Source: Chinnapong / Shutterstock
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. As I thought about what to write to promote mental health and resilience, there was no shortage of topics to consider: We are living in turbulent times with a great deal of uncertainty about our personal futures and the future of the world around us. So I decided to write something that would encourage people to take care of themselves and to think about what mental health looks like for them. After all, we struggle with different challenges depending on our circumstances, our relationships, and our desires. We are all fighting different battles at different times in our lives.
However, there are ways we can take care of our mental health that we share in common. Doing these things will help you stay focused on staying mentally healthy, strong, and resilient.
1. Identify what is within your control and what you can change.
Many of us tend to focus on what is hard, what we cannot change, and what holds us back. This can quickly become discouraging. We can get stuck in the trenches of despair when we focus on what isn’t possible and why we can’t do certain things.
In contrast, identifying what we can control makes us feel empowered. We begin to believe in ourselves and realize that there are things we can do to make our lives better, have better relationships, and take care of our needs.
2. Keep cynical thoughts to a minimum.
While sarcasm can certainly have a place as a means of coping with life’s disappointments, too much sarcastic humor can lead to a cynical attitude as our default. We can then get stuck believing that things will never change and that the world is out to get us. That does not lead to an optimistic viewpoint or to the resilience we need to stay grounded and focused on living our best life. Catch yourself in cynical mode and remind yourself that it isn’t useful as an everyday coping tool.
3. Identify the people in your life who do not belong there.
There are some people who treat us badly, bring us down emotionally, and sometimes even convince us that we can’t achieve our goals or be our best. Focusing on what those people say and do and letting them get the best of us until it reaches a point that we are stuck can be toxic for our mental health. It’s our responsibility to identify bad relationships and then to break free and move forward, not to continue to dwell on what they have done.
At the end of the day, it’s up to us to make our own decisions and to create our own paths. Those who love and accept us for who we are will follow us and provide their support and encouragement.
4. Surround yourself with like-minded people who are making their best effort to live a good life.
Everyone is influenced by the people in their lives. Our friends, family members, coworkers, and significant others affect our worldview. Behavior patterns and moods can be contagious, whether they are positive or negative.
Prioritize time with people who make you feel good and encourage your dreams. Spending too much time with people who are critical or who constantly question your choices and your motives may decrease your self-confidence and make you question your decisions. Being around people who are optimistic, responsible, and who take action on their own goals is inspiring. Their behavior will encourage you to be proactive, and you can support each other in living a good life and taking care of yourselves.
As we walk through life, we will have varying degrees of social support and encouragement from others. There may be times when we do not have as much support, and that’s when we have to be our own best advocates. Recognize if you are being treated unkindly or unfairly, and be assertive in making your concerns or needs known.
Sometimes, other people are not aware of how they are affecting us, and their negative influence is not intentional. So we don’t want to draw assumptions about others until we talk to them about what’s going on. Similarly, if we feel as though the way we are treated is creating difficulty for us or has affected our quality of life, we have to communicate so that we can be heard and understood. Sometimes, self-advocacy is as simple as making a request or a desire known to others.
6. Empathize with others’ feelings and perspectives.
Although it’s important to take care of yourself and focus on your goals and dreams, your life is not separate from the needs and desires of others. Having healthy relationships is essential for good mental health. It’s hard to have good relationships and friendships when we are not empathetic to the struggles of others. We must make our needs known, but we must also show others that we care about them and that we wish to understand them. This results in having a close network of social and emotional support where everyone can encourage each other and celebrate each other’s victories.
Doing the things listed above is not going to create the perfect life. But following these steps will help you make a good start to developing resilience and positive mental health.