Make no mistake, everyone’s mental health has been challenged in the last few years
I know a lot of people and there is no one I know who hasn’t experienced some kind of mental health challenge–a major life change, loss, illness, family issues, job issues, pet issues, “who am I and what does it all mean” issues, kid issues, financial issues, you get the idea. Even this recovery pro slipped away from 12-step meetings, experienced social re-entry anxiety, and has had to work out a few things at work and at home. Life isn’t easy, people aren’t easy, and lots of people struggling at the same time isn’t easy. There are, however, plenty of things you can do to take care of your mental health so you can handle whatever you’re going through as well as possible.
So, my big recovery take on life is the big five of the The Recovery Lifestyle. Use any combination of these things and your life and recovery will be enhanced. Mine is anyway.
Mental Health Tips
1. Exercise – for the Love of God
Everyone says the same thing – exercise will help you in every single way. It will help your body stay healthy and young. Exercise will help raise endorphins, which is our natural feel-good chemical. I also know people who struggle with anxiety who exercise every morning because they believe the rhythmic breathing helps set them straight for the day. Whatever it is, when you want to get out of your head, get into your body! It will help your mental health and that’s a scientific fact. Set some goals for your physical life if you want to get ambitious. There’s nothing more satisfying than getting better as you get older.
Whether you believe it or not, your gut health affects your mental health. Filling your body with processed foods, fast food, or whatever your poison is can make you feel worse. It will definitely affect your health in the long run, so getting a handle on it sooner rather than later is a good idea. I used to hate healthy food and loved anything bad for me. The pandemic changed everything for me. After several years on meal plans, I can’t imagine going back to all the unhealthy eating I did pre-pandemic. I used meal kits like Green Chef and it has helped create a foundation for healthy eating. Take a look at your eating habits to see if there’s any room for improvement.
I believe mental health is also tied to spirituality. So, where’s your spirituality at? Whether you need a little mother nature in your life or you’re ready to get back into a more organized religion or spiritual experience, it’s time. I’m a member of a spiritual group and we meet a couple of times a month for study, district discussions, etc. The spiritual practice is done on your own for the most part, but we do have some temples open again. Even if you live in New York City and think religion is for the masses, find a park or go to the closest river. Being outside in the fresh air can really help if you’re feeling stressed, or sad. Studies have proven that being in nature reduces anxiety as well. Schedule walks into your day to break up the time. Add some music to the mix if that sparks your fancy. Also, meditation is one of the greatest tools we have as humans. We can help our brains relax and create space for new thoughts simply by relaxing and tapping into our mental resources. Try Calm or Headspace if you need some guidance.
Becoming a recovery advocate helped me turn my biggest failing into a big asset and that also helped my mental health. I never expected that outcome, I just wanted to help people. But helping people helped me. What are you doing to help someone other than yourself? What causes do you stand for? What matters to you? Maybe you lost some of those activities or contacts during the pandemic but it’s time to get out there and be of service. Join groups that are helping the homeless or families in need. People need food, education, and supplies. As the holidays approach, there will be more need. Finding things to care about make s huge difference. A few ideas… If you are able, foster animals. There are local organizations in every city helping the homeless. Google what’s available in your city. If recovery is your thing, it’s Recovery Month. Look online and see what’s happening near you.
5. Self Care and Coaching
Everybody’s talking about it for a reason. Whether you’re into mani-pedis and massages, or learning new things and growing your recovery, take time to do the things you love, and that make you happy. As you stay in recovery, self-care may change and turn into financial accountability or becoming a Vegetarian. Whatever works for your mental health. This year, I’ve had to return to 12-step meetings in person, acupuncture, goal setting with a colleague, and regular recovery writing. It takes a lot of effort to stay well in recovery so asking for help is important.
Extra credit: Put down your technology
We’ve all heard about how technology is addictive and can cause depression and loneliness. Social media has created a FOMO monster in all of us at one time or another. Try putting down your phone and turning off your computer so you can focus on the people and things around you. Especially with so much turmoil in the news and politics
Connect with other people
Isolation and loneliness are killers! Remember to connect with other people as often as you can through Zoom, Facetime, or in a safe, socially-distant way. It will do as much for you as it will for them. A simple check-in call can make all the difference to someone who is struggling right now. Helping others through their issues is also a great way to feel better and be of service at the same time.
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