
6.) Take Action
Sometimes our mental instability can be due to a certain action, activity, person, job or even something you see regularly in your day to day life. We come up with all sorts of reasons to continue this routine despite the mental and emotional damage we cause ourselves. We are afraid to make changes, we are afraid of what people might think or say, we are afraid we may make the wrong decision and we are afraid that we may end up worse than we already are. We tell ourselves that ‘this is life and this is something that I HAVE to go through”.
Which is believe is total BULLSH*T!
Of course of it is.
Why on earth would you convince yourself that suffering the logical thing to do?
Why on earth would there be an innate desire in society to continue doing things that make us miserable? It makes ZERO sense.
If you are caught in a pattern of something that is causing emotional distress then do as much as you can to distance yourself from it. Take action and make things happen for yourself. Now I know certain things in life are out of your control. But if something is truly affecting your mental health, then you have to try SOMETHING. Even if it is in the small
est capacity to make your life better. Speak to the right people, take the necessary steps.
Is it not better to take steps towards a new a direction than remain in the same hell you’ve been in for such a long time?
We need to take control of our lives by identifying what it is that distresses us and take actions against it.
We need to do more for ourselves.
More actions that improve our overall happiness. The longer you spend in your miserable situation, the longer an stronger the regrets will be when you finally get an escape.
7.) Seek help if you need it
Probably the most important point regarding mental health. Sometimes we need serious help regarding our mental and emotional problems. You MUST take the responsibility to seek the professional help that you need. Just as you would run to a doctor when you are ill. So you should seek mental help should the need arise. There is no shame in taking care of your health regardless of the state it’s in. The help will only benefit you in the end and by taking the bold step to improve your mental health, once again you indirectly allow people to seek mental help for themselves.
Social dynamics would be ideal once people are able to freely discuss their mental health. To speak about their worries, their insecurities, their pains, their anxieties etc. To be able to talk about it enables us to remove the shame associated with it. We are all human beings. We all want similar things in this world. We share the same mind with the same biochemicals that govern our outlook on life. We are in the driver’s seat and it is up to us to steer ourselves on the right path so that we can live fully without the road blocks of mental and emotional distress.
Please share some of your own techniques and opinions on managing your mental and emotional well-being in the comments section below.