Why Your Mental Health Matters Every Day
Seleni launches a new section to help you take care of yourself
As a mother of two, a survivor of postpartum anxiety, and someone who tends to put everyone else's needs first, I am often flat out. I am tired. I get run down. I wish I were in better shape. Some nights (more than I'd like to admit) my brain won't shut down, and Ambien sends me to sleep. At times I feel like a shadow of the fit, energetic, upbeat person I used to be. I see glimpses of her now and again, but mostly she’s a bittersweet memory, and that’s because I rarely take care of her.
Few of us do. Whatever demands come our way – whether from being the caregiver to young children or ailing parents, or dealing with perfectionist bosses and the constant connection to work – most of us struggle gamely under the burden until it becomes too much to bear. And then our physical and mental health take the hit.
Five months ago, I was in the middle of a move from Brooklyn, New York to Atlanta, Georgia. In a stress-filled moment (one of many), I broke down in tears, crying to my husband, "There is no 'me' left." I felt completely detached from pride in myself, from feeling good, and from feeling whole as a person. I was emotionally and physically wiped out. There was nothing left to lift me up.
It's times like that when my anxiety can get a foothold, and I have professional mental health resources to manage it if I need them. But I have also learned that taking preventive action can keep me from reaching those low points, help me bounce back when I do, and return the "me" I am missing.
That tear-filled night also spurred my husband to action. He proposed something he likes to call "Project Kate." The four pillars of Project Kate involve him taking a daily emotional temperature of me and the kids so he knows how and when to help us, making time for me to prioritize fitness and daily exercise, practicing "random acts of Kate kindness," and helping facilitate an active social life in our new hometown so we have the social support that is key to happiness.
We are settled in Atlanta now, and several months into Project Kate I'm happy to report that it's working. Prioritizing my mental health through fitness, sleep, five-minute meditations here and there, and getting the emotional and social support I need makes a tremendous difference in my resilience and ability to handle the unavoidable slings and arrows of life. (Hello, moving!) It's like practicing defensive driving so I'm far less likely to crash and burn.
Taking care of myself every day makes me stronger and happier, and it also makes me a better wife, mother, writer, and employee. But most of all, it is bringing "me" back. And I'm learning that when I let those self-care habits slip (or ignore them completely), I pay the price in increased stress, sadness, loss of optimism, and growing anxiety.
We all deserve to have the support necessary to weather life's inevitable ups and downs and all the challenges inherent to the modern world we live in. Sometimes that support needs to be professional mental health care, and sometimes it can come from the people we love and the resources we seek out for ourselves.
That's why Seleni is launching a new editorial section, Everyday Mental Health. Here we will offer expert insight and real-world advice for managing the more difficult thoughts and emotions that are an integral part of being human – like beating ourselves up, getting bogged down by guilt, and worrying(just to name a few). We'll also share realistic ways you can make your mental health a priority, shore up your resources to keep you from reaching your breaking point, and help you bounce back if you do.
We hope you will use these pieces to assemble the pillars of Project You. Share them with friends and family, so everyone benefits from making mental health a priority.
There's another invaluable benefit to making mental health an everyday topic. When we, or the people we love, or anyone for that matter, needs professional help to manage a mental health issue, it will be easier to start the conversations that get us to that support. When preventive mental health care is considered as important as flossing our teeth or logging 10,000 steps daily, then the need for help in times of crisis will be less stigmatized, less scary, more routine, and easier to ask for.
And that is why your mental health matters every day. Start prioritizing it today.