EVERYONE - that’s right, even you - has mental health. The first time I heard this it really made me think. I never looked at it the way we look at, say, physical health. Maybe you’re like me, I’d always thought of mental health and thought immediately of mental illness.
That’s likely due to the fact that I’ve collected diagnoses like Pokemon cards since my early 20’s. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it means I get to put a name to and learn about what I’ve been dealing with.
But through the years I’ve had to learn to cope with these mental illnesses constructively. I’ve had to learn to work on my mental health as I would my physical health, and I wanted to share some of what I’ve learned with you today.
It is important to remember that no one is ever perfect. Even when we do have the tools we need to cope in a positive way, sometimes we just don’t. It’s easy to get caught up in our old, comfortable habits because changing really is uncomfortable.
In fact, even writing this blog post has been extremely difficult as I’m going through another depression episode and, quite honestly, not handling it very well (read, I don’t always follow my own advice. But that’s just it, we're only human.).
Giving ourselves space to learn, grow, and adjust without judging or kicking ourselves over struggling to make positive change is crucial to our mental health. Healing, learning, and recovery are not linear paths. There are ups and downs, you’ll go sideways, backward, every which way, and that’s okay.
Like this insanely adorable graphic so perfectly illustrates:
(Image credit: Tumblr - If you know the artist, please contact us so that we can give proper credit. Image description: the words “healing is not linear” written on different points in a line that has ups and downs and is made of flowers on a pink background.)
Because things like sleep, exercise, and eating regularly can be difficult when you’re having a difficult mental health day, already having a routine in place can help you stay on track and have greater stability. Creating these habits or rituals on “good” mental health days helps us stick to them more easily during the tough days.
I’ve found that when I start my mornings doing something that I enjoy, I seem to feel more grounded and focused throughout my day. Even if it’s only for 10 or 15 minutes, taking time to do something like reading a book, writing in your journal, stretching, making some tea, putting some essential oils in your diffuser, or to going for a walk, all it takes is waking up just a few minutes earlier to make a big difference in your day.
One habit I’m working on breaking is checking my phone first thing when I wake up. Starting my day by checking work emails and social media notifications tends to put me at a low starting point for the rest of my day. Can you relate?
Getting an alarm clock that’s separate from your phone can help you not have to rely on willpower to keep you from checking your phone at the start of your day.
Vitamins & Minerals
I take vitamins every day as part of my morning routine. Because it’s best to take vitamins and most medications with food, an added bonus is that this helps keep me on a regular eating schedule.
Per my doctor's recommendation, I take Vitamin D and Vitamin B12 in addition to a multivitamin and some supplements meant to help improve mental wellness and mood through gut bacteria. (If you'd like, you can learn more about by taking their mental wellness assessment here.)
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are quite common, so supplementing can be very beneficial.
As a side note, and something that’s been very helpful for me, your doctor will be able to recommend certain vitamins based on your individual needs. Getting bloodwork done to test for vitamin levels is another useful way to be sure that you’re getting the nutrients you need.
(Image credit: easyhealthoptions.com)
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are more than 3 million cases of Vitamin D deficiency per year in the US alone. Low levels of vitamin D are extremely common and have been linked to things like depression, fatigue, bone and back pain, asthma, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and more .
Like most vitamins and minerals, more research is needed for a clearer understanding of how Vitamin D impacts our mental wellness. Recent studies suggest that the mental wellbeing of those with low vitamin D levels or who are more at risk for vitamin D deficiency (older adults, adolescents, and those with chronic illness which, interestingly enough, happens to be groups who are also more at risk for depression) may benefit from vitamin D supplementation . I know I’ve felt a difference.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means that too much of a good thing can be... not such a good thing. Since Vitamin D is quite common and how well our bodies absorb and utilize nutrients can vary, vitamin D toxicity is very rare . Again, testing your vitamin levels can help immensely.
(Image Credit: Unknown)
Personally, I find the science behind the relationship between vitamin B12 and our mental health is fascinating. For instance, did you know:
“B12 deficiency can cause almost any psychiatric symptom-from anxiety, and panic to depression and hallucinations. This is because B12 deficiencies trigger symptoms in the nervous system and red blood cells.” - Psychology Today, Robert J. Hedaya MD
(The article goes on to list the best ways to asses for vitamin B12 deficiency here.)
Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency can include things like tiredness, lightheadedness, loss of appetite, and mental problems such as memory loss, depression, and behavioral changes . For those of us with mental illness, those might sound familiar...
Many people (myself included) find that supplementing with vitamin B12 can help their day-to-day mood and can help take the edge off their anxiety, fatigue, and depression.
B vitamins are water-soluble, meaning that any excess will pass through your body quite easily and that it is generally much more difficult to take such an excess amount that it would cause harm.
Similar to the vitamins listed above, low levels of magnesium are extremely common (for more on this, visit our blog post, “Are You Getting Enough Magnesium?”). Because magnesium plays a role in hundreds of biochemical reactions in our bodies and since our modern diets are often deficient in magnesium, supplementing… you guessed it, can be beneficial in many ways.
With many people feeling positive effects on their mood, mental health, sleep, and general stress levels, it’s no wonder that Magnesium drinks, powders, pills, and lotions are so popular.
Of course, not all Magnesium is created equal. Some types of Magnesium are more bioavailable, meaning they are more easily absorbed and utilized by the body; like Magnesium Chloride (the kind we use in all of our Magnesium products). Other types of Magnesium, when taken orally, can cause less pleasant side-effects like diarrhea (which is why I prefer to go topical for the majority of my Magnesium supplementation) .
My absolute favorite Herbal Mana product, Hope cream, combines vitamins D and B12, Magnesium, and a blend of essential oils that all make for a very energizing yet calming feeling.
I apply this to my wrists, the inside creases of my elbows, and the back of my neck every morning and as needed throughout the day.
It's no doubt you've been given the advice to exercise for your mental health. It's true! What's difficult is when this is where the advice ends.
What about the days you mentally or physically cannot get out of bed? What about those of us who struggle to find enough time to sleep, let alone a trip to the gym?
On those days, I spend maybe 10-15 minutes moving. How I move and for how long I move will depend on how much time I have and my mental and physical capacity for the day. Why do I use the word move instead of workout? Because, for me, and maybe it's this way for you too, but the words "fitness" and "workout" have started to have some really heavy expectations behind them.
Dr. Thad Chandler, the chiropractor behind our Arthritis Unlocked course said it best:
"Movement is life."
Because movement is so important, I'm going to skip the part where I tell you why and move on to the how.
My favorite ways to get my movement in (daily if I can, but realistically it ends up being every other day, or about 3 times a week) is to find an at-home workout online and to follow it. Sounds simple, right?
Obviously, finding those workouts can be easier said than done, so here is a list of my personal favorite "influencers" whose videos you can save for when you feel moved to, well, move!
- Tara Stiles (yoga)
- @whittneyysimmons (body weight & light weights)
- @trainerkami (body weight and light weights)
- @brittnebabe (body weight and light weights)
- @activelyautoimmune (exercise specifically for those with invisible illness)
With each of their videos, just keep in mind that you can always go at your own pace! If there's a movement you don't feel comfortable doing, skip it and/or replace it. Listen to your body, you'll know what's best for you.
My nightly routine is similar to my morning routine in that I find it’s best to spend a few moments doing something calming and that I love to do before I go to bed. This could be something like taking a bath, reading a book, writing a list of things you’re grateful for that day, yoga, or listening to calming music.
Spending the first and last moments of my day doing something calm and enjoyable helps me feel more fulfilled and centered overall. Your routines don’t have to be on a strict schedule and they don’t have to look the same every day. Try a few things to see what works best for you.
Practicing Self-Care + Self-Love
I know, I know, self-care gets brought up a lot but before you decide to skip this section, the things I’ll be going over might be quite a bit different from what you’re used to hearing. (No, I’m not going to recommend a bubble bath or treating yourself to a shopping spree or a vacation.)
What’s your self-love language?
You may already be familiar with the 5 Love Languages, but have you thought of them from a self-love perspective?
The 5 Love Languages is a concept created by author, speaker, and counselor Dr. Gary Chapman to explain how we each understand, communicate, and experience love on the premise that relationships work better when we understand each other.
The 5 Love Languages are:
- Words of Affirmation
- Physical touch
- Quality time
- Acts of service
- Receiving gifts
When we speak each other's love languages, we more effectively communicate with the people around us and our relationships are stronger because of it.
Now imagine what would happen if you spoke your love language to yourself.
Artist, Dominee of Blessing Manifesting put this idea of our love language being our self-love language into this cute and handy graphic:
(Image text: “What’s your self-love language? By Blessing Manifesting. Physical Touch: Things that make your body feel good or focus on your physical being. Massages, soft blankets, physical activity, spa days, skincare routine, swimming, stretching. Acts of Service: Doing or arranging things for yourself that make you feel good. Therapy, acts of kindness, scheduling, cleaning, delegating, going out. Receiving Gifts: Treating yo’ self by purchasing things that make you happy. Trips, craft supplies, comfy clothes, little gifts, indulgences, investing in yourself. Quality Time: Spending time alone, hobbies, and doing things that you love. Meditation, hobby/creative time, taking yourself on dates, relaxing. Words of Affirmation: Giving yourself pep talks and encouraging yourself. Positive self-talk, daily affirmations, journaling, mantras.)
Self-care is so much more than bath bombs and candles. It’s things like setting boundaries and saying no. It’s reaching out for help when you need it and owning up to your mistakes. It’s taking responsibility for your words and actions and learning to act in your own best interest. The Every Body is Beautiful Project put it best:
“Self-care is whatever you need to feel supported and well right now. Self-care is dynamic, not static.”
So how do we come to better recognize what we need to feel supported and well?
That might seem like a silly question, but when you’re in the middle of a difficult mental health day sometimes that can feel empty or numb and sometimes that can feel like you’re overly sensitive, like everything hurts or is too overwhelming. In those moments, it can be difficult to pinpoint what you need. The best way to overcome this is to prepare ahead of time.
Going through this exercise with my therapist a few years ago helped me plan for the more difficult days. I’ve looked back on it when times were tough ever since.
Make a Mental Health & Safety Plan:
- Grab a piece of paper and something to write with.
- Make 3 sections: people, places, and things.
- In each section, you’re going to make a list of the people you can reach out to who make you feel loved and supported and who can help you if you're in a tight spot, your favorite places that make you feel at home, cozy, and safe, and things you like to do that give you those same feelings.
- Keep this list with you, or at least somewhere you can find it easily for when mental health emergencies arise.
My list looks a little something like this:
As important as self-care is being part of an accepting and supportive community is just as important. These are people who will check in on you to see how you’re doing and to see how they can help. The people who take the time to listen and understand what you’re going through instead of joining the chorus of people preaching that all you simply need to do is be more positive, or to just get over it, or who say, “at least it’s not that bad”. Because nobody needs more of that.
You might find your community online, at church, in your local community, through volunteer opportunities, or school.
This is the perfect place to mention that we’ve recently created a Facebook group for people searching for a supportive community of like-minded individuals on their natural pain-relief and general health and wellness journey. We would love to have you there!
Therapy can be another helpful part of your self and community care system. I’ve said it once and I’ll keep repeating it until I’ve taken my last breath but I strongly believe that everyone stands to benefit from therapy.
Going to my first therapy session terrified me. I didn’t think that I could ever open up to a therapist and, well, I didn’t. Not that time, at least. It wasn’t until a few years later that, as part of a last resort effort to get my mental health in check, I made an appointment with my second therapist.
I was amazed. I’d heard good things about therapy, but I always had big doubts in the back of my mind. But this time around was the best thing that ever happened to my mental health. Ever. I still use the exercises and coping skills I learned with that therapist and I probably will for the rest of my life.
Books for Continued Learning
Lastly, I wanted to leave you with a quick list of some of my favorite “self-help” type books. I’ve always found books to be my escape. Some books have even changed the trajectory of my life in the most amazing ways possible, including some of the ones on this list. So if you’re looking for a good book that you might just get something out of, these are a great place to start.
I hope the practices I've included will help you on your mental health journey. If you find them to be helpful, please leave a comment and share with your friends and family! Because everyone has mental health. ❤️