“My cup runneth over. What’s in the cup is for me, what comes out of the cup is for you. If I give you what I need from my cup, I make you a thief and myself a liar because I’m giving you something of myself, that I need for myself” -Iyanla Vanzant
While there has been a significant increase in discussions about mental health, it has more so been reactive to it and less proactive. Mental healthcare should be considered as a primary component of your health routine, as opposed to in response to societal factors. Throughout society, we promote the value of proper diet and exercise from the perspectives of vanity, longevity, and comfort, with little to no acknowledgement of the chief importance that mental health plays in executing diet and exercise, as well as maintaining overall emotional health and wellness. The prioritization and regular maintenance of mental health promotes discipline, reduces stress, and increases happiness and clarity.
So how can one put mental health maintenance into practice? Here are some thoughts and tools to consider.
Get therapy: Therapy is a health practice, not a sign of weakness. Seeing a therapist is similar to having a personal trainer for fitness. It is a practice of maintaining mental and emotional health and wellness. Seeking therapy is something that does not need to be defended or explained.
It’s okay to be a priority: Value yourself and your time. Author Lisa Nichols states “You are the first example of how the world should treat you”. Know that you are worthy of your time, consideration, and respect, first. Please understand that this is not a selfish act, especially with the understanding that it is potentially unfair to require others to make us a priority. Priority is defined as “the fact or condition of being regarded or treated as more important”. We as individuals must treat ourselves as important, and that is okay.
Practicing Healthy Self Talk: “Honesty without tact is cruelty” - Coach Yulia. Please know you can be honest with yourself and hold yourself accountable without being harmfully critical. As most of us have encountered, our inner voice can be the cruelest, the loudest, and the most detrimental. When shifting our inner narrative, begin the practice of talking to yourself as the friend you have always hoped for. While this takes time to put into practice, please know that your inner voice can save you or harm you. You are always deserving of saving yourself.
Journaling- Sometimes just getting it out of your head is the perfect way of seeing your thoughts and feelings outside of yourself. An effective practice is to write it out and to read what you wrote an hour later. What would the “friend have always hoped for” say to that person on paper?
Set Internal and External Boundaries- This practice is an essential, yet a difficult part of mental health maintenance. Whether you are setting personal boundaries as far as knowing when you shouldn’t take on too much or setting external boundaries as far as creating parameters for how others treat you, know that you are maintaining your mental health. Note that while setting and maintaining boundaries can be hard to put into practice, especially with other people, know that supportive family and friends honor and respect your boundaries.
Maintaining a routine- It may not be the easiest thing to do, but maintaining a schedule that effectively prioritizes your mental health and self-care practices assists in maintaining mental health itself. Establishing a routine that prioritizes your wellness, which includes getting enough sleep, meditation, hobbies, hanging out with friends, exercise, etc. is an integral component of maintaining mental health.
Practice SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound) goals- Creating SMART goals assists with the practicality and achievement of goals, whether they are academic, or professional. This guideline for creating goals can even be helpful in developing mental health practices.
The valuing of mental health maintenance practices is a proactive and effective way of maintaining holistic health. These practices along with changing the narrative around the importance of mental health can assist with how we view its impact on our quality of life.