Improving Mental Health and Practicing Self-Love

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Ah, mental health, the source of fear and unhappiness in many lives. Maybe this resonates with you, Maybe it doesn’t. But we all know someone or will meet someone who struggles with their mental health.
 
A few months ago, I was in a very dark place. I’d wake up not wanting to get out of bed, struggling with insomnia, and scary late night thoughts. My seasonal depression was in full swing, and I could only dream of warm, sunny days, though they’re still months ahead. Don’t worry, this post isn’t all doom and gloom. In fact, I haven’t been this happy in a long time. For anyone who has struggled with depression, anxiety, or their self-image, this post is for you.
 
Depression used to be so foreign. A word I didn’t know or understand. Somehow, it crept into my life around age twelve. 6th grade, what a time to be alive. You learn a lot about math, mean girls, literature, how to hate your body, history, did I say mean girls? I think a lot of us can agree, middle school SUCKS. For me, this is where my battle with depression began. 8 years later, I’m able to look back at the common trends and actions that led to my darkest days. By no means do I have the cure for depression (if only it were that simple). All I can offer are the actions I took to remove myself from some of the saddest days of my life.
 
Here are some ways I coped with my depression and got myself out of my worst episode:
 
What’s keeping you in bed?
 
If you’re anything like I was, getting out of bed is the hardest part of your day. Getting out of bed means you have to wake up. And sleeping is your only escape from reality. I’ve been told over and over that you should have something to look forward to in the morning. Something that motivates you to rise and shine (i.e. morning coffee, muffin, etc.). But I didn’t want to stay in bed because there was a lack of good in my life. It was the stress of the bad outweighing the good. Instead, I needed to identify what was keeping me in bed, not what would lure me out of it. For starters, my life was a mess. Literally.
 
It’s hard to get out of bed when you wake up to a messy home. This was my first, big step in getting myself out of my depression. I had let my home become a mess and I HATE clutter. Suddenly I was surrounded by it. No wonder I didn’t want to get up in the morning! Enough was enough. I decided to clean my home, top to bottom and get rid of useless junk. After decluttering and a few loads of laundry, getting up seemed...easier.
 
Go. To. The. Gym.
 
In my experience, exercise is the most important action any depressed person can take. I personally struggled with my body image. I had gained weight since graduating high school, and boy did I beat myself up about it. I also hadn’t been to the gym in 6 months, so what did I expect? Once I decided to hit the gym again, I never looked back. Not only did I lose 15 pounds but I gained back my confidence. High-intensity exercise releases the body's feel-good chemicals called endorphins, resulting in the "runner's high". Endorphins make us feel good and can improve our brain function.
 
How are you sleeping?
 
Sleep. We all need sleep to stay active, healthy, and sane. As I’m sure you all know, we should be getting our daily eight hours of rest, but when you get them is what’s really important. Maintaining the body’s internal clock (a.k.a. sticking to a bedtime) helps with your REM and NREM sleep cycles. This will make your sleeping more efficient and give you more energy throughout the day.
 
You look good you feel good!
 
How long has it been since you dressed yourself up and really felt good about your appearance? There is nothing wrong with putting on your favorite lipstick and showing yourself off. It’s time to start loving your beautiful, brilliant self again (makeup or no makeup)!
 
Fighting the cold.
 
It’s normal for your mood to change with the weather. When it’s rainy, things might feel a bit gloomy. When it’s sunny, the day just seems easier. Snow is great and all, but that cabin fever is bound to kick in. For me, winter has always brought months of dark days.
 
The cold keeps you inside and you feel like the sun may never shine again. While I wish I could hop on a flight to a tropical vacation every winter, that doesn’t really agree with my bank account and kind of avoids the problem. Instead of hibernating this winter, I’ve decided to be more active than ever. With a ski trip planned for December, winter zip lining and hiking, there is no need to be cooped up inside. It’s time to bundle up and enjoy the great outdoors.
 
Remember your worth.
 
If it’s been ages since someone’s told you you’re beautiful, strong, and don’t deserve to be feeling this way, this is me telling you now. Mental illness is hard for others to understand. I am simply here to tell you what you’re feeling doesn’t need to be dismissed, it’s completely real and completely okay. You are going to be okay.
 
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