Some people assume you can “think” your way out of mental illness.
After all, your brain is you, and you’re in control of it, so how much damage could it possibly cause in your day-to-day life?
The reality is, having poor mental health is ugly and hard. It’s a deep feeling that affects your whole body. When you start to fall into your struggles, it’s incredibly hard to get yourself out.
The advice most people give can be hard to process in your darkest moment, but even harder when it’s a generic tip that may not work for you. I used to feel resentment when I opened up about having a bad day, and someone replied with “go take a walk.” It felt like my struggles were being diminished, and my inability to function ignored.
So, from someone who’s been there, here are some more unique pieces of advice I’ve found useful in recovering from episodes of poor mental health.
Clean your room
If you’re having a day where you feel too paralyzed with misery to be productive, try one thing: cleaning your room.
It doesn’t have to be a deep clean; you don’t have to reorganize everything, and honestly, if you have to hide stuff in your closet to make it look presentable, that’s fine, too. Having a clean space does wonders for your mental health. It makes you and your environment feel clean and clear when your mind feels messy and crammed.
If cleaning your room is overwhelming, start with only cleaning one thing at a time. Pick your clothes up from the ground and put them where they need to go; don’t think of any other task, just do that. Then pick something else to focus on and make that your target.
Before you know it, your physical and mental space will be a little clearer, and a little more bearable.
Force yourself to go outside
I’ve always found being told “go on a walk” a little infuriating because walking aimlessly did nothing other than make me miserable somewhere else. I’m a homebody, so I don’t feel the benefits of fresh air and sunlight as fast as others.
It’s true going outside, walking, and exercising are good for your mental health. If taking a walk feels a bit too aimless, force yourself to go outside by turning inside errands into outside errands.
What does that mean? For me, instead of ordering my groceries or food to get delivered, I take the trek to Metro, and take the scenic route—if the weather is decent—for good measure.
If I have an appointment, instead of taking an Uber or the bus, I’ll leave earlier in the day and just walk there. Kingston is a gloriously walkable city for the most part; almost everything you need can be found up or down Princess St.
Running a short errand outside forces you to implement a broad piece of advice in a way that feels unobtrusive. Slowly, you’ll feel the long-term benefits of going out a little more.
There is a difference between taking a step back from exhausting and stressful social situations for your mental health and isolating yourself. If you’re in a state of mind where the company of others will worsen your state, ignore this one.
I’ve been in a lot of situations where I’ve said I needed to be alone, when really, that was the last thing I needed. I’ve seen this happen to other people, too. They say they need a little alone time, but that “little” turns into “a lot,” and soon, they spiral into a deeper depression because they feel so alone.
Humans are naturally social creatures, and sometimes you need to be social to soothe the part of you that craves social interaction, even if you don’t want to at first.
Making the effort to stay social and surround yourself with people that you care about is great for your mental health. So, if your friends invite you out and you feel sour on the inside, say yes anyways. Evaluate how you feel once you get there—you can always leave if you feel worse.
These aren’t magical cures for poor mental health, and these pieces of advice aren’t one-size-fits-all. At the end of the day, healing is a process that everyone works through differently. The most important thing is to take the steps to find what works for you.
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