My Five Small Steps in Maintaining Good Mental Health

You don’t have to have depression, anxiety, BPD, PTSD or any other diagnosis to practice good mental health. In today’s world, full of its unique pressures, self care and looking after ourselves is important. Having an awareness of our mental health is crucially important to its upkeep. Many of you may do this without thinking, others might need a little push.

As I am someone who often needs that little push, for the month of May I have decided to pinpoint five ways I can take control and help myself to put in place good mental health practices. I hope I can always come back to these when times are hard, and find small ways to break downward thought spirals or motivate myself to look after myself.

Prioritise Myself (and stop feeling guilty for it!)

I am hoping to take lots of opportunities for self care this month, and to stop feeling pressured to please others. Hopefully, being aware of my own needs, and being able to assert self in attending to them, will enable me to feel more balanced- and I hope I can stop feeling guilty for spending time with and for myself. I spent years being really very social, desperate to please people and constantly worried about how others thought of and saw me, and I completely neglected myself. I do think this may have been the reason for a lot of complications with my mental health that I have experienced since. I think investing in myself would have been so helpful back then, and although I can’t go back in time and alter my behaviour, I can learn from these experiences.

I will be able to recognise when I am unable to help others, or can say no to things when appropriate. I will be able to invest my energies into my routine. Crucially I will remember that time for myself doesn’t necessarily have to be productive- reading a book is just as valid as baking a cake, watching my favourite show on TV is just as good a use of my time as crafting (which I’m terrible at). If in doubt there’s always a bubble bath with my favourite playlist.

Notice what triggers me, and avoid it!

Trying to be more aware of those things which make me sad, envious, or are the catalyst for a downwards spiral can hopefully help me to try and actively avoid them. I’m aware that this is much easier said than done.

I am quite self-destructive, both unintentionally and purposefully. When I’m feeling incredibly frantic or anxious and I’m spiralling out of control I will often seek out the things that provoke a negative reaction in me. This is because I think that is what I deserve, or that I can not actually see anything else apart from the bad things in my life and gravitate towards them. When my depression feels like it is paralysing me, I will seek out opportunities to try and feel some sort of emotion, even if that emotion is negative, because feeling numb is so strange for someone who is often experiencing the complete highs and lows of the emotional spectrum.

I am hoping for this month I can make some positive steps, and even on occasion try and avoid such triggers, and possibly remove the things from my life which are having an overwhelmingly negative impact. I have made some progress in this so far, not using social media as much and explaining to others what I can and can’t handle in conversations, but I still think I have a way to go. Also, these triggers will change, but I’m hoping that being more self aware will help me to notice these too.

Remember the Good

This month I hope to try and break the cycle of negative thoughts, by reminding myself of why I am a good person, and celebrate my achievements. I think having a list somewhere could be really helpful, as it is something physical I can refer to when my brain is working against me. I convince myself I’m awful and I’ve failed at each and every step of my life, enviously looking at the achievements of others. I am utterly sure that I am horrible, and that the lives of others around me would be demonstrably improved if I was no longer a part of them. I wish I had never met friends, or former partners, because my existence has formed a negative smear in their own stories.

But, when I’m clearer and more rational I can think differently. I remember what I had to overcome to get to university. I remember how I landed the job of my dreams, and I didn’t drastically mess up, and when I was ready for a change I was successful in being offered another job against a lot of very tough competition. I’ve travelled Europe, and have more solo travels planned. Many tell me I am caring and kind, which goes against my own perception of myself as a manipulative, awful person that is destined to cause grief in the life of others.

Although I have made some mistakes in my life, and I would never pretend otherwise, I am certain  that I’m at a stage in my life where everything I do when I am healthy is backed with good intention. I am hoping that remembering what makes me a good person, and my achievements, will help me to ease downward spirals. I see so much good in others around me, and one day I would like to see and believe the good in myself too.

Adventure (responsibly)

This month, and in fact for a few before, I have turned my attention to experiences. Although I am currently trying to save money, which is sometimes difficult with the impulsive manic episodes of BPD I have been going through, I have decided to also look into fiscally sensible adventures! This month I am heading to London, after some cheap train tickets and a cheap AirBnB (3 nights in central London for £80!) came up. Last time I visited London I found and extraordinarily cheap ticket to Aladdin on the stage, and this time my sister and I will see Wicked for £19 each! I plan to make picnics (weather permitting), find lovely little spots for a cup of tea and a chance to read my book, and catch up with friends, and I’m excited for this little adventure.

In July I am going on a month long adventure to Denmark (with a little stop in Germany). I am going to stay with a family, and work on their farm, and learn about new foods and cultures in a country I’ve always wanted to visit. I’m excited, although as it creeps a little closer I am starting to also get quite nervous about the fact I’m going away for a whole month. I imagine it’ll fly by though, then I will have my (also scary but hugely exciting) new job to return to.

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I'm going to do more of this. 📷 @britandco

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This point is twofold. I have been struggling to reach out to the right people to talk to when I feel really low, and I’ve also found it difficult to maintain contact with my friends.

I’d like to try and remind myself that people do still wish to be my friend, and to make a little bit more of an effort to keep in touch, whilst also not putting undue pressure on myself. I hope I can work towards getting this balance right over the coming month.

I also need to find that right people to talk to when I feel down. After recently deciding my current channel for support was unsuitable (although I thank them for their patience, time and support), I need to try to find alternatives. I recently stopped private therapy, due to cost and time constraints, and I need to be more confident in reaching out to listening services such as the Samaritans when I’m feeling low and hopeless, and also feel comfortable in talking to my family a little more about what I’m going through.

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