Today, October 10, is World Mental Health Day. It is a day to think about and remember that mental health is an important part of our overall health. It is a good day to think about the issues surrounding mental health and how we can better our understanding of mental health.
I always find this day a little odd, though. To my knowledge, there is not a World Mental Illness Day. Now, there are days committed to different mental illnesses, but not one in general. This to me is a little odd. We have come to understand the importance of mental health due to the large number of people who deal with a mental illness. In the United States alone, roughly 20-25% of people deal with a mental illness (or a mental health issue) in a given year. Yet, we often simply talk about mental health and not about how these people are supposed to work through their mental illnesses.
Now, I understand the importance of mental health. And, in reality, mental health is for everyone. Everyone can benefit from taking better care of their mental health. This is the same as one’s physical health. We can all benefit from taking care of our physical health. It is important, then, to really deal with our mental health as well.
I also find the idea of mental health to be a little watered down. It tends to get down to doing things that make you feel good. Mental health is more than that. It is putting work in to make sure that your mental health is a primary concern. Taking a bath once a month is not putting the work in for mental health, although a regular bath may be part of your mental health path. Instead, taking care of your mental health is multi-faceted and needs more than just a “here and there” approach.
So, as someone with bipolar 2 disorder, here are some of the things that I do for my mental health.
1. I go to counseling and take my medication. This is a really important part of my mental health journey. Without these, I would have a real problem being able to do much of anything else. And, simply taking medication and going to counseling is not enough. I take my medication to keep my head straight enough to do the work that counseling brings up in my life. Counseling is a way to see the blind spots that I have in my life and it shows these to me. It is then my responsibility to work on these and to do the work day in and day out in a way that helps me in my mental health journey.
2. I have a support network. People are made to need and rely on other people. This is an important part of who we are. Your support network can be as big or as small as you like. I know people with lots and lots of friends and I know others with fewer friends. I know people that are close to their families and others who are not. The important part is to find people you like and that can be a positive part of your life and then to spend time with them. This is utterly important.
3. I find things that I enjoy. I like to be creative. I write, I play music, and I do art. I am not particularly great at any of them, but it is what I enjoy. There is something about being creative and letting my feelings out in these ways. These are things that I enjoy. Now, I used to really enjoy running and that was a very important part of my mental health. But, I got injured and can no longer run. So, these things can change. Find what you like to do, what makes you happy or fulfilled, and do it.
4. I practice mindfulness. Now, there are mixed results on how mindfulness affects us. For me, though, it helps me feel connected to the world around me and also helps me live in the moment, the here and now. I have a tendency to get really far ahead of myself at times and this can stress me out and cause anxiety. Practicing mindfulness helps me be present in my life in the moment and to embrace that.
So, what are some things you do for your mental health?