Updated: May 31, 2019
My shtick (if you haven't noticed yet) is women understanding themselves, honoring themselves, and moving society in a direction of embracing the strength and power of authentic femininity.
A clear example of this is reproductive biology since that is a physically obvious difference between men and women. As a concurrent facet to wellness, mental health/emotional literacy is right there next to physical health/body literacy.
They overlap, feed off each other, and are not mutually exclusive.
Emotions have been scoffed at in society. Rational, cerebral experiences are valued whereas emotions are to be minimized. Mental health disorders are often seen as character defects. This has to change!
The nature of the feminine genius, allowing space for others to be themselves and grow and develop, requires us to understand our own thoughts, feelings, and desires, in order to make space for others to process theirs.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month.
In honor of that, here is a glimpse of the most recent chapter of my mental health journey.
Jude was 4 months old when I started an antidepressant. It’s not my first go-around with SSRIs. I have battled paralyzing anxiety— manifesting as rage— for as long as I can remember. You add in the physiological changes of the postpartum time, and it became unbearable.
Within days of starting sertraline, I was able to be the mom I wanted to be. Of course I lost my temper because #kids. But I wasn’t in screaming fits of rage, beyond my control, over an overturned basket of laundry.
Since then, I’ve been able to incorporate various lifestyle changes to support my mental and emotional health. I’ve worked with a therapist to understand— and honor— my own emotions. I track my cycle to anticipate when days may be emotionally challenging in order to hit the self care that much harder.
This is my general routine. Notice, there's a lot to it. Mental health takes work, especially when you have an underlying predisposition or disease process. For me, it takes commitment to my wellness every. single. day.
I'm slowly becoming okay with this as I systemically destroy the lie that mental health should be easy to "fix." It takes just as much, if not more, dedication to healthy habits for me to stave off panic attacks as it does to lose 20 lbs. of baby weight.
1. Medications, as needed
In my case, I'm referring to SSRIs. There are plenty of other antidepressants, antipsychotics, mood stabilizing medications that can be utilized depending on circumstance and individual healthcare need.
I’ve trialed with going off these medications. I’ve been put on a regimen that’s is only taken during the luteal phase because my anxiety is highest the days before my period. I am not ashamed of needing medication. Now, there are side effects I don’t like. So I am regularly weighing which is worse— the anxiety or the medication side effects— just as you’d expect with most any other medication.
I have worked consistently for almost three years with a therapist and a spiritual director. That's not counting the various times in adolescence and early adulthood I went to therapy because I "should," I lied to get a stamp of "you're doing great," and proceeded to continue down the exact same destructive path.
Do not underestimate the value of a good therapist! Especially once you are ready to be open and honest. No one makes it to adulthood unscathed. Having the right avenues to process any wounds not only allows future relationships to thrive, but it prevents the passing on of trauma to future generations.
If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it. -Richard Rohr
3. 2 cup of coffee max
If I have 3 or more cups, it aggravates my anxiety. Unless the third cup is decaf. And it’s been raining and gross for the past week so a warm (decaf) beverage will be necessary mid-day.
4. Water water water!!!
I have instructed my husband and close friends to explicitly ask if I’ve had water when I seem extremely anxious. On more than one occasion, Roger has brought me a 32 oz glass of water (my first that day at 4pm, preceded by 4 cups of coffee) and after 20 oz. and 10 min, I am noticing significant relief. This sequence of events happens more often than I’d like to admit. 🤦🏼♀️
5. Gut health
90% of serotonin is made in the gut. I’ve found a whole food supplement that aids in gut health, my husband enjoys fermenting foods, and I have probiotics since I usually can’t bring myself to eat his homemade sauerkraut even in the name of #guthealth.
Check out my favorite things page for affiliate links* to some of these products.
6. Blood sugar control
I am a self-identified sugar addict. And it sends me on a blood sugar rollercoaster that I chase all day, feeling awful and anxious.
Last year, I was introduced to a whole food supplement with the glycemic index of broccoli. 🥦🥦🥦 Now my blood sugar stays stable, keeping my energy consistent throughout the day.
Could I just eat chicken and vegetables for lunch? Sure. But most days I won’t. I will tell myself, "I shouldn’t eat the macaroni and cheese I fixed for the kids," and then I don’t eat anything until I’m hangry and reaching for sugar-laden treats for relief— starting the blood sugar chasing rollercoaster.
Bonus: The whole food powder also contains mushrooms and under no circumstance will I eat them in any other form. :)
There was a time in my life that I needed metformin for blood sugar control. If the need arises again, I’ll take it. Gotta love the endocrine consequences of PCOS. #sarcasm
7. Vitamin D
It’s rainy, gloomy, and gross outside. We’ve had a few nice days but mostly it went from cold and snowy to barely warmer and rainy. My vitamin D is in the toilet, as are most northerners who lack sun in the winter. Seriously, if you live north of Kansas, it's probably a good idea to add some Vitamin D to your daily routine.
8. Saying ”no”
My schedule is intentionally kept minimal after this past year of being stretched too thin. I need downtime for my mental health.
9. Podcasts and books
These two podcasts are my current jam. They are helping me (in conjunction with therapy) understand my story, honor my emotions, set appropriate boundaries, and nurture my mental health.
I have worked through many trauma recovery workbooks, spiritual and mental health devotionals, etc. I continue to process and journey forward.
10. Less screen time
I can literally feel when my anxiety is rising from too much time spent looking at my phone. I put it down, go play with the kids or cook a meal, and I feel better. Just reengaging with the real world...seems so simple yet it can be so hard to do!
“Hands Free Mama” is a great read to jumpstart yourself in to limiting screen time!
This makes the top 3 for my most effective self care interventions. Clutter and messes aggravate my anxiety to an extreme. My lean toward minimalism was borne from a place of desperation. If we have less stuff, there’s less opportunity for mess, and whatever messes are made can be cleaned up quickly.
Finishing the dishes, clearing the counters, sorting the mail as I walk past the recycle bin (before I step foot into the house) are all little things that have a major impact on my mental health.
12. Gratitude journal...and journaling in general.
I also (do my best to) keep a gratitude journal. The mind follows where the eyes are focused.
Standard journaling is also mentally therapeutic for many reasons, AND it reintegrates areas of the brain that should ideally be communicating with each other— but currently are not due to trauma or other neurologically damaging experiences.
The following are currently in the top 15 because I *know* they’re important. But for now, they severely lack consistency. #babysteps
15. Showering/Getting ready first thing in the morning.
*This is not a substitute for a consultation with a mental health professional if you are concerned about your mental health.
I simply want to share what it takes for me to thrive emotionally most days. Mental health isn’t just “look on the bright side,” just as physical health isn’t “think about healthy foods and exercise.” It takes intention, persistence, and dedication.
This isn’t an exhaustive list. I suspect in one year or five years, my list may have changed slightly. But these are the things that currently help me practice wellness in regards to my emotions and mental state.
Mental Health Awareness Month is wrapping up as June is just a few days away. A new month is a new opportunity to take inventory, set goals, and learn what helps you thrive. I will always suggest cycle tracking for women to get in tune with their bodies and monitoring mental health can go hand in hand with that.
*Affiliate links: I can earn a small commission on qualifying purchases. It does not affect your purchase price at all.