Mental health is a hot topic these days and for good reason. So many of us put self care on the back burner and after a while it starts to take a serious toll on our mental health. Diagnosis of anxiety and depression are at record numbers these days and although people are trying to look after themselves a bit more it still appears to be a struggle on how to actually do it. We’ve all heard about gratitude lists and as much as I love them if you aren’t consistent, they’re useless. Today, I’m not going to give you the same old self care tips you usually hear and gloss over. I’m going to give you some real tangible tools to start implementing that won’t take up much time so you can actually be successful at it. Mental health is the farthest thing from an overnight fix but if you’re constantly anxious, agitated, overwhelmed or depressed you best be making it a priority if you ever want to be able to live free from the confines of your mind.
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1. You Have to Heal Your Gut
If you suffer from a mental illness you have to start looking at your diet. Your gut and your brain are directly linked and if one is suffering so is the other and it can exacerbate your feelings, symptoms and moods. This is the number one thing you can do to begin to calm your mind enough to start doing the hard work. It’s foundational, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle if you try to heal your mental illness without first looking at your gut health. Once I did this, all the other strategies came easy. I was energized, focused and motivated to do more and within only a year's time I had done a complete 180 from anxious and angry all the time to easy going and happy. It was the most beautiful thing and if I can help you with anything it would be to take this seriously! Anxiety and depression are a symptom of something in your life and if they’re a symptom they can be managed and treated. I know because I’ve done it and I’ve helped clients do it. In just 6 short weeks I had a client tell me that his peers were looking at him differently and actually listening to him he said he felt like he was more approachable to them somehow. Yes! It’s amazing what happens when you clear yourself of all the toxins it actually clears your mind and you can show up as who you truly are! Don’t think you have gut health issues? Take this quiz to find out.
<< You can read more about how mental health and gut health are related here. >>
2. Identifying Your Cognitive Distortions
This one was a big one for me, to realize that your mind is practically playing tricks on you and that you could change it was huge. Identifying which cognitive distortions you may be dealing with and then getting aware of them as you go about your daily life will have a significant impact. Awareness is the first step in creating change. You’ll catch yourself in overgeneralized thinking which is when you say all encompassing statements like ‘everyone’, ‘no one’, ‘always’. These will definitely put a damper on your mental health if you use them often enough because they’re grouping things together in a negative light which will cause you to discount the positives - another common distortion. Your mind picks up on this and has difficulty showing you the other side of things aka the more positive side. For example, if you say, “everyone at work thinks I’m lazy” based on one person making a comment you’re making that statement to be true in your mind and you’ll have a negative feeling when you are at work even if it’s not with the ONE person who said something to you because now it’s ‘everyone’. Here’s a list of cognitive distortions you can look through and pick out which ones you might be identifying with without realizing. These are really detrimental to your mental health, once you knock this out of the way your entire world feels like it opens up!
You knew I was going to say it. You may be surprised though, you don’t have to go run 5 miles to feel free from your thoughts. Taking a slow pace in a workout might be exactly what you need. Start with a super short 10 minute yoga session on Youtube and see how you feel or a really fun workout that doesn’t feel like a workout such as; rock climbing or bouncing on a trampoline. Just get those endorphins going, this is especially helpful for people who struggle with depression even if you don’t feel like it, commit to just 5-10 minutes when you first start. For people who struggle with anxiety it’s nice to let out that pent up anxiousness or energy so going for a run with some good music may be more beneficial for you. Check out this blog post for more on exercise!
Okay, when I said I wasn’t going to share tips you’ve heard before I may have lied a teensy bit but I doubt anyone has ever taught you how to actually create an affirmation that works for you so I think this is still worth sharing. Random affirmations you see on Pinterest might not do it for you and that’s fair, they’re generic and not custom made for you and your struggles that’s why they don’t work. First, start noticing negative things you say or think about yourself. Write them down on the left side of a piece of paper, think of as many as you can. On the right side of the paper you’re now going to flop that phrase or sentence around into something more positive for example, if I always look in the mirror and think, ‘jeez my arms are so flabby’ I’ll write that down and then change it into ‘my arms are strong, useful and beautiful.’ You may not believe what you’re writing - that’s okay. That’s why you are going to repeat it over and over every morning. Once you have your list of more positive affirmations specifically for you, just run through the list before bed and when you wake up in the morning. Just read through your list of 5-10 affirmations, ideally out loud and while looking at yourself but if not that’s fine too. Just read them, consistently. Consistency is key here and making sure they’re meaningful to you even if you don’t believe it at first, you’re training your brain. You have to exercise that muscle or you’ll lose it and stay in your negative mindset.
5. Ask for Help
It’s okay to ask for help, actually it’s highly recommended because the chances of you sticking with affirmations or improving your gut health or increasing your awareness around your cognitive distortions on your own is low. We, as people, aren’t meant to do things alone we’re a social bunch and that’s cool because there are plenty of people out there willing to help and who have gone through it before. Having people around you holding you accountable who actually know what you’re going through makes a big difference. It makes you feel safe, calmer, understood and motivated because you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Asking for help is cool whether that be a therapist, a coach-like me or a friend that’s actually been there. Ask for help.
If you are struggling with anxiety or depression and are ready to get it under control once and for all because it’s a symptom that can be managed without harsh medications join the Gut Calm Blueprint online membership today, so you can get all the juicy details about what’s inside and how it can seriously help you. I know because I’ve done it myself and helped clients do it as well with my proven method - you can do it too!
What do you struggle with most dealing with mental health? Leave it in the comments!
Hey! My names Ashleen.