I want to talk about something beautiful that we shouldn’t be afraid of or feel ashamed to talk about. We all have moments of suffering, of pain, of hard experiences, and of anxiety and depression. I thought in the past that it was easier to shy away from my thoughts on mental health, on painful feelings and on my own personal experience of life as a whole. I thought life could be experienced more simply and prettily put together. But the reality is rawer, uglier, and simultaneously more beautiful and complex than that. It doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t matter what you do. It doesn’t matter how much money you have. It doesn’t matter where you live. Taking care of yourself is always going to be essential to your wellbeing. Essential for your body and for your mind. I once heard that mental hygiene is as important as physical hygiene. And it is. In fact, you can’t have one without the other. Because to feel good physically, you need to feel good in the inside too. You brush your teeth every day, right? Two to three times a day I would suppose. Well, that’s just as important as brushing your mind. Soothing your soul with fresh love, hydrating your thoughts as you hydrate your skin.
And this is all a constant work. This is perhaps the most important part of your self-care routine. The process doesn’t stop. Because, like I said, it doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, our mental health is important every day. How do we soothe the soul? Brush the mind? Through compassion, through practice and through patience. Sometimes, for me, it has been hard to understand that everyone is in their own journey, their own process. But that’s the truth, so don’t compare, and don’t judge yourself nor others. Everyone has their own path to follow, their own steps to take. We can seek help through therapy, something I highly recommend to everyone. I began my therapeutic process almost three years ago and it has really allowed me to shift my perspective, to gain daily tools and learn mindfulness in order to see life through a lighter lens, to feel safer within the difficult environments and experiences that sometimes surround me, and to not allow the anxiety and dark inner times to envelop me whole. We may not all have the luxury of constant therapeutic help, because it is constant. It is nota oneway ticket to happiness. But there are options online too. There are dozens of books, many of which have nurtured my knowledge and fed my soul with inner wisdom, inspiration, and love. I have included their names and respective authors at the end of this essay.
Meditation and breath work are so profoundly helpful in these times too. Again, it is an everyday practice and work. Spotify and YouTube offer hundreds of guided meditations and videos that can also guide us through the difficult moments. We must use these readings and videos to enlighten us through our journey. Less time spent on social media, on comparing our lives to those of others, on wanting ‘more’ or ‘different’. More time spent breathing, reading, learning. More time spent immersed in nature, watering our plants, and allowing the present moment to replenish us with peace and soft balance.
To me, exercise and what I eat defines a lot of how I feel as well. Aerobic exercise that raises my heart rate and makes me sweat relieves and refreshes me thoroughly. Anaerobic exercise too. For me, horse-riding(when I can) the gym, swimming, high interval training, yoga, and walks in the park or the forest fill me with radiant joy and leave me feeling inspired and grateful. Not only does exercise make my body feel good and strong but it makes my mind feel happy and balanced too. My experience is that eating healthily also lifts my mood. Fruits and vegetables, light protein such as fish and eggs, not so much sugar, healthy fats like nuts and avocados. These foods fuel me with energy whereas heavy, greasy, extra sugary meals can make me sad, take my energy away and leave me feeling tired. All of what I’m saying has scientific explanations, which today I will not go deeply into but some of the books I will recommend can give you more information about each topic. However, the latter is also simply felt in our wise and sensitive bodies.
I drink a lot of water and I sleep a lot. Eight to nine, sometimes even ten hours of sleep. I can spend hours talking about how crucial sleep is for us, how underrated it is and it is all supported by rich science as well. I try not to drink coffee too often, and I don’t drink alcohol often either. I stay creative, I write, laugh, read, dance, and I take care of the content I take in, such as the films and shows I watch, the books I read, and the news and information I learn. This too, is part of myself-care routine. I give myself a lot of love and self-compassion, as much asI can. I am honest with myself and with those I love and most importantly, I am learning to accept that I am under no means perfect. My mind can be a mess. My body can feel lost. My thoughts can persist in negativity. The anxiety that arrives uninvited can try to destroy me at times. And no matter who I am or what I do, no matter how much self-work I’ve done, no matter how much money I have, no matter where I live, taking care of myself will always be essential.
Hard times come. Because what is life without struggle? But it is how we choose to confront the pain. Not as victims, but as heroes of our own lives. As powerful survivors of our past painful mistakes and experiences. We must choose to keep going; to get back up every single time we fall down. There have been days I can’t breathe from the anxiety, from the pain. I get back up. There have been days I am so angry that I hurt the peopleI love. I forgive myself, I get back up. Days of deep sorrow and a sadness that doesn’t want to leave. I surrender to the moment, I accept, I say enough, I put myself first, I heal. I get back up.
This is mental health. First, we must accept and acknowledge within ourselves. We must talk about it with those we love before it gets too much. And if it gets too much and overflows, we still get back up until we learn how to not let it consume us entirely. We must realize that everyone has torment and pain of their own. Surrender. Forgive.And keep healing. Like I said, there is no one-way ticket. There is just today, now. And there is always tomorrow and saying goodbye to yesterday, not by forgetting, but by learning and accepting the past. By embracing and surrendering to the uncertainty of the future. This is mental health. The unconditional love for yourself through the super highs and the super lows.Through the super ‘happies’ and the super ‘sads’. Trust me, really trust me, you are not alone. Because it doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t matter what you do. This is something we all share. Something we must all learn to embrace and thus, to nurture. Our mental health is more than just a topic. It is our lives. Our heart, our mind, our body, our soul. Love yourself, hug yourself, be proud of yourself. Because if you are reading this, you are already one step closer to your inner growth, your inner power, and your inevitable and beautiful transformation.
Books that have truly helped me in my own mental & spiritual journey, and may help you too…
Anatomy of the Spirit – Caroline Myss
Women Who Run with the Wolves –Clarissa Pinkola Estés
The Dark Side of the Light Chasers– Debbie Ford
The Choice – Dr. Edith Eger
The Gift – Dr. Edith Eger
Natural Health Natural Medicine –Andrew Weil
The Four Agreements (Los CuatroAcuerdos) – Dr Miguel Ruiz
Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl
The Art of Happiness – The 14th Dalai Lama & Howard C. Cutler
The Soul of Healing – Graciela M.Damewood
Breaking the Habit of BeingYourself – Dr. Joe Dispenza
Why We Sleep – Matthew Walker
The Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron
Greenlights – Matthew McConaughey