Giving yourself permission to take care of yourself is essential for good mental health care. None of us can burn the candle at both ends and up in a good place. We eventually wear down. When you feel yourself being emotionally tapped out, take time to refuel. This will look different for each of us. For some, getting away with family and friends is reenergizing. For others a weekend of solitude does the trick. However you are wired, make sure you keep a check on your emotional tank and when it is getting empty, take the time to recharge.
Sometimes in order to be emotionally healthy we need to set boundaries with the emotionally unhealthy people in our life. These may be people we encounter at work or home. They might even be people that we love or care about. Boundaries mean we set time and resource limits with people. Focus on people who leave you feeling drained or taken advantage by. Set limits and stick to them. Saying no or that you aren't available to those who abuse your time and resources is healthy. Then you'll have the resources you need for other areas of life.
When things start to pile up and we feel like we have more on our plate than we can handle. One of the best ways to react is to be intentional about making a plan for what’s piling up. You may feel like you don't have time to make a plan. That's all the more indication that you need to. Make a list of everything that is overwhelming you. Then take each item and begin to write solutions or strategies that will give you more control over those issues. Then... put those plans into action.
Whenever I get a chance to do a presentation about stress, I show a picture of old-fashioned scales. I tell the group that when they have more stress, they have to balance the scales by adding more coping skills. If you know there's going to be a day when you have a lot to handle make sure you build in time to exercise, pray, read, journal or do some other activity that restores you. Always keep in mind that you have to match the number of coping skills to the number of stressors you face.
One of the things that we can do on a regular basis to help our mental health is something I remember my mom talking about all the time. Count your blessings. I find myself doing this more and more when I get discouraged. Unfortunately, it's easier for me to think about what's going wrong or what I have to do or how much there is to deal with. But when I stop and think about and write down all the things in my life that are blessings all of a sudden I feel like smiling.
Give it a try.
-Jerry Strausbaugh, EdD, LPCCS, Executive Director