In all seriousness, life is challenging right now. We are individually going through unique challenges that are undoubtedly taking a toll on our mental health.
I don’t know when it will get better, but I want you to know you are not alone in your struggle. There will be good and bad days, and your experience is totally valid. With that in mind, here are some tips that can provide you with guidance in navigating your mental health.
What is mental health?
According to the World Health Organization, mental health is defined as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”.
Mental health is important because it encompasses your social and emotional well-being. It can be hard to take care of as there are limited indicators unlike physical health. However, watching for patterns or changes in behavior and emotion, such as increased irritability or extreme fatigue Taking care of your mental health can be challenging but self-awareness of what’s happening internally can be a significant first step.
A way that has helped me recognize my mental health is taking a moment to do body/mind scan. Two suggestions by my therapist that I have found useful are HALT and the four quadrants. stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired and is used to analyze what may be bothering you. Another way to analyze yourself is to check the four quadrants of physical health: food, water, physical activity, and sleep. If I feel anxious, I try and make sure to take care of those four things as a first step in helping myself feel better.
The tips below are additional tools and tips for when the basic self-care actions are not enough to help your mental health.
- Find What Therapy Options Are Available To You
First, let’s clarify what therapy is and why it’s beneficial. Psychotherapy, or therapy for short, is the evidence-based treatment for emotional and cognitive behavioural issues, usually in the form of talking to a professional. It’s different from talking to a friend as therapists or counsellors can offer objective, professional advice and techniques to help cope or move through an issue.
Through insurance benefits, such as those provided through school or employment, will generally cover some form of therapy. There are often nuances to each program, so please read the fine print. Because therapy is often based on the professional’s connection, it may take a few tries to find the right therapist for you.
If insurance options do not fit with your needs, explore alternative options, including those listed below. Some universities have free public counselling with their masters and PhD student. For example, the University of British Columbia offers this if you live in Vancouver. Another alternative may be a sliding scale or charity organizations in your community provided for marginalized or low-income folks. Online, there are also therapy programs such as Better Help, which connect you to registered therapists from the comfort of your own home.
- Explore What Therapy Means To You
Although the most commonly understood form of therapy is where a patient lies on the couch and a therapist listens with a clipboard, there are many other treatment forms. Some may not be as effective as the traditional form. However, the act of creating space for oneself to clear their mind or work through their issues is an important takeaway.
Examples of alternative sources of therapy include group therapy, music therapy, and movement therapy. It’s amazing what removing yourself from the current mental state and giving yourself a break can do, similar to the benefits of meditation. Personally, I really enjoy exercise or movement therapy to clear my mind and reset myself physically, such as dance and rock climbing.
- Mental Health Apps
Whether you’re looking for a meditation app or mood tracker, there are tools for your phone that can help you on your path to exploring your mental health. Apps and alternative techniques can be beneficial in conjunction or as a starting point on your journey. Guided meditation apps are great for clearing the mind again and relieving stress. Meditation helped me understand that a thought is just a thought, and I can better control the thoughts and emotions that goes on in my head. Journaling and mood tracking apps help you notice and understand possible patterns or triggers for a decline in your mental health.
Mental health is an important process and takes time to navigate. I encourage you to please take time for yourself to reflect on all the achievements you make every day, even if it’s as simple as getting out of bed and making sure to eat three meals a day—self-care and taking the time to do that are HUGE accomplishments.
Adding in any of the above tips is just even more kudos to you!