Article written by Emma Carey.
There are many lessons I’ve learnt in life. Like not leaving the freezer door open or taking the washing out before it smells. (Although that’s something I’m still working on). But one thing people don’t teach you is how to navigate mental health.
Important mental health lessons
I’ve had my fair share of depression and anxiety, and I’ve learnt some valuable lessons along the way. I want to share them with you, so you can learn from my mistakes and find true happiness. Grab a cup of tea, and let’s dive in.
1. Well-being Tips Don’t ‘Cure’ Mental Illness. They Ease It
There are a lot of wellness tips for mental health out there. The list is endless: yoga, meditation, eating kale, running, a good night’s sleep (I could go on).
Don’t get me wrong, well-being tips are incredibly beneficial for mental illness. They can reduce its intensity and help you feel better. But there’s a huge misconception that they will ‘get rid of’ depression and anxiety.
Meditating will not make you forget a childhood trauma. It could help process it, but it’s best to have a guide, like a therapist. Going for a run might temporarily take your mind off of your debt. But it won’t change the fact that you’re financially struggling.
Instead, they provide moments of relief and coping strategies to get yourself out of a situation. So, if you’re doing tai chi every day, and your problems aren’t solved, don’t beat yourself up. It isn’t because you’re not trying hard enough.
What to do when wellness tips aren’t working
My advice is to get support. Acts of self-care, self-love and wellness are great. But they’re often a solo expedition. Support can help you talk things through and get medication. It can go with you to the gym and encourage you when you feel down. The takeaway? Use a well-being lifestyle to ease your mental health, not cure it.
2. Mental Illness is a Recovery Process
When I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression, I thought, ‘This is it. I know the problem. Now I can solve it.’ I was determined to get back on track, so I exercised and ate healthily. And for a short while, things were better. But pretty soon, I fell back down the deep, dark hole and was convinced I would never get out.
Why did I think that? Because nobody told me that mental illness is a recovery process. Let me put it this way – it’s rare that someone with an alcohol or drug addiction ‘succeeds’ the first time. It’s common to slip back into old habits.
They try again, and the same happens. But, little by little, the time between their last setback gets longer. Until, eventually, they’re no longer controlled by their addiction.
Mental health is the same. You need to understand that your decision to get better is the first step to recovery. And it’s a journey. There will be times you fall back down the mountain. Maybe you sit there for a long time staring at the summit. But as long as you get up and try again, you’re doing pretty darn well.
3. Your Environment Massively Impacts Your Mental Well-being
In my mid-twenties, I was living in a run-down apartment. Thinking about it still makes me shudder. It was gloomy, dirty and chilly. There was no outdoor space, and my financial situation kept me trapped there for a long time.
I was convinced that even if I changed flats, my problems would follow. And, to a certain extent, that was true. But I didn’t realise what a dramatic difference a nice environment would make to my welfare.
When you move somewhere that is comfortable and cosy, it creates a safe haven. And, even when you do have bad days, you recover more quickly. So, prioritise your space, and you’d be surprised how it helps your health.
Your Mental Health Matters
There are still so many things the world doesn’t understand about mental wellness. And so many things you aren’t told! Just do your best. And if you keep these mental health lessons in mind, I know you’ll be okay.