Most days are okay. I can cope with life’s rapid changes and rise to the occasional challenge. I have lived with depression and anxiety since I was a child and over a period of more than a decade, I have noticed a significant decrease in my panic attacks, mood swings and urges to harm myself.
Girl, don’t judge. I know you fight your own battles too.
For me, it’s super important that I continuously make positivity louder in my life. I have to be extremely intentional because, for many years, my default setting was to curl up in a ball under my comforters with the door closed, blinds down and my eyes clenched shut – cut off from the rest of the world. So every day – still today – I have to fight. I have to watch what I say, be mindful of what I do and filter who I allow into my mental space and create strict boundaries to protect my personal space too.
Girl, if you didn’t know, now you do.
Becoming mentally strong is a process – a long one. I am still on a journey to “figuring it all out”. This path is very different for everyone. There is no secret sauce, magic fairy dust, or easy street. It takes a lot of work and for me that includes self-love rituals, detailed morning routines, the occasional social media break, a lot of talk therapy, and Seinfeld. I need reruns of Seinfeld. It makes me laugh and we all know laughter is the best medicine.
Here are 5 things I do daily to stay mentally strong.
1. I break my routine
It’s so easy to stick to what feels comfortable because it’s safe and there is no risk involved. But with no risk, you lose out on any chance of experiencing a reward. What I’ve noticed is the more I consistently feed my bad habits, the more I feel miserable. Staying in bed for days, avoiding contact with people, or eating myself into oblivion only adds to the instability of my mental health, it does not cure it. So to avoid old routines, I break them. I plan a day ahead so I have reason to move. When I wake up with an agenda, it inspires me to take a step, even if its a small one. My new routines include working out with my neighbor, grabbing coffee with old friends, playing with my Godchildren, journaling, coloring in coloring books, taking classes like improve or dance, spending time with the young women I mentor and so on. The list is endless. It took me a long time to realize that I am never out of options.
2. I talk to myself out loud
Girl, unless I can hear it, it is really hard for me to believe it. I know a lot of people think that affirmations are funny, but I don’t understand why. Because for someone like me with a history of anxiety, it’s my saving grace. I literally have to talk to myself out loud to provide that reassurance that ‘I am ok’ and ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff’. I have an affirmation for almost every circumstance.
3. I give myself some credit
With so much noise going on around me, at times I place too much focus on what I still have to achieve and experience emotions that leave me feeling like I don’t measure up. I lose sight of what I have already accomplished and count myself out of the game. But then I look around my room, flip through my scrapbook, dial up my friend Chivon and I’m reminded of how far I’ve come. I’m reminded that although it took a million baby steps to get here, the fact is, I am still standing which means this queen is getting better every day. Adversity helps you learn a lot about yourself. God will never give you more than you can handle before you are able.
4. I have stopped trying to please everyone
This is something I quit many years ago. The day I dropped out of school (and a college program I didn’t like) is the day I broke free from labels, naysayers and the expectations of others. Of course, I’m human and there are times when people talk that talk – I admit I get sad for a few moments but then it hits me that I have to just do me. It is way too exhausting trying to keep up with what or what everyone feels and I can’t stand when people think they know me better than I know myself. I am on this path and unless you’ve been in my shoes, most will never understand. So I pick and choose my battles and learned that the only opinion that matters is the one I have about myself.
5. I take calculated risks
Listen, no job or grade is more important than your mental health. If I need a social media time out, I take it. If I need to book an appointment to see my doctor, I call him. If I need a personal day off work, I raise my hand. Whatever move I have to make in order to make positivity louder and my health better, it means all else goes on pause until it is done. There have been jobs that have been left behind, people I have disconnected with and family members who have questioned my choices. But as I try to navigate my adult life, I have learned to trust my decisions and the journey, even if others do not understand it.
Peace & Love,