A lot of people I talk to think of their mental health journey as a fairly linear path. Fairly because we know that we will not always make progress in our journey or find healing as quickly as we hope. Linear because many people expect to continue making forward progress on their journey and be able to map their changes along the way. However, this fairly linear path is not the path to wellness most of us take.
Any one who has ever tried to make lasting change in some area of their life knows that there are often setbacks on this journey. When we work toward achieving better mental health, there are both good days and bad days. Over time, we will have more good days than bad ones, but we still have to anticipate and prepare for any setbacks. Setbacks are the days where our mental health challenges are so difficult, that it feels impossible to get out of bed or move forward. The preparations we make on our good days will help us move forward and still care for ourselves on the bad ones.
The skills we develop to help us prepare for bad days are also skills that can help us during chaotic and stressful times. When done consistently, these skills can improve your overall mental health and help you feel better on bad days.
Create a Successful Environment
The first step to creating a successful environment is learning what helps you feel better on bad days. Make sure you have access to healthy foods that require little preparation to eat so that you can give your body the support it needs to recover. Add things to your space that encourage you and help you feel calm like your favorite lighting, scents, decorations, and memories. Take away the things that feel cluttered, stressful or remind you of work you need to do.
Build a Support Network
When you’re having a bad day, some of the best medicine is having friends and family to call on for help. The people closest to us can help us unwind and escape from our thoughts. They can also remind us of our value when we have a hard time believing in it for ourselves.
Take Care of Your Physical Health
It is a lot easier to prioritize your physical health when you’re having a good day. Developing these habits on the good days helps us remember how much they help us on the bad days. When you exercise regularly, it improves your mood and gives your body strength for the bad days. Taking vitamins and eating a balanced diet are other ways to improve our mental health. In addition, implementing spiritual practices like prayer and meditation can help us feel calm and provide mental strength on the bad days.
Enough vs Perfection
When we take care of ourselves, we can get stuck in the mentality that we must do certain things every single day (working out, eating healthy, meditating, etc) or we have not done enough. This mentality can leave us feeling worse about ourselves on the days where we physically cannot move toward action. On the good days, we can practice self-compassion and remind ourselves that we are doing enough. This self-compassionate voice recognizes that our capacity changes and that’s okay. Each day, we have to define what is enough for that day instead of shaming ourselves for not attaining perfection. Practicing self-compassion allows us to show ourselves grace and ask for help on the bad days because we know we deserve it.
If you need help finding that self-compassionate voice or feel stuck on your own mental health journey, we would love to help you move forward. Give us a call to begin this process together!
Written by therapist Elise Champanhet
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