Taking Responsibility For Your Mental Health
There are many ways to maintain positive mental health. Not every avenue will suit everyone. However, one thing is a constant among all of the available options: mental health is a personal responsibility.
Nobody is coming to save you. You have to save yourself.
My brand of mental health leans heavily on Stoic philosophy and mindset. I think, from an early age, I learned that from my father, and as an adult it’s something I’ve learned about myself and began to understand more in depth.
My main point has always been that mental health, is first and foremost, a personal responsibility. Some people don’t enjoy hearing that, but it doesn’t make it any less true. I don’t understand how such a benign truism can be seen as controversial in some circles.
Regardless of controversy, you are responsible for maintaining your mental health, the same way you are for your physical health. I’m not sure that all of us understand what that really requires though.
The Mental Health Routine
To be responsible for your mental health, you must be disciplined. In the same way that you work-out every day to maintain your physique (And if you don’t then you begin to lose a grip on your physical wellbeing), you must also do some things everyday to maintain your mental health.
Most of these things aren’t entirely difficult. In fact, the reason a lot of us fail to do them everyday is because they can be monotonous and repetitive. They’re things like drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, exercising, eating properly etc. They’re not the most glamourous, but these things really do impact your well-being.
Personally, I have a checklist of five things that I use as the foundation for my mental health maintenance:
- Get 7/8 hours of sleep
- Exercise every day for 30 minutes minimum
- Drink enough water (3 litres usually)
- Aet good and nutritious foods
- Socialize 2/3 times a week with friends
If I am feeling off – heightened anxiety or lower mood – I check in with this checklist. If I am failing in one of these areas then I readjust and back later in the week to see if this was the cause. And often it is. For example, if I feel very anxious one day I may realise that I only got 4 hours of sleep for two or three nights in a row. So I adjust and make sleep a priority for the rest of the week. Often it is a simply adjustment that makes a huge difference.
As well as this, the checklist system works as an alarm for deeper rooted problems. If I am nailing everything on my list and still feel unwell, then it tells me that I may need to reach out for further support to deal with the mental health challenge. In this wI am using structure and discipline to be responsible for my own mental health.
We need multiple tools and outlets for good mental health. If we depend too heavily on any one outlet, we’ll find ourself in trouble when, or if, it is taken away. Just like single-crop dependent societies starve during a famine, our mental health will suffer if our only outlet is taken from us.
In a broader sense, our mental health is our responsibility. If we’re experiencing issues, but are not being disciplined with our mental health routines, we’re doing ourselves no favours. If we are maintaining a good routine, and are still experiencing issues, then we must seek the help we need.
I would love to live in a world where out mental health needs are met by government services effectively. But they’re not and it doesn’t seem like we’ll be living in that world any time soon. We are individually responsible for maintain our mental health as best we can. No one is coming to the rescue, so you have to be your own hero. Everyone else is focusing on themselves just as much as you are focusing on you.
So whether you like to hear it or not, you have to do the work, the often monotonous work, in order to keep your head above water. Responsibility is essential.