How often do you stop to think about your mental health? Has your mental health ever/always been a priority? For me, my mental health wasn’t always a priority. The phrase “mental health” entered my vocabulary only three and a half years ago when I developed anxiety. It forcibly became a priority because I constantly felt overwhelmed, nauseous, and uneasy. I abandoned self-care when I stopped sleeping more than four hours a night and eating regularly due to paralyzing perfectionism. I often felt myself dissociating because of exhaustion having no idea what was happening to me. Because I neglected my mental health, I fell into the worst mental state I ever experienced.
A Facebook post during the times I neglected my mental health in college.
Unlearning Neglect and Learning Self-Care
Neglecting my mental health remained easy as grades became more important. Working toward good grades distracted me from my misty reality. I’d rather be in a classroom than outside of one. To-do lists compiled in my head adding to my exhaustion. Laundry, food shopping, sleep, class, extracurricular activities, projects, research, tests, and everything else piled up in my head. After realizing how much damage I already inflicted on myself, it was too late to reverse the anxiety that took over my life. My overwhelming workload did not allow me to see what I was doing to my mental health. The next phase of my life with self-care began.
Three years following my mental health awakening consist of self-awareness, writing, tea, and support from my family and friends. Asking for help or reading insightful articles about others experiencing similar struggles is how I’m learning to cope with my daily anxiety. Although my days aren’t easy, I find refuge in self-care, eating, and getting sleep (even though my sleep patterns need major adjustments).
Why I Can’t Fall Back Into Neglect
Because self-care can get tiring as I’m constantly trying to control my anxious thoughts and symptoms, I sometimes experience demotivation allowing my anxious thoughts to consume me. When my anxiety takes over I can’t sleep or concentrate well. Self-care must immediately follow attempted neglect of my mental health because I start to panic and have anxiety attacks. It was easy to continue to push myself prior to having a mental break, but now I’m constantly working to better my mental health and help others with theirs too.
Giving myself tasks helps me to stay focused on my mental health. I plan, organize, and allocate enough time to meet my freelance and professional goals. I’m learning to think through all my decisions to ensure that I’m adding in self-care, not giving myself too much to do. I’m trying my best to keep working, trying, and making peace with what I can’t change.
Final Thoughts and Tips
If you’re ever struggling with your mental health ask yourself if you’re overexerting your energy. Give yourself a reasonable amount of tasks to do per day. Be proud of yourself! Self-care is specific to you and you only. What is best for you might not be best for everyone. Get to know yourself!
Ask yourself these questions to help create a self-care first aid kit:
- How am I feeling?
- What calms me down when I feel overwhelmed, anxious, depressed, or uneasy?
- Who can I talk to when I need some help?
- Should I try therapy?
- When is my next therapy appointment?
- What are my favorite songs when I am struggling?
- Where are safe spaces for me when I’m struggling with my mental health?
- How can I organize my day so I won’t get too overwhelmed?
- Am I including self-care in my day?
- Should I utilize a planner?
- What parts of my day do I want to take a break?
- What are creative ways that can improve my mental health?
- When I’m struggling with my mental health am I practicing breathing exercises, mindfulness, or meditation?
- What are my favorite activities?
- Is my current self-care tactics helpful can I improve how I think about my mental health?
Whatever helps you to feel better are the best strategies to add to your mental health first-aid kit. Keep working toward wellness! You will see improvements. It’s easy to neglect your mental health as you prioritize everything else that’s going on around you. Once a day take some time to think about how you are feeling. Ask yourself your first-aid kit questions. Make your mental health a priority. Take care of your mind too.
Nina is a Latina from Brooklyn, NY who struggles with depression and anxiety. She finds refuge and healing through her writing since she graduated from college in 2016. Nina writes to spread awareness and hope to those who struggle with their mental health silently. She also strives to motivate and encourage self-acceptance. She enjoys creating creative and uplifting content on her blog SparklyWarTanks.com where she shares her experiences, notes, poems, quotes, and articles