We asked influencer, Jenn DeCima, how she keeps her mental health in check. These are her 5 ways!
1. GET PROFESSIONAL HELP
Okay so for full transparency I'm someone who suffers with anxiety (general and social), depression, and agoraphobia with panic disorder. That is my official diagnosis but my psychiatrist is semi-unsure at this point if I also have OCD and PTSD. I'm also a highly sensitive person, according to my therapist, which is apparently a real thing and not just a label that's been used as an insult a million times before, lol. I work from home and started doing so years ago because of my mental health issues. I had a feeling I had anxiety and depression my whole life but I was just trying to push through life and get over it on my own. Needless to say, I failed. Tip number one is to ALWAYS reach out for help if you think you are struggling with a mental illness because no amount of yoga or baths or whatever else someone recommends you is going to treat the very real, very dangerous chemical imbalances in your brain and body. Period.
For anyone struggling with depression or many other mental health conditions you know how difficult it can be to get out of bed, get anything done, not procrastinate, not lose track of things, feel "normal," etc. and keeping myself on track with physical itineraries and a set routine has been so helpful. Even if I KNOW that I have to brush my teeth in the morning (obviously), write it down anyway. It's easy to lose track of things and do them late. It's even easier to go to bed feeling like you've done nothing and you're worthless. If you write out a detailed to-do list of every single thing you need to and want to get done in a day, you won't be able to forget anything and crossing off so many tasks is physical proof that your depressed brain cannot deny that you have done enough. You were productive and it gives you a feeling of accomplishment to be able to have that. It also eliminates the worry you might experience with anxiety that there's something more to do, something important you're forgetting, or anything else. And be strict about it, if you can! If work ends for you at 5pm and your daily walk starts at 5:30pm but you have more work to complete, don't. Close your laptop and go for your walk. Stick to your schedule/routine. It alleviates the burden of feeling like you're not working enough and helps stop you from over-working or maybe even just getting sidetracked on social media for hours. I know it sounds very rigid and unhappy but I cannot tell you how much peace and stability this has given me!
3. MANDATORY FUN
Remember when we were talking about lists and routines? It can be really easy to get lost in that routine and work too much. For me, if I don't give myself breaks, my brain decides that it's taking over and giving itself a break. Then, I experience disassociating which can be scary but is really just your body's way of coping and taking care of you when you're not doing that for yourself. It's easy to feel guilty about having fun or doing something that seems frivolous. something just for you and nobody else but it is absolutely essential for everyone. Think of it as school recess. Imagine if you were ten years old and had to go to school for 7-8 hours straight with no lunch break or recess, there's a reason that time is mandatory when you're a kid. It should still be prioritized and still be seen as mandatory. You may not enjoy the monkey bars as much anymore, but it really doesn't matter what you do with your recess as long as you find it enjoyable. For me, that means I get to take time to watch TV, draw, do DIY projects, sit on social media, play with my cats, read, or anything else I feel like doing! Pencil it into your schedule and MAKE TIME for that every single day no matter what. I also make sure that I get one full day off a week.(I tried for 2 once, that was a nightmare so 1 works for me but figure out what works best for you.) And by full I mean FULL. No checking emails, no catching up, nothing. It's a full day of recess. At first, it might make you anxious or feel useless. I definitely recommend doing something productive that is still enjoyable for you like writing, organizing, drawing, etc. because that can kind of ease you into a full day of nothing.
4. PHYSICAL ACTIVITY/EMOTIONAL CHECK INS
If you're even half as upset about the idea of exercising as I am, this one is really easy to write off as a non-option. I get it, I put it off for years and told myself that something I so thoroughly dislike wouldn't make me happier and even added in the excuse of having asthma so it probably wasn't good for me anyway and off I went on my way to ignore this tip for years. Then, in 2017 my doctor told me I had pre-diabetes and if I didn't start to lose weight I would develop the condition and be forced to take a shot every day. I have a huge phobia of needles so that wasn't an option. I started to diet at first trying to avoid physical activity as much as possible but that just wasn't working. While looking up fitness hacks online I came across two apps: MyFitnessPal and Pacer. Both are completely free (unless you pay for upgrades but I've been using them for years and have never felt the need to) and they're super helpful when it comes to tracking your calories, macros (short for macronutrients, something I didn't know existed before the app), and the amount of steps you take during the day. At first I only used Pacer because I wanted to score some more calories by syncing it to MyFitnessPal which would count it as exercise and give me a bigger allowance. Eventually, I didn't like my small portions anymore and I missed junk food so I thought, "How hard could it really be to walk 10,000 steps a day like Pacer CLAIMS is the least amount of steps you should be taking?" and I decided to try it out. I don't like being outside (agoraphobic, hi) and I don't like running (asthmatic, hi) so I started taking slow walks at sundown when there would be less people out. At first I absolutely hated it because my mind would wander into dark territories and if it wasn't I was just bored and kept checking my phone only to realize I had only taken 20 steps since the last time I checked it. Then, eventually, I started to love it.
5. ALLOW YOURSELF TO FAIL, GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK.
One thing I talk a lot about and is probably littered through-out all of these tips is being rigid, being diligent, being tough, sticking to it, following through, etc. etc. you get the point. Self-discipline is really important to me and I'm VERY good at it (probably too good) but over the years I've learned that failing, falling off the wagon, taking breaks, having bad days, and feeling sorry for yourself when you need to are all ok things to do as long as you're not allowing yourself to let those things take over. In my option, like it's just as important to rest as it is to be productive-- it's just as important to ALLOW YOURSELF to fail and to have bad days as it is to succeed and have good days. Have you ever woken up in a bad mood and you just weren't able to shake it no matter how many tasks you crossed off your to-do list, how many fun activities you tried to distract yourself with, how much exercise you did or even how many pints of ice cream you ate? Yeah, that happens. Sometimes you're just not going to feel better and it's important and sometimes necessary to sit with those bad feelings and allow yourself to feel them FULLY. Whether that means dissecting them or just crying all day, let them come so they can go.
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