Randy Floyd is the founder of Midwest Anxiety and is a community-based therapist for children, adolescents, and adults who experience anxiety, depression, and other social/emotional stressors. At Midwest Anxiety, he has built a variety of programs to help all ages manage their struggles.
Breaking the Stigma of Mental Health
Randy says that one of the biggest barriers to taking care of our mental health is the stigma. People have trouble reaching out for help because they are afraid they might be judged or criticized by their family, friends, or coworkers.
Most of the time, we are able to acknowledge and meet our physical needs. We feel hunger, so we go and eat something. We feel and acknowledge that we are especially tired today, so we go to bed a half an hour earlier than normal. Those are physical needs, and we can usually meet them pretty easily. And if we tell a friend that we are hungry and have to go get lunch, they are completely supportive and might even go with us.
That is often not the same experience that someone has with mental health and mental health care. First there is often the feeling that a person has to be diagnosed with a mental illness in order to get mental health treatment. If a person hasn’t been diagnosed, then the idea might be that whatever struggles they face are not serious enough to need treatment or care. Second is the stigma of mental health.
Randy wants to change the stigma and open the conversation about the struggles that we all face. As he says, “My thought is we all have mental health, so we should all be taking part in preventative measures.”
How to Take Care of our Mental Health
If we all need to take preventative measures, what are those? How can we all be taking care of our mental health on a daily basis?
Step 1: Accept
As Randy says, the first step to taking care of our mental health is to accept that we have social and emotional struggles. For each of us, those struggles are different, and often they are different struggles on different days, or at different periods in our lives.
But we all have struggles. You might get a flat tire on your way to work, which is a struggle and will cause you to feel emotions. You might be dealing with depression. Or your struggle might be that you’ve been laid off.
Whatever the struggle is, we all need to accept that we have struggles and understand that they will happen as we move through life.
Step 2: Be Intentional About Self-Care
Have you noticed the rise in the self-care movement? There are many articles, blog posts, and podcasts that talk about it. Often these articles are giving people self-care activities as a script. So the message winds up being if you get a pedicure once a week, that will take care of your mental health.
Randy’s advice is different. Instead of giving a list of activities that you should be doing, he says that to really care for our mental health, we need to be intentional about off-loading negativity and negative emotion.
Tune into Your Wellbeing
There are two parts to being intentional about off-loading negativity and negative emotion. The first is that you have to get comfortable and close with yourself and understand what helps you to get rid of negative emotion. This can be part of what tuning into your wellbeing. In that moment that you get quiet and begin to listen to yourself, you can ask “what helps me get rid of negative emotion?”
Your first thought might be that you need a mindfulness or calming activity to get rid of the negative emotions. But you can also ask yourself, “What brings me joy?” When we are doing something that we love, it is easy to get into a flow and the struggles and negative emotion drop away.
Make a Plan
The second step is to be intentional about incorporating those activities into our daily life. Just like you have meal times to take care of your physical hunger, and you have a bedtime to take care of your need to sleep, you need time to take care of your mental health. For most of us, it is easiest to find time if we actually schedule it.
As an example, when you tune into your wellbeing, you might remember that you love to create art. When you create art, it makes your struggles fall away and the rest of the world seem easier. With that knowledge, it’s time to make a plan. Try scheduling three times per week that you are going to draw or paint. Stay in tune with yourself, see how that feels. There isn’t a rule that we can give for how much self-care everyone will need, because everyone is different. You might find that once a week is enough, or that you need it every day. You might find that art three times and running three times is a magic combination for you. Stay open and stay in tune so that you can find what works for you.
We never know what is going to happen next in our life and we don’t know what we will need to get through it. As Randy says, we all have mental health and we all face struggles, so we need to take care of our mental health every day. It is how we put the odds in our favor to thrive even during our struggles.