self-care for mental health

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I was initially planning a post for today about how to get involved in the world (in short: make donations, contact your reps, attend town halls, volunteer, and stay educated), but I felt compelled to switch gears at the last minute and talk about mental health instead after hearing about Kate Spade's death this week. (EDIT: And now as of Friday morning, Anthony Bourdain as well which really hits home with me.)

I've been really proud to see so many bloggers and influencers sharing their mental health stories this week. Following the suicide of a prominent figure, it seems the public usually shares their condolences and nothing more. But Kate felt like a friend to so many, there's actually an important conversation being had about mental health. 

I like to think I've been relatively fortunate when it comes to mental health. However, I dealt with bad anxiety for many years as well as what I think was a mild depression. And I have to say, if what I experienced was mild---I have serious compassion for anyone dealing with severe depression. 

Luckily, I've done a lot of work to improve my own mental health and, while it is sort of an ongoing thing you have to be aware of, I've managed to really escape the kind of anxiety I used to have. I'm not a mental health therapist (although my best friend is) so I feel a bit reluctant making recommendations. But I did want to share a few things that have helped me and also just share my personal experiences in solidarity with everyone else who is making a point to let others know they're not alone and that it is more than okay to talk about. Okay, getting candid, here are the few things that worked for me.

seeing a therapist
I've been to three different therapists and have to stress the importance of finding the right one for you. I've had excellent, bad, and just okay. The greatest therapist I ever had was one who worked in the mental health center at my college. The center itself was a serene little cottage, his office was sunny and looked out over a courtyard, and he was just really great. He listened and empathized and validated the way I felt, but he also gave proactive advice and resources. From my own experience and what I've learned from my best friend (who I mentioned is a mental health therapist), it tends to be most beneficial if you work with a therapist who is actively helping you, not just one who lets you vent but doesn't give anything back. If you are looking for a therapist, here's a database.

leaning on god
This could honestly be a full post in itself and I know it's not for everyone. I don't consider myself to be at all religious but I do have a personal relationship with God that I credit as pulling me out of that state of anxiety/depression. It was weirdly as simple as choosing to have faith everyday and give up everything to God instead of ruminating on it myself.

ayurveda + spiritual healing practices
There's a lot to this, but I've found that researching spiritual healing practices and ayurveda are really helpful. Whether it's kundalini yoga, crystals, reiki, breath work, meditation, nutrition, or chakra cleansing, there are a ton of ancient resources to help you. I know it sounds kind of out there, but these things have really worked for me. Here's an interview with some information.

I feel like there is a huge stigma around medication which is totally unnecessary. There's absolutely nothing wrong with responsibly using medication as a resource to help you. If your doctor/psychiatrist/therapist thinks it could benefit you, don't feel like being on mental health medication means there's something wrong with your or that you're "crazy". Anxiety and depression, along with all other mental health issues, are just that: health issues. You wouldn't fault someone for being medically treated for cancer or an infection, so there's no reason to fault someone for being medically treated for health issues of the mind. 

natural anxiety relievers
These days, I love using Natural Vitality's Calm magnesium powder to relax. It's a non-medicinal, natural powder you mix into a glass of water and it helps to calm down your body. There are several natural options for anxiety now, from magnesium to CBD to kava kava and valerian root.

Anyway, just know that there is help out there for everyone no matter how big or small your problems may seem. I really think we need to get rid of the stigma around mental health and make people feel more comfortable seeking out support. Because honestly, everyone deals with mental health issues at some point in their life. You may not think they do, but they do. We're all in it together and if we act like that's the case, it could probably help us all survive a bit easier.