The loss of legendary designer Kate Spade was felt by far more than just those in the fashion community. A mother, wife and champion for celebrating life, Spade’s legacy is further opening the conversation surrounding the delicate topic of mental health. In the wake of the shock, her company, Kate Spade New York, has pledged to donate one million dollars to mental health awareness causes, including those aimed at suicide prevention. This big effort serves as a timely reminder that there are so many little things that we can all do everyday to help us manage our own mental health. Here are 10 mental health tips to help you navigate your personal mental health journey:
1. You Are Unique, Your Condition Isn’t
Everyone has a different story when it comes to mental health. Even people who have similar diagnoses of anxiety or depression can have vastly different experiences. Feeling misunderstood is often one of the biggest obstacles people face when it comes to opening up about what they have been going through. According to the ADAA, more than 40 million adults in the U.S. have a diagnosed anxiety disorder.
That’s almost 20% of the population and it’s only accounting for the cases which have been diagnosed – not to mention people under the age of 18. Once you go under 18, the percentage of the affected population jumps up to 25%. You should never feel weird or embarrassed about your feelings or situation because these numbers indicate that a huge portion of the world is right there with you. You are not broken or an outcast. You fit into a huge community of people who are also dealing with their unique struggles and trials of mental health, but it can make their mental health tips all the more valuable.
2. Study Yourself – Learn Your Triggers And What Works
For some people, anxiety and depression seem to come out of nowhere. For others, they can appear routinely and are expected to show up day after day. Either way, it can be helpful to take stock of the events or moments leading up to and following a wave of anxiety or depression. These low points, as I like to call them, are more cyclic than we often like to admit.
Whether it be certain people or thoughts, atmospheres or smaller things like exams and job interviews, knowing what works its way into your mind in a negative way can help you make positive changes to help deal with similar situations in the future. Knowing yourself is your best tool and one of the best mental health tips. For some of us, going for a walk or run, reading a book, watching a movie or doing meditation can all be quick fixes to pull ourselves out of a low point. But if you don’t study yourself to discover the things that hurt and help you, it can be easy to feel completely overwhelmed and powerless in your journey.
3. Take A Time-Out
Calling time-out on life is kind of a power move and one of the most valuable mental health tips. But for the purposes of writing this article, I have a secret that needs to be let out: you have all the power. Life is crazy and always moving and changing around us. Expectations seem to be spiraling to new heights and sometimes when we fall short we feel like we’ve hit all-time lows. It’s no wonder that we are constantly anxious and worried about life.
I know it is often one of the “easier said than done” pieces of advice but doing what you want, no, what you need, is important. If you’ve taken on too much, it’s okay to say no. You can walk away for a few minutes and breathe. Take the time you need to evaluate the situation, so that you can come back and actually take care of business. There is a difference between giving up and giving in. Don’t quit the path because it’s overwhelming and hard. Admit that it’s overwhelming, take a minute to take stock of the situation and then come back with a plan and a refreshed mentality to help you get the job done.
4. Prioritize Yourself
Something that goes hand in hand with taking a time-out is prioritizing yourself. Sometimes we feel selfish for putting ourselves first. It can feel like we aren’t adequately acknowledging the needs of others. But how can you be there for someone else if you can’t be there for yourself? I know a lot of us try and do this every single day, but the truth is that it’s just not effective.
As an introvert, I know that I need time to recharge and spend some time alone. To my extroverted friends however, this can be confusing because they see me as outgoing. I can feel like I am hurting them by not jumping at the opportunity to make plans or go to every single social event on the calendar. I remind myself, however, that it is always better for both parties when they are both mutually invested and prepared to have a good time than when one side is completely drained and struggling to keep up.
5. Evaluate Your Fortress
I would define, “your fortress,” as all the things that you allow to surround you. It’s anything physical or abstract that you come into contact with on a regular basis. From the company you keep to the activities you participate in and where you spend most of your time, your fortress can be your greatest ally or your greatest threat. When we are young it is easy to quite literally follow the crowd and our friends to the places they like to spend time.
But being true to yourself and knowing what bothers you are easy ways to make sure you aren’t exposing yourself to more unnecessary triggers for anxiety or depression. Keeping a small circle of close and trusted friends and family you can be vulnerable with is a great asset to your fortress. Also having little things that incorporate positivity and calmness into your daily life like cleaning your room or keeping reminders around the house can help set up a positive framework in your mind.
6. Take Care Of Your Body
Taking care of your body usually means different things to different people. In terms of diet and exercise we all fall on a spectrum somewhere between Dwayne Johnson and a sloth. It’s cool. We’re all different and our lives allow for different means of self care. It’s important to take care of your body, however, because it is the shell for your mind. Hopefully we can all agree that basic hygiene is important. But beyond that, what you do can be totally customizable to what you like and what you have access to.
Some people enjoy sweating it out everyday in the gym, on the trail or in a fun workout class. Some of us do yoga in our rooms using a YouTube video. Another important aspect of physical health is diet. I don’t mean being on a diet, but just being cognizant of what you are putting into your body. Remember that food is fuel and it’s definitely true that it can have an effect on our mood and hormone levels. Eating clean and natural isn’t always my first desire when I feel like I can’t even get off the couch, but the long term effects are much better even though treating yourself to ice cream isn’t a crime at all.
7. Write It Down
Some people love journaling. And I mean “devote entire Instagram pages to it” love it. Journaling can be a fantastic way to mentally take the trash out. Not that your feelings or thoughts are garbage, but sometimes they can feel toxic. Letting yourself open up and work through your thoughts in a way that doesn’t require you to be vulnerable with another person can be a really healthy way of processing things.
Bottling up your emotions is dangerous because at some point you will have to release that pressure. Carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders is only cool if you’re a Greek god. Being able to just let it out on paper can make you feel so much lighter and calmer afterwards. All the thoughts that were swirling around inside your mind are now stuck inside your journal as soon as you close it.
8. Distract Yourself
One of the best mental health tips is finding the balance between doing too little and too much is one of the hardest obstacles we face in life. Some weeks we are running in five different directions trying to keep up with everything while other weeks we feel like nobody but Netflix knows we exist. For the busy weeks I refer you back to tip number three (time-out), but I find that a lot negative thoughts come when your brain doesn’t have anything else to focus on.
When you feel them coming, it can be really effective to immediately transfer your focus to something else. Meeting up with friends, going to a movie or trying a new recipe, going for a walk, practicing a hobby or working on a project are all things you can turn your attention to as soon as something negative begins to steal it. Giving your brain the time to fall into old habits can be dangerous. Even though taking some time to relax and do nothing can be beneficial in the midst of a mental low point, it can be equally as dangerous if it’s not an intentional or effective way to manage the situation.
9. Ask For Help
Asking for help with anything can feel really irritating or embarrassing, especially if you ascribe to the typical traits of a Type-A personality. We’ve all been told that there is no shame in asking for help a million times now though, to the point of it even sounding a bit cliché. A common reason people don’t ask for help is because they feel it is a sign of weakness, an admission that they are out of control.
But that’s just false. In fact, it is one of the most helpful mental health tips. Asking for help is not an admission of weakness, but a demonstration of strength. It is so much more admirable and impressive to know your limits and be honest about it than to fail as result of your own stubbornness. Saying that you need help is not embarrassing, but an example of security and maturity. The people who do ask for help and are open about their experiences are the ones who lead others to also dealing with mental health struggles. Being honest about your journey is always going to have a positive impact not only on you, but maybe on someone else too, which is why giving mental health tips can be so valuable.
10. Respect The Process
It would be misleading and very inaccurate to say that doing any of these things or the numerous practices advocated for managing mental health will completely resolve any mental health issues you may be facing. Mental health is tricky and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all cure. For many people there isn’t a cure at all. Sometimes talking to your doctor can help you get it under control pretty quickly, as they can offer many mental health tips.
But for others, it can be a month to life-long process of managing and coping. The biggest reminder in this is to not let it wear you down. It’s difficult and you will feel like you are fighting yourself from time to time, but you are also sitting in the driver’s seat with the keys. Monitoring your mental health can be as simple as doing a quick “how am I feeling?” check-in when you wake up or go to bed each day. Combining the mental health tips you pick up along the way with acceptance and understanding are the best ways make it through your mental health journey as smoothly as possible.