There’s no denying we have had a difficult couple of years, and with the cost of living crisis, we are likely going to be facing more challenges in the months to come. With so much going on (and so much at a halt) self care and maintaining strong boundaries are more important than ever. Here are 9 ways to protect your mental health while you navigate through tougher times.
1 | Stop complaining and do something
Whether it’s voicing dissatisfaction with your weight, bemoaning a relationship that isn’t working, or ruminating over the way your colleague treats you, complaining is more than simply a momentary release of frustration; it’s a verbal reminder that you’re rejecting a necessary change in your life. Pushing back your own progress takes up a lot of energy and creates a hostile environment both internally and externally.
If you want to get healthier, berating yourself for not working out (again) isn’t going to help you achieve your goal. Scheduling 30 minutes a day (even broken down in 10-minute increments) to do an at-home workout will. If you have shared your unhappiness with someone and they have not worked with you to make things better, you need to make a decision. Initially, stepping up may not be easy, but here’s a fact we often forget: most of the time, we are not at the mercy of situations or other people unless we choose to be.
2 | Walk away from people who bring you down.
Loyalty is a non-negotiable in all healthy relationships, but it can work against us when we confuse it with love or being a “good” person. Holding onto the idea that you need to “stay loyal” to someone who does not reciprocate healthy behaviors, holds you back from progressing or who is participating in situations that go against your value system is one of the most self-destructive things you can do.
While it’s common to tell ourselves that we ‘can’t’ exit relationships because of time invested, familial or social ties, it’s simply not true. The truth is that is it more than acceptable to assess your relationships and let go of the ones that no longer fit who you are; it’s healthy. The idea that every relationship has to last “for life” is a fantasy. In fact, most will not and that’s OK.
3 | Refuse to be distracted by unimportant things.
We have all been there. The jerk in traffic. The colleague who sends a rude response. The social-climbing ‘friend’ who always finds a way to exclude you. It’s normal to get upset by these things, but getting stuck on the little hooks of life will not only hold you back, but it can also reprogram your brain making it harder for you identify opportunities and participate in productive decision-making. It’s also a drag for those around you which won’t do much for your relationships.
Does it really matter if the friend of a friend didn’t “like” your new job status or some acquaintance from college disagrees with your stance on breastfeeding? Do you really care what your neighbor thinks about your not having kids? Remember that you are living your own life and stay focused on what matters most to you. Keep your eyes on your goals, stay true to your own values and don’t allow yourself to get sidetracked by trolls and people who care more about being “right” than being decent.
4 | Draw a boundary on the spot.
Back in the day, I was one of those women who believed that biting my tongue when someone insulted, upset or offended me made me “nice” or showed “decorum”. The reality was that it made me feel terrible, I was treated as a pushover and there are plenty of ways to stand up for yourself without looking like you belong on a reality show. Once I started saying things like “don’t speak to me like that again” or “I am sure you don’t realize how you’re coming across, but I am finding it very aggressive” or simply staying silent, my life changed. Not only did most people stop, many apologized, and guess what? They knew not to do it again. Yay for no drama and loads of self-respect!
5| Say no to martyrdom.
We live in a world where people love to show off how much they can achieve in a day–and then complain about how exhausted and unappreciated they are. The truth is we have 24 hours in a day and 7-8 need to be for sleep and a few need to be for you. I don’t care what is going on in your life, a person who doesn’t take a few minutes to connect with themselves and take a few deep breaths is going to be bitter, angry and resentful quite a few moments each day. These small moments will begin to add up and corrode your happiness and seep out in ways you never expected. You are not a superhero or a saint. You’re a human being. It’s OK to admit that you can’t do it all, all of the time – even in a pandemic *(unfortunately, they don’t make us superhuman, either).
6 | Get down and do the work.
This is such a big one. Identifying what you need to do is only part of the process. You then need to do it. Even if, by some stretch, you prove me wrong and someone hands it all to you, you won’t keep it. Success in any area needs to be maintained and if you don’t create habits to do that, it will break down.
Here’s one of those hard truths most people don’t like to hear: While life can throw us curveballs, the truth is only a small percentage is willing to do what it takes to achieve what they want. The truth is that, if you want something, it is your responsibility to do the research, reach out, ask for advice, sharpen your skills and make the effort. Those who work hard and smart tend to find a version of what they are looking for (or something better) whereas those who stand there with their proverbial hand out spewing out wishes and whining they are unlucky usually don’t. Fortunately, you’re not like them which is why this really is your year.
7 | Be polite.
There are some people who mistake snarky for clever and others who just straight-up hate. They rarely get emails about job opportunities, invites to birthday parties and have loads of drama in their friendships. Guess why? Nobody likes them. It’s one thing to engage in some friendly banter but if you think putting people down or “winning” is a sign of power, people are going to distance themselves from you. No one likes a bully.
8 | Make a real effort.
Look, we are all busy and living in a pandemic has undeniable challenges. That doesn’t change the fact that, when it comes to forming meaningful relationships, details matter. Showing up, keeping secrets, remembering important dates and checking in on loved ones is all a part of the happy, healthy relationship package. Maybe we can’t meet up or give our loved ones the same attention we used to, but when you can’t be bothered to show up for birthday’s (even on Zoom) and think a text is an appropriate way of sharing your condolences to a friend who has suffered a loss, you send the message that you don’t care. Take some time to send a friend a quick text or voice message to check in, pop a card in the mail once in a while and if you are too slammed, don’t ghost. Simply say, “I am slammed at the moment, but I miss you and I will respond to this as soon as I have the time.” Easy.
9 | Challenge Yourself To Be Brave.
Here’s an undeniable truth: fear is a very real part of life, but unless we learn how to manage it and move through it, we will stay paralyzed in situations we don’t want to be in instead of moving forward to something better. To have a full, complete and authentic life, you are going to need to take risks. The risk to speak up and out, to move on, to open your heart, to pack up and move to another country…and the list goes on. The good news is that most of what we worry about happening never does and confidence is built by making small efforts each and every day. One small act of courage can have a massive domino effect. Give it a try!