Saturday, April 14, 2018

How To Nurture Your Mental Wellness

I've shared so much of my story here over the years, falling more and more in love with blogging both as an outlet and as a way to connect with the world outside my own circle. And I don't just love writing the blogs, either - I love reading them for about dozen different reasons, one of which is mental wellness.

Through reading blogs (and similarly, watching vlogs), I've learned so much about mental health and personal development - so much so that it couldn't have been more seamless for me to transition this blog from a simple author blog to a lifestyle blog in the beginning of 2017. I opened my content options so much, switching from mostly talking about my publishing journey to also sharing about my life in general, including my PTSD diagnosis, tidbits about my life as a single mom, and so much of the personal history that still drives me every day.

What I love most about this transition is that it gives me a platform I can use to share the things I've learned with others - tips about productivity and how to be more productive despite mental illness, how to encourage and uplift yourself when you lack a strong support network, and where to find outside support resources when they're needed. I've even shared self-care recipes and strategies, tips on dealing with anxiety, and why I choose to take things personally on purpose in my efforts to solidify the porous boundaries that keep getting me into toxic relationships.

With that being said, things in my life have been understandably chaotic despite the excitement I feel over the upcoming move and subsequent lifestyle changes, and because of this, I've been working my favorite five-step mental-wellness-nurturing routine a little more often lately. And I thought, since I share so much here already, someone out there might appreciate me sharing this, too.


1. Unsent Letters
One of my favorite ways to let off some steam is to go ahead and give myself permission to say whatever I want, however I want, to whomever I want - with one catch: it can't hurt anyone. When I've got a mind and heart full of things I can't allow my mouth to say, my favorite way to deal with the pressure of that is to sit down with a pen and some paper and go ahead and let the poison pour out. Sometimes I address these letters with a name, other times I don't bother. Sometimes they're written in love, out of emotion I don't feel comfortable sharing with that person (or at all), other times they're full of anger and insult and abuse. No one ever sees them, either way.

These letters are often pages and pages long, repetitive and circular - but always honest, brutally and undeniably honest. Once they're written, I shred them, burn them, tear them into pieces ... whatever is most convenient or feels best in the moment, but also ensures that what I've written will never be seen.

In theory, they seem so useless; what's the point of all that effort, all that emotion? The hand cramps, the tear-streaked, ink-covered pages? And yet ... the freedom to be so completely honest and true to myself and my feelings is ... well, it's freeing. It releases the pressure of whatever I'm feeling, relieves the tension, and allows me to express whatever's been building up in my spirit. Then, knowing that no one will ever see what I've written gives me comfort; in this way, unleashing the thing that hurts me will not, in turn, hurt anyone else - because words have power, and I don't want mine to become weapons.


2. Self-Compassion
I love the way writing unsent letters helps me ease the internal pressure of my emotions, but it often leaves me feeling drained and exhausted - and sometimes I end up just a little angry or disappointed in myself. Because I give myself complete permission to be as brutally honest as needed to express whatever I'm feeling in the letters I write, and the need to write them most often stems from unexpressed anger, frustration, or hurt, my unsent letters are often terribly mean, petty, insulting, or even outright abusive. These letters are where I express emotions in a way that is healthy for me without hurting anyone else ... but they are also where I most clearly see my own ugliness.

They're where, for just a little while, I allow myself to become everything I'm proud of not being.

So after the letter is written and the poison is gone - and I'm a little disgusted with myself - I'll spend a little quality time giving myself some compassion, reminding me that I have a right to my emotions. Taking some time to own that right is what allows me to move forward, and being kind enough to myself to be compassionate with my emotions and needs also helps me remember to be compassionate with the person I just wrote to. It helps me forgive - both the person I'm upset with, and myself for letting the issues fester.


3. Affirmation
Giving myself grace over my emotions - and the need to express them somehow - helps me remember how proud I am of myself for finding a non-toxic way to cope with the issue at hand. This is where I find encouragement and nurture the ability to be kind to myself.

It is because I am kind that I choose to begin with unsent letters. It is because I am generally respectful of others that I choose to air my deepest grievances in a private way that doesn't create conflict. It is because I crave peace that I choose not to send the letters I write, and it is out of loving compassion for others that I choose to understand the issues that may be playing into the behavior of the other person.

I mean, I'm a long way from perfect ... but I'm actually pretty amazing, once I get to thinking about it.


4. Self-Defense
Now that the emotions are dealt with and I'm feeling better, this is the right place for me to think about my boundaries. What was the issue that drove me to write that letter in the first place, and how can I prevent it coming up again in the future? Usually, the issue is that I've let something small fester; something happened that hurt or angered me, something was said that offended me somehow, and I didn't say anything. I didn't stand up for myself. I didn't draw a line, didn't set a boundary. I didn't respect myself, which is why I now feel disrespected.

So ... would sitting down and talking it out with the other person help? If I sit down with this person and tell them I'm hurt or upset, tell them why, and ask them to do something that will resolve the issue, will they hear me out? Will they change behavior?

Self-defense. The emotions aren't raw anymore, I'm feeling better both about myself and the situation in general, and now it's time to set boundaries that will protect me emotionally in the future. People treat you the way you teach them to treat you - so now I need to find a calm, kind, but honest way to teach this person that I deserve to be treated better. That I, like any other person, am valuable. And that in order for the relationship to heal and grow in a healthy way, I demand to be treated well.

It is, after all, only fair.


5. Therapy
Boundaries are hard for me. Conflict is hard for me. In the past, I've had too many instances of weak boundaries on my part leading to my being disrespected, demeaned, or otherwise devalued for too long without my saying anything. I have, in essence, taught people (both in romantic and non-romantic relationships) to mistreat me by accepting the treatment I was given without much complaint. I've let my own feelings sit in the dark of my heart and grow more and more painful until they could no longer be hidden, and then I have stood up, lashed back, and spoken out - too late.

This has cost me dearly in terms of personal safety, financial security, self-worth and self-confidence - and over the years, even my faith as a Christian has taken a hit. But in therapy, I'm able to talk through the past, learn how it impacts the present, and create a stronger me heading into the future. I went for depression, was diagnosed with PTSD and PMDD ... but in taking that step (going to therapy), I gained something more valuable than I can express: I've learned so much about myself and who I am, what I want my life to look like, where I want to go moving forward.

I've learned to see how my own choices helped to get me where I am, both good and bad, and how I can adjust to get where I want to be. I've discovered comfort in conversation, safety in self-expression, and validation in vulnerability - and those are gifts I wouldn't trade for the world.


And that's it, the five most helpful strategies I use to keep my mental health as in check as possible. If you'd like to try any of these, please be sure to let me know how they work for you in the comments below! And if therapy seems like it's not an option for you because of insurance issues or because it's simply too expensive, I urge you to check out online therapy options like BetterHelp, where you can even try quality online therapy for free.


If you liked this post, related to it in some way, or know someone who needs to see it, make sure you drop a comment below - I would love your feedback as well as the chance to interact with you! It would also be great if you could share the link to this post with your friends - it helps me get my blog out there, and I love that it brings new exposure to the Undaunted Army and what we hope to accomplish! Be sure you check out my quarterly giveaway page, too - there are several free and easy ways to enter - and members of the Undaunted Army are always eligible for extra entries!

And speaking of the Army, I'd like to personally invite you to take your place among the ranks of those who have fought and survived the battles of life. Addiction, abuse, violence, divorce, parenting, illness, and other traumas are real battles too, and those who suit up to fight every day have a right and an obligation to nurture their own health, well-being, and self-empowerment. But there is strength in numbers, as as a member of the Undaunted Army, you have the hope of knowing that you will never have to fight your battles alone again. Enlist as an Undaunted Army Private for free, or invest in the growing impact of the Army with an Undaunted Army Officer Commission for as little as $1 a month.

However we stay connected, always know that my brand and the Undaunted Army itself are solely built on what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman" isn't just a slogan or a tagline - it's a purpose and a goal, which is why, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for being here.


NOTE: This post is a partnership with BetterHelp.com, in conjunction with my love of their site and content combined with their love of giving people a better, more personalized way of accessing quality mental healthcare. All thoughts, opinions, and ideas expressed in this post are my own - and as you know, I would never recommend any site, service or product I didn't authentically love.

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