At a quick glance, these tips might sound daunting, but let me tell you something sweet and true: the choices that bring about true change are the hardest ones to do. Don’t lose heart! Deciding to find emotional health and trying to figure out where to start can be overwhelming, not to say the least bit scary. So it’s been on my heart to share with you a few of the tips that I’ve narrowed down to be the most helpful through the past four years of seeking my own emotional health. May these ideas help bring you relief in knowing that you are understood and encourage your own pursuit of healing.
1. Get people in your life.
Be vulnerable and talk to someone who you can trust. When we are feeling unmotivated, frustrated, and sad, the last thing we want is to see someone and to try to put a smile on. It is important to respect our desires and alone time, and I don’t recommend forcing yourself to do something that you truly don’t want to do. However, there are times that anger or pain can be misread, distorting the reality of our needs. It’s in moments as these that it’s necessary to use every last bit of determination and seek out quality time with another being. The mere presence of another can ease and even erase poisoning thoughts.
Remember, even though this is a time of great need for you, your friend will benefit from your presence as well. You are not a burden!
2. Commit to a therapist.
This step is real and brave, and it is intentionally listed as a separate tip from the one above. Talking with a friend is vitally different from a professional therapist. While I cannot express enough the irreplaceable role friends have in our life, we cannot expect them to fulfill the role that only a trained specialist can. A friend is comforting and supportive, yet perhaps it’s in this comfort that we are avoiding the discomfort of being challenged to change.
I have personally experienced that no matter how caring, wise, and willing a friend or leader may be to help, they may not perceive or understand the symptoms tangled up in my subconscious. And they shouldn’t always be expected to. This is why there are psychologists and psychoanalysts to help us heal.
Despite how desperate I was to get help and relief from my painful thoughts, I honestly was terrified of what I would find out. Some days I wanted to call and schedule an extra appointment, and other times I wanted to skip my session completely. Even so, I have acknowledged and decided that freedom will come by telling my therapist everything that I feared and thought. Getting it all out in the open and exposed to the light is the first step. Whatever your reason for not finding or returning to a therapist, remember that it is when things get uncomfortable and difficult that you will get stronger.
Not only is there stigma behind the mental illness itself, but also behind the medication that could help give us the strength to overcome it. There’s fear of addiction, shame of having to be dependent, both of which make us hesitant to use it.
Just as we are given water to quench our thirst and splints to brace our broken bones, so also we have medicine to stabilize our [temporary] chemical imbalance.
Medication is important and is just one part of the process. Not everyone will need it, and neither is anyone meant to find healing with medicine alone, but it works hand-in-hand with therapy. It numbs the symptoms and pain, and gives us the stability that we ourselves are momentarily not capable of. It holds all of our pieces together while we bravey go in and sort them out. I share more deeply about my thoughts and experiences with medication in Completely Free post.
Should you need to depend on pills for a time, know that your braveness of accepting this help makes you stronger than you can even imagine!
4. Don’t make decisions in the middle of panic.
Anxiety causes the darkest thoughts to seem like reality. When the panic overwhelms and temporarily becomes your reality, its extremely difficult to not make decisions when you have moments or days of “living” in another world. Hold on and let the anguish pass. When you are able to recognize familiar, unhealthy patterns, you can then remind yourself to wait it out until it passes. It always does, and it will pass again.
This huge step is possible when you learn to acknowledge your thoughts. It takes time and the guidance of a therapist, and slowly, through the Holy Spirit, you will notice your thoughts starting to be revealed to you. Once you notice a particular thought, the next step is to understand it. Why do you need to think about this? Why does it cause you anguish? Why did this thought scare you? Once we put a name to thoughts and feelings we can begin to expose the need behind them. Remember to not try to do it all alone, bring the realizations to your next session.
5. Treat yourself.
We can truly bless our hearts with special moments and treats when we begin to love ourselves. It simply cannot be done in the reverse order, but starts from the inside out. However, self-love is not only possible after you are completely well, but rather an act that brings you there. You can read more about my renewed vision of self-care in this post featured on On Coming Alive.
Go somewhere. Do something different. Breathe in the fresh air as you walk in the neighborhood. Exchange the dirty laundry for a 30 minute coffee break at your favorite café. Do yoga, go to the gym. Watch the sunset, get a manicure, indulge in that dark chocolate or sugar injected cupcake. These choices can be extremely hard when dealing with an emotional illness such as depression, when both motivation and desire are gone, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t.
Fatigue creeps in and disguises frustration, boredom, and fear as tiredness. Push against the sense of lack of motivation. Change brings healing, and change is brought about by one choice at a time. Self-love is an intentional decision, a constant rebellion against the old, dark beliefs. Create a habit of doing something you enjoy, not just what you need to do. You need what you enjoy - think about it.
I am so happy to share my personal tips and ways of how I bring myself a little closer to life. I pray and hope that you are filled with inspiration to get up and make some steps towards your own health, and that you find joy along the way!