Feel At Home In Your Own Mind
Updated: Mar 27, 2019
I believe that mental health is like a house. Just as a house is built of a foundation, four walls, and a ceiling, your mental health is built of six key components: sleep, nutrition, exercise, relationships, success at work or home, and self-actualization.
When these six things are in place, your mental health is intact. You feel good. You feel safe. And you feel capable of handling the challenges that life throws your way. But when these things are not in place, the opposite happens. You feel distressed, vulnerable, and overwhelmed. Your mental health suffers, and you feel stuck.
Let’s take a look at each component a little more closely...
Sleep is the foundation of the house. Without it, the walls can’t be held up. You won’t be able to stick to a healthy diet or exercise plan if you’re not getting adequate rest every night. Nor will you be able to stave off crankiness in your relationships. So if you aren’t yet committed to a consistent sleep and wake time, it’s time to get on it! You’ve probably heard people preaching about the importance of sleep hygiene and a morning routine. Well, these particular preachers happen to be right on the money, and you should definitely listen to them.
Nutrition sets you up for the day. You literally are what you eat, so it’s important to feast on high-calibre foods if you want to be high-calibre yourself. Does this mean you must drink kale smoothies for every meal? No! It just means you need to figure out what your body needs and go from there. Once you’ve fuelled your body properly, you can still have treats. That said, I’m not a nutritionist. Talking to a registered dietitian or nutritionist can be a good way to get started. They can even recommend special blood tests to determine if you’re lacking anything in your diet and special body scans to determine your body fat percentage and how many calories you need in a day.
Exercise (as difficult as it may be) makes you feel good. Have you ever regretted going to the gym? Well, maybe when you’re midway through a sweat-drenched 45-minute cardio session. But I’m willing to bet that you’ve never regretted it after it’s done! Exercise releases endorphins, which make you feel good. In fact, studies have shown that regular exercise can be just as effective as medication in combatting anxiety and depression. I know it seems daunting, but incorporating regular exercise into your routine is totally doable. You don’t have to pump iron or run marathons tomorrow, but finding a way to gradually increase the amount of movement in your life is a goal that will definitely pay off in the long run.
Relationships make us grow. Human beings form attachments starting in infancy, and we exist in a web of attachments for our entire lives. Good relationships make us happy and resilient, whereas bad relationships leave us drained. Although it’s difficult to do so, it’s important to look honestly at our relationships and ask ourselves what’s working and what isn’t. Do we need to express gratitude here? Do we need to be more trusting there? Do we need to set boundaries with anybody? Talking to a therapist is a good way to explore whether your relationships are promoting or sapping your well-being. Talking to a therapist can also help you develop the communication skills needed foster the right balance of intimacy and independence with the people in your life.
Success means different things to different people. For some, it’s all about job performance. For others, it could be about school, homemaking, and/or parenting. But fundamentally success is about contribution and responsibility. And it’s important to feel like we’re responsible for valuable contributions to the world, lest our lives feel meaningless! While it may not be realistic to always love what you do, it is realistic (and important) to at least be okay with what you do and to feel like you do it reasonably well. If your responsibilities are making you miserable, it might be time to think about making a change.
Self-actualization is the icing on the cake, the roof of the mental health house. I believe it is different than the satisfaction we may get from our careers and relationships alone. Perhaps you are one of the lucky people whose career has enabled you to become the exact person you want to be, but this certainly isn’t the case for everyone! It’s important to find activities that challenge you, making you grow intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. Maybe you loved drawing or writing before you gave it up for that dependable nine-to-five. Well, it may be time to pick up the pencil crayons again. As cushy as your job may be, you can’t put a price on creativity.
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