What does it mean to take charge of your overall well-being? It means dedication. Discipline. Putting you first. It means saying no more often and setting boundaries. It also means being open to changing the not so good habits that we’ve grown comfortable with. Our brains want familiarity — it’s comforting. The habits we’ve created are patterns our brain’s get used to, but mine became a reflection of my unhealthy mental and emotional state.
As someone with mental health struggles, I couldn’t see the detrimental effects of my depressive behaviors, which included unhealthy seclusion, staying up until after midnight doing mind numbing activities, tearing my body apart (literally), pulling out my hair, and I got used to self-loathing thoughts. In my mind, those habitual behavioral patterns were almost second nature and in the moment, they comforted me; I didn’t realize I was doing them half the time. Plus, the self-harm behaviors I engaged in led to a suicide attempt in 2008. My close call made me rethink life, and how I was living it.
Additionally, I skipped meals a lot, suffered relentless crying spells, hid out at social gatherings, hardly left my home, and kept living in a past I couldn’t let go of. Let’s not forget the recurring spurts of anger. One moment, I’d be stable, and the next, I’d be like a dragon blowing fire. I could never gain control of my depressive and angry spirals. Medication didn’t work for me, but again, everyone is different. I wanted to manage my health with an alternative approach because I’m different too. The first change I noticed was my desire to heal, and I knew that was a good start.
Homeopathy worked for me (and yes, it DOES work wonders). Oh yeah, and I found dozens of resources which inspired me to really take charge of my well-being including acupuncture, massage therapy, meditation, swimming, yoga, and being outdoors. I didn’t know how much I LOVED swimming until I started doing it. Physically, I began feeling less pain and developed more flexibility and mobility. Today, I am living depression and anxiety free, but I also want to mention that I still feel all emotions, including anger and sadness. Crying is healthy and stress reliving, and I didn’t want to self-medicate to avoid feeling.
Do I still have some anxiety? Yes. The moment I notice self-punishing behaviors sneaking in, I recognize them and stop. How do I do that? It takes really getting to know you to identify when something doesn’t feel right. My approach to how I’ve dealt with emotions changed once I created new habits. To give you an example, I used to be very negative. I want to stress that negativity is the guaranteed, quick way to derail your mental health and only adds on to the issues you’re facing. They are the opposite of productive. Regular counseling (another resource) provided new insights on healthy coping mechanisms and breathing techniques that helped me rewire my mind.
The one thought that altered the course of my behavior patterns: I don’t want to end my life, I want to change the way I was living. I gave myself a career, new friends, an active lifestyle, changed careers, and had to decipher what fulfilled me most. Writing fulfills me. A long nature walk out doors brings me happiness. A nine hour night of sleep makes me feel good and refreshed. When someone cuts me off on the highway because nobody let me merge (though I had my turn signal on for a long, long time), and had to drive twelve minutes in the wrong direction, yeah, that made me angry. The emotion came and went, but I had to learn to not drown in the hard emotions (sadness, anger, fury, fear) or let them destroy my entire day, or life.
The moment I grabbed the reigns and took charge of every aspect of my health, I was astounded by the results. Now, I love life like never before. Every day, I work on my mental, emotional, and physical health. I’ve found that seeking available resources and doing things for simple enjoyment (cooking healthy food, exercising almost daily, art, and writing) had a monumental impact on my life.
Originally published at medium.com