Checking In With Your Mental Health During Mental Health Awareness Month
By Rhonda Spaziani
Rhonda Spaziani is a Three Rivers Community College educator, a licensed therapist, hypnotherapist, meditation teacher, and certified children’s yoga instructor, currently in yoga school to teach adults too. Her goal is to release trauma from the body and aid those in the journey of healing, both physically and psychologically. More blogs, here.
Sometimes our worlds get so busy and we have so many things to cross off our To Do Lists that we become strangers to our own needs. We are on perpetual turbo cruise control, spinning our wheels from morning until bedtime. But where is the time for the me or the wein there? Answer the following five questions to assess if you need to step it down (not up!):
- What can I spend 15 minutes on today that refuels me (for example, reading, walking my dog, gardening, meditating, crossword puzzles, etc.)?
- What am I avoiding or procrastinating doing that would actually relieve some stress if I completed it?
- Am I spending enough quality time with family members or friends?
- Am I moving my body enough (at least a half hour of exercise per day)?
- Have I found my purpose? Big one!
It’s really important that we carve out some time each day to do something we love that re-energizes us and brings us peace. It’s in those quiet moments of equanimity that we reconnect to ourselves and who we are. We are so outwardly focused and connected with hundreds, thousands of others (even the world) that we have lost touch with ourselves. We seriously need to rebuild that friendship with ourselves.
Here’s the super cool thing: if we just attempt a few minutes of an activity, miraculously, more minutes may magically appear and we may actually stay on the enjoyable task longer than anticipated. All for the greater good! And if we don’t stay longer, we’ve at least devoted 15 minutes to it. Truly, we don’t have to feel guilty for taking a couple of minutes each day to do something we love!
Perfectionism breeds procrastination. We often put off tasks that we fear we will not be good at and become bound by our own perfectionism (avoiding math homework or taxes anyone?). We can give ourselves permission to complete a project with a C level of effort, which is far greater then no effort at all! Like we say in college, “Cs get degrees!” So too does completing a task competently but not perfectly. It gets the job done, if not with a perfect score. Who cares if the basement isn’t perfectly organized! Did you get rid of 5 boxes of old clothes? Fabulous! Progress, not perfection is the goal.
Procrastination increases anxiety and negative self-talk. Have you ever wished you didn’t complete a project/task/assignment that was due? Me either. The trick is to just do it for 5 minutes, and just like doing something we love for a few minutes a day, doing a few minutes of something we’re avoiding per day also yields great rewards. Five minutes frequently turns into more, but if not, that’s still 25 minutes per week. Do it the moment you think of it! Nike didn’t say, “Just Do It” for no reason. It works!
Humans need other humans, even introverts. We are social animals who need some form of tribe or pack. Support systems are critical to overall mental health, physical health, and longevity. So, if you’re feeling all alone on an island lately, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and either make time for family and friends, or find family and friends. How, you ask? Join clubs, take personal interest classes, go to the gym and take exercise classes, and contact old friends, anything that increases your contact with possible future friends (who may become family over time) in a healthy way. Notice we didn’t recommend going to a bar to make friends?
If you already have your posse, but you’ve just been in hiding for a while, invite one or more of them out for a walk, coffee, dinner, or whatever is your thing that you do/did together.
The body is made to move. We’ve become a society of sitters and its impacting our overall health. Being sedentary is as risky as smoking. It increases the danger of coronary heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, and even death. Now the good news: if we exercise, it’s a powerful depression and anxiety fighter as well as ADHD modulator (as effective as antidepressants, ADHD, and antianxiety medications) without the side effects. It releases feel good endorphins—dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. It even promotes neural growth and increases self-esteem. Exercise additionally aids in the prevention of substance abuse relapse. It’s an all-around win-win for wellbeing and health. It can be as simple as a walk around the block or with your dog. Great strategy: text your old or new friends, leash up your dog, and reconnect to nature, yourself, and your support systems.
Finding your life’s purpose is your life’s purpose, but it’s sort of like looking for love—it doesn’t come when you’re trying too hard. Some people are born with knowing what they want to do with their life, but the rest of us sort of bumble around until we trip over what makes us happy and serves the greater good. The greater good part is the key ingredient, and it doesn’t have to come from your job. It can be from any number of activities we engage in.
When we do for others our psyche sings. It can be for the planet, for animals, for a neighbor, for children, or for goldfish. The “It” isn’t as important as the intention. If we act in ways that enhances the universe’s vibrations with kindness and compassion, we change ourselves too (even at the molecular level!). Bringing joy begets joy.
This is your prescription for greater happiness: be present for yourself and extend the love and care you would for your most cherished love one. Because you are your most cherished love one. You will be with you every day of your entire life. Be kind, be generous, be patient with you. That is the most important part of your life purpose. And then, go kiss a goldfish!