Use What You Do Know

Lola Magazine Felecia Williams

In this time of Covid, Flu, and many other diseases we are constantly being told to strengthen our immune system. We take vitamins, supplements, shakes, and shots to help fight off diseases and germs that can cripple our immune system and even result in death. Eating healthy foods, exercising, and drinking plenty water, all give us a better chance of survival and longer life.

Why do we work at doing nothing until we are almost broken and in pieces when it comes to our mental and emotional health? Our mental foundation can only be as strong as the support and the work put toward the support beams used to strengthen our foundation. 

When the seasons and the weather changes, especially here in our part of the country, we suit up with allergy shots, medications, and wardrobe changes for spring, summer, fall and winter. We wrap our children in puffy, warm, zip-lock wrap clothing like little stuffed turkeys in hopes of keeping out all germs and cold weather. We prepare for mental health battles, holiday depression, work-life stress, relationship struggles, and family challenges by saying, I am sad, lying in bed underneath the covers, and eating pints of ice cream……. who am I kidding cartons of ice cream and any sweet, fried, or salty foods we believe will give us a moment of relief. 

When our physician tells us to make changes due to diabetes, cholesterol, or the stress in our life which create health concerns or other physical health scares, we’re quick to hit the gym, drink water, change our diet, and even sucker our friends and family into joining a gym with us, but then we eventually stop going after the first 30 days. How could I forget the workout equipment, which is only an, investment that motivates us for 90 days, but then becomes the most expensive piece of furniture in our home, used more as a clothing rack, pet rest, or kid’s toy? Just as you begin to fight physical health scares, let’s also get ahead of our mental and emotional battles. Begin to treat your mental health as a part of your immune system and begin to strategize to build healthy longevity. 

Steps to Get Started

Acknowledge your  feelings. 

Value yourself. Check in with yourself and ask how are you feeling. Upset, anxious, sad, and especially acknowledge your accomplishments when happy, excited or simply allow yourself to be proud of achieving your goals.

Practice being self-compassionate. 

Practice talking to yourself and not in a critical way, but in the way that you would talk to someone whom you really care about when they are facing a problem. The goal is to quiet your inner critic and be kind and gentle with yourself, the way you would a friend 

Assess your challenge.

Faced with a challenge? Take a deep breath and ask yourself if this is a true catastrophe or if it is an inconvenience. An inconvenience can be approached by using problem-solving skills.

Take small steps toward what you want to avoid.  

When you’re anxious or depressed, you tend to avoid things you don’t want to do. Don’t procrastinate during this step.  Get started by taking time to identify, analyze and begin to build bridges over those stumbling blocks you need to avoid.

Work on mindfulness and quiet your mind.   

During those moments when you’re stressed or feeling anxious, it’s a good idea to remember and practice mindfulness. Give yourself the space to breathe and think about your reactions. Try box breathing or a one-minute meditation to stay in the moment. I know, you are saying, what is box breathing? Box breathing is a form of yogic deep breathing employed by the United States Navy SEALs and by stressed-out people everywhere. It’s also known as sama means “equal” and vritti means “mental fluctuations” pranayama, born of the yogic practice of pranayama, or focusing on the breath. Its common name, “box breathing,” refers to the fact that a box has four sides, a concept represented here by breathing while you slowly count to four for a total of four times — four counts of breathing in, four counts of holding your breath, four counts of exhaling and four more counts of holding after you exhale.

Externalize how you feel. 

If something is bothering you, don’t keep your feelings bottled up. Work on vocalizing those feelings through assertive communication. Whether that’s through journaling, therapy or talking to your best friend, the practice of naming your feelings and communicating them effectively, as well as having a supportive and empowering social circle, is really important.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle. 

All those things you can do to lead a healthy life — exercise, a well-balanced diet and sleep— can also help when it comes to your emotional resilience. Having a healthy mental and emotional resiliency without having a proper sleep schedule is quite difficult. Limiting your social media and television prior to bed is key to a successful night sleep.

Surround yourself with good people. 

People with strong family or social connections are generally healthier than those who lack a support network. Make plans with supportive family members and friends, or seek out activities where you can meet new people, such as a club, class or support group.

Set realistic goals.  

Decide what you want to achieve academically, professionally and personally.  Write these down to create a pathway to your goals. Aim high, but be realistic.  Be sure not to  over-schedule. You’ll enjoy a tremendous sense of accomplishment and self-worth as you progress toward your goal.

GET HELP WHEN NEEDED!  

This is not a sign of weakness but of strength that simply acknowledges, “I need help to feel better”. It is important to remember that treatment is effective. People who get appropriate care can recover from mental illness and addiction and lead full, rewarding lives. Ask me. I know how all these steps have changed and saved my life.