Having worked in mental health facilities, observing/working with many children/parents, and living life in this world at this pace, I feel like collectively we are not clear on the concept of what mental health is.
I think many people separate themselves from "mental health" because they feel that it is something that only applies to "crazy people" who are losing their marbles and shooting up places. That is one extreme of it, and it does exist as we have seen in Connecticut and with alarming increase in frequency all over the world. But "mental health" also applies to all of us, and it is not only about taking medication and going to therapy.
Do you ever take a "mental health day"? A day you take off of work or life in general and unplug and spend time with yourself? What do you tend to do on those days?
You do things that relax you and invigorate you. You catch up on sleep, you call people you want to talk to, you eat food that makes you feel good, you move your body in ways you want to.
Maybe you get a massage, but the basic premise is that you nurture yourself.
Mental health is not an absence of a disorder because you do not need to have a diagnosis to be unhappy. Life and mental health seem to have parted ways and are feeling like they cannot exist together.
But this is all wrong.
The mental health I am talking about includes(but is not limited to) unconditional and loving connection to family/friends, a sense of living your purpose, nurturing your mind/body/spirit with good food, plenty of movement, and a connection to some sort of higher power or purpose that is bigger than you, and finally, to belong to a community of like minded people who work together to grow, learn and bring out the best in each other.
The goal here is to somehow create a life where you don't wait until you're at the breaking point before you take a time out to for yourself.
One thing we seem to have in abundance in all of our lives, diagnosis or no, is stress.
Stress is the number 1 killer of mental health.
We are so busy doing so much, accomplishing so much, amassing so much that we are losing the basics of what the body and by extension our mental and emotional bodies need.
There is nothing noble about grinning and bearing it or pushing your body to do more.
Yes, gun control and larger issues must be debated and discussed, but mental health is not something that will be legislated and mandated by a larger body.
The government WILL NOT make massages, hugs and connection a requirement to fulfill.
Even if they did, if it became a rule would you be more likely to follow it?
I think not.
Mental health is a personal choice and one that is best made by you. You are the expert in your life, your person. No matter how stressed and strung out you are, you are really the one who knows best what you need.
But mental health takes commitment and sometimes fierce guarding.
I know that those times when you decide to do something good for yourself, you start out strong then somewhere along the way you lose steam. Or with uncanny timing, all of a sudden everyone and everything seems to need your attention, at the exact time you set aside for yourself.
You must be stubborn and guard this time with tenacity. Do not put your needs on the back burner anymore. Start getting comfortable saying, "No" and making a stand for your time and energy.
If regular massages are not a reality or possibility, it's ok.
Start small and start right now because all you really need is to be present(not happy, just present).
For example, you can just take 5 minutes to sit and breath at the end of the day before you go to bed.
Or you can take a short, brisk, walk around the block right before dinner, or get to work a little bit early and enjoy a cup of tea by yourself while setting the intention for your day.
If it is hard to set aside time like that, you can even bring more presence to what you have to do, such as eating or talking to other people. Make a commitment to do nothing else while you eat(no TV, no cell phone, no driving!) to really sit and taste and feel the texture of your food. Notice the difference when you start to really LOOK at the person you are speaking to(taking in the colors and textures of their face, tone of their voice).
It doesn't matter what you do. Just bring more presence into what you are already doing and make a commitment to stick to it.
And those days when you forget and not do it, it's ok.
Just as one of my favorite teachers Abraham says, "You can't get upset over the bed you didn't make yesterday. Just start making your bed today and stop punishing yourself for the bed you didn't make yesterday (or the day before that) because there's nothing you can do about it."
These small things, as you do them consistently, will grow, like a muscle and start to guide you into larger awareness and connection.
All that matters is that you start.
What will you commit to? Leave your comments and challenges below!