Each day this month I will be answering one question from these December Journal Prompts.
Day 13: Over the past year what methods or activities have helped your mental health?
In the past I have had to be very intentional about the methods and activities I have engaged in to help my mental health thrive. Over the course of this year, I found I was spending much less time thinking about this and more time just living it! I think this means that taking care of myself is become more habitual for me, and I think that’s cool! Looking back on my year, here are three helpful habits of mine that improved my mental health status in 2018!
1. Taking breaks.
I think most moms struggle with the 24/7 demands of keeping up with their little ones’ needs. I certainly found it to be physically and mentally draining at times this year. It was so important for me to get a break once in a while. As I mentioned in Loud and Proud (3 Ways I Conquered 2018), a popular piece of advice that I got from a lot of moms while I was pregnant was to be sure to ask for lots of help once baby arrived. Taking this advice often meant getting the breaks I needed to look after myself and foster a positive state of mental health.
Everybody needs a break now and then. Whether you’re a stay-at-home-mom, a high school student trying to get a scholarship to university, a corporate ladder climber, or a video game junkie that sits in the basement all day trying to achieve your next objective, taking a break from that thing you spend the most time on is a very healthy step towards achieving that elusive sense of balance we all crave. Sometimes taking a break might mean a bit of extra work up front, and that often seems overwhelming. But in my experience this year, it was worth it!
2. Taking risks.
There are times in life when the best thing I can do for my mental health is to stay the course, respect my limits, and keep within the healthy boundaries that I have set up for myself. And then there are times when I think it is very wise to take some risks! Boundaries are so important for a person like me, because it is very easy with my obsessive personality and perfectionistic nature to go overboard on a project and let it completely consume me. But if I always just stick to what is safe and never take any risks at all, I wouldn’t really be challenging myself grow past fear and anxiety.
This year I jumped into a few new adventures without knowing what the outcome would be or how it would affect my life. It felt risky, but the results were overwhelmingly positive. I experienced things I never could have experienced if I had allowed fear to hold me back. I learned more about myself and the people in my life. I saw what I was capable of with a little help and a lot of prayer. And I had fun!
Taking risks can be scary. And I should probably add the disclaimer that taking certain risks will very certainly not be of benefit to your mental health. But if you are wise about your choices, and refuse to let fear win, taking risks can be a big step towards becoming braver than before.
3. Taking the focus off me.
One thing that happens when you have a newborn is that you just sort of forget that you exist at all for a while—or, at least, that has been my experience! At times this was problematic for me, as I mentioned in my first point, but on the other hand, I also found it to be a much more rewarding experience than constantly focusing on myself and my own needs.
In the past few years I have done a lot of soul searching and focused a lot on my own growth and self-improvement. And that’s great! But sometimes I think my focus on my own mental health can become a distraction in and of itself and almost turn into a self-perpetuating cycle. The more I focus on my mental health, the more I think of every little event through the lens of fear and anxiety, and the more I label myself as a person who struggles with mental illness.
But this year, I was just a mom. I wasn’t a mom with an anxiety disorder. I wasn’t a mom with crippling fear. I was just a mom. I focused my time and energy on giving the very best of myself to this tiny, little miracle, and it was so refreshing. This year I learned that sometimes I just need to take the focus off myself and let the joy of serving others work its wonders on my mental health.
I know there were other things this year that positively contributed to my mental health as well, but these three stand out. What about for you? What helpful habits have you implemented in your life to improve your mental health this year?