How I Maintain My Mental Health & Practice Self-Care

I probably don’t need to begin this by reminding y’all of these ‘unprecedented circumstances’ and I’m sure you’re all tired of hearing it, so I’ll just skip all of that and jump right in. As someone who struggles with anxiety and PMDD, it’s really important to me that I stay in-tune with my emotions and communicate with myself. If I feel like something is off or brewing inside of me, I try to confront it head-on and get to the root of the issue. Sometimes, of course, you just have to stop cross-examining yourself and give your mind a rest. Here are the ways that I take care of myself and practice self love, particularly in tough times like these. 

I know it sounds really simple and cliche, but reaching out for support and upholding communication with your loved ones is so important! It can be as simple as a phone call to a best friend, partner, or family member. Whenever I’m feeling a bit gloomy or unmotivated, I’ll usually call either my best friend, Eli, or my boyfriend, Nathaniel. It doesn’t have to be a vent or a rant; even just having an upbeat, casual conversation can really lift my spirits and make me feel instantly better. In fact, sometimes it’s actually really nice and helpful to take your mind off the things that are driving you crazy, and focus on some more lighthearted thoughts for a while.

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Another way I maintain my mental health and practice self care is by keeping up with a personal journal, and no, I don’t mean my weekly blog newsletter! I have several actual print journals I write in, and unlike my blog content, I don’t share my journal with anybody. I think it’s important to have a special place where you can freely pour your thoughts onto paper, and not have to worry about what anyone else may think. I’m also starting to get into the art of junk journaling, which not only entails writing, but also crafting and sewing! I think it’s really beautiful to journal to yourself, and in most cases, it can give you a lot of clarity about problems you may be having. 

This is one that I particularly struggle with a lot: reminding myself that I am trying my best. Particularly in these strange times with my normal schedule being disruptive, I’m feeling less motivated and focused than usual. I also have ADD, which is making it really difficult for me to focus during my online classes. However, even though I’m sufficiently stressed and sometimes doubting myself, it’s important for me to remember that I am doing the best in these bizarre circumstances- and you are, too! It’s totally okay to feel not on top of your A game, because frankly, nobody knows what they’re doing right now. All you can really do is remind yourself that you are working your hardest in the given circumstances, and try to be gentle with yourself.  

Along with taking physical actions to improve my wellness, there are also a couple of analogies that help me to put things into perspective when I’m feeling anxious or overwhelmed. The first one comes from a wonderfully funny Buddhist monk named Ajahn Brahm, who posts fascinating lectures on YouTube, by the way. He said something in a video once that really impacted me, and the analogy has stuck with me since. Basically, he compared having lots of different stresses in your life to carrying around lots of heavy rocks in a backpack. He reminds us that it’s important to evaluate what ‘rocks’ we are carrying around, and to decide what weight we can take out of our backpacks and out on the backburner for a while. For me right now, I’m dealing with the stress of online college, finding a job after graduation, coronavirus, moving into my first apartment, etc. Ajahn Brahm’s analogy helps me because it’s a great way to physically envision everything on my plate, and subsequently decide what I can put on hold for a while to make the weight of life more bearable.

Another analogy I really like comes from a book called When You Reach Me. Rather than try to explain the idea, I’ll just go ahead and insert the quote here:

“Mom says each of us has a veil between ourselves and the rest of the world, like a bride wears on her wedding day, except this kind of veil is invisible. We walk around happily with these invisible veils hanging down over our faces. The world is kind of blurry, and we like it that way. But sometimes our veils are pushed away for a few moments, like there’s a wind blowing it from our faces. And when the veil lifts, we can see the world as it really is, just for those few seconds before it settles down again. We see all the beauty, and cruelty, and sadness, and love. But mostly we are happy not to. Some people learn to lift the veil themselves. Then they don’t have to depend on the wind anymore.”

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I’m not sure what it is about this quote that means so much to me, but I think about it all the time (at least a couple of times per week.) Pretty much every time I am reminded of the ‘big things’ in life, I can almost see myself lifting my veil and observing life in a more clear view. The other day, I stepped out of my apartment and noticed that the sunset was absolutely gorgeous. For me, that was such a veil-lifting moment: observing the quiet beauty of the world and forgetting about the tiny stressors in my life for a few minutes. And honestly, since that day, everything has felt a little bit more okay. 

Animal therapy is a hugely successful way to alleviate stress in your life, and I’m very fortunate to have a dog around to keep me company. Sometimes, you really just need a support system but you don’t feel like talking, and that’s where pets come into play as wonderful companions. My dog doesn’t judge me or understand anything that’s going on- he’s just happy to be here, and that’s honestly all I can ask for. Petting animals can also help lower your blood sugar, so the next time you’re feeling stressed or upset, consider adding some animal therapy into your life.

Although it’s just a simple, little thing, taking bubble baths is one of my favorite ways to unwind after a crazy or overwhelming day. I really don’t understand people who say bubble baths are boring. Just bring a book or a podcast with you, or honestly, just scroll through your phone if you really want to. There’s just something utterly relaxing and wonderful about being immersed in hot water for a half hour with a few candles burning. Even better, it’s an easy way to avoid human interaction, so you can have some peace and quiet to yourself for as long as you want. For bonus points, go all out and have a complete spa night, with face masks and cucumbers on your eyes. 

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I suppose this sort of relates to the spa night idea, but lastly, I like to do hobbies and activities that make me feel beautiful- and I utilize that time for myself as being extremely important. For me, this is taking 30-60 minutes to put on my makeup, usually while I listen to a podcast or watch a video. I like the way I look bare-faced as well, but there’s just something about a full-glam face of makeup that makes me feel really pretty and confident in myself. I think makeup is also a great way to get to know your face and embrace your features, which ultimately means finding new ways to love yourself! 

Those are all my tips and ways that I practice self-love and take care of my mental health. I hope you found this article helpful, and maybe you can even draw some inspiration from it! Let me know in the comments how you like to practice your own self-care.

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