5 things I do for my mental health
Happy hump day peops!!! The week is already half way over! Isn’t that amazing?
I mean, honestly, this is usually how I feel, come the middle of my work week. And I only work part time, so I imagine it’s way worse for other people. Working five days a week can be super tough. Especially during the winter months, when you hardly get to see the sun at all.
Luckily, winter is starting to definitely be over (because, let’s be honest, the wheather wasn’t all that spring-y so far), and the sun is coming out more. Over here, we had the most amazing, sunny weekend. The new week hasn’t started out with too much sun, but at least it’s getting warmer. Anyways, even though it might seem like it, this post isn’t actually about the wheather.
Spring starting, and the sun making more regular appearances again, usually makes me aware of just how taxing the darker months have been on my mental health. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I still love winter, and especially fall. But they aren’t all that great for my ADHD brain. Less sun, and darker mornings, don’t really make it any easier to get myself motivated for the day (as illustrated by my monday morning, that’s usually really productive, but wasn’t this week, because the sun wouldn’t come out and most of the morning just felt dark and murky). And less motivation, for me, means worse mental health, because I thrive on being productive, but feel incredibly guilty and bad about myself when I don’t achieve that.
So the sunny weekend (I took a walk! Twice!) got me thinking about the things I do to improve my mental health. Because for the past few weeks, I’ve been feeling really, genuinely good about myself. And let me tell you, that’s not a regular occurence for me. ADHD and a tendency to slip into depression don’t really make for a lot of feel good time for me. I think there are always things we can do to improve our mental state, though.
[I feel like I should add a quick disclaimer here: I have had phases of clinical depression, so believe me when I say that I do not, in any way, believe that can be cured just by doing a bit of self-care or “changing your attitude”. So this is neither meant as an insult to those of you who are struggling with depression and can’t seem to get better, nor is it intended as any kind of medical advice. If you’re recognizing symptoms of depression in yourself, go see a doctor about that, do no try to fix it yourself, especially do not try to self-medicate! This post is simply meant to show you some things that might help you feel a bit better, even if you’re not feeling great on the whole. You’re still entitled to doing things for yourself.]
Personally, I’ve always found that doing relatively standard self-care exercises is hugely helpful for me. Most of these are targeted towards women (or actually, they’re mostly things that are female coded, and thus viewed as “for women” in our society). I don’t think that means they aren’t helpful for men, though. But as I write this blog mostly with my fellow ADHD women in mind, I’m not really feeling bad about giving you suggestions that might seem rather “girly”.
Anyways, as I said, I’ve been feeling really good about myself these past few weeks. With spring returning, I’m also just more motivated to take care of my mental (and physical) health. So I thought about what I have been doing in the past weeks, that improved my mental health. And I came up with a list. Here are my five favorite things to do for my mental health:
This is super standard advice, I know. And honestly, it’s never worked too well on me (the advice, not the exercise). So I think it might be helpful for you to look at this from an ADHD point of view. Personally, if I think about the last two weeks or so, the number one thing that made me feel better, was getting some exercise. I haven’t even been doing a lot of actual workout, but just taking a walk or trying to meet my 8k step goal daily, has been super helpful.
Exercising is a great way to handle hyperactivity, too. As adults, I think we often don’t even realize how much the hyperactivity part of ADHD influences us. There’s trouble sleeping, but also, especially with desk jobs, there’s this feeling of not-quite-nervouseness, like something just isn’t right, you’re feeling uneasy, but can’t put your finger on it? In my experience, that’s hyperactivity. Which means you’ll probably feel a lot better, if you just get up, and take a quick walk. You don’t acutally have to go to the gym to exercise, you know? A short walk during lunch break, or after work, will totally do the trick.
But. “Really” exercising also has it’s merits. I just want to preface this next section by saying that I am not a sporty person, I love hanging out on the couch, and I am 100% with you if you have a full-time job and don’t think you have time for this. But if you can make time in any way, and get yourself up and moving, you might just end up enjoying it. Personally, my exercising habits are pretty fluent. Sometimes I manage to work out every day, sometimes I go a month or two without exercising at all, sometimes I just do some light running on my trampoline, sometimes I just take a short walk, other times I manage to put in the time to do some muscle training. And maybe, someday (not anytime soo, though), I might even become a real runner, like, outside, running trails and stuff. What I find fascinating, though, is that since I started taking this exercising thing more seriously, I keep coming back to it, even when I have a month or two where I drop the ball (not literally, I will never, ever play any kind of sports that involves a ball).
Why is that? Well, mostly, it’s because if you manage to keep working out for a few weeks, you’ll feel the results of your work sooner than you think, and vice versa, when you stop working out. And let me tell you, it feels good to be even a little bit fit. You know how you feel when you get winded walking up a flight of stairs? You won’t feel like that anymore. Because you won’t get winded. Also building muscle mass is incredibly rewarding, because if you don’t have any (like me), you’ll feel and see the results of your training pretty soon. If you want a boost for your self-confidence, this is a relatively easy way (yes, really) to get one.
What I’m saying is this: You can’t really go wrong with trying to move more. Just don’t be perfectionist about it. If all you can manage is taking the long way back from the cafeteria at lunch break, that’s more than enough. Just make an effort.
Back when I had a full-time job, plus almost three hours of commuting every day, I kind of stopped paying much attention to what I wore. Because who has the spoons for that, right? Then I started working with kids, and figured it just wasn’t worth it to put effort into my clothing, because anything nice would get stained anyway. And you know what? It’s true, to a point (like for one of my favorite tops, that now has sunscreen stains I need to get out somehow…) It’s not completely true, though.
Recently, I’ve started paying more attention to, and putting effort into, dressing myself. I try to wear clothing that helps me feel good about myself, which in my case also means that it needs to look more or less professional. I mean, I still work with kids, so office wear would be kind of over the top (also, I was recently asked by a kid why I wear lipstick, since I “don’t have a real job”, so there’s that…). But I can still combine my clothes in ways that help me look, and feel, more like an adult.
I also checked my wardrobe, and realized I could use some new clothing. A lot of what I have is seriously old, or mainly practical, but not exactely pretty. So I’m going to sort that out at some point, get rid of all the things that have holes or stains in them, and replace them with new stuff. I’ll also try to build a capsule wardrobe kind of thing, to make sure I get as much use out of as little clothing as I can.
The way we dress can greatly impact the way we percieve ourselves. Which is important if you want to build up some self-esteem, and make it easier to feel good about yourself. And feeling good about yourself is always good for your mental health.
This doesn’t mean that you should do what I’m doing at the moment. You’re your own person, and you know what you like (hopefully). If that’s dressing professionally, that’s great, we can go clothes shopping together! But if it’s dressing comfortably, that’s also great, and a completely valid option. Dressing up doesn’t have to mean, dressing “up”. Just pay attention to what you wear, and how it makes you feel. Then keep to wearing the things that make you feel good.
I love makeup! Seriously, it’s such an easy and uncomplicated way to feel good and confident, for me. I haven’t been putting it on for a while now, though, Because I hate removing my makeup before bed. It’s so annoying, and it takes spoons I don’t necessarily have all the time.
Recently, I’ve taken to applying makeup more regularly, though, and I have to say, I get so much use out of it, it outweighs the annoying parts. Of course this isn’t for everyone, and the title of this point is a bit relative. Because it doesn’t necessarily mean you should put on makeup. Yes, I think it’s a simple little trick, that can do a lot for your mental health, as it also helps me look the way I want to (instead of like a zombie, who hasn’t slept in three weeks…). This doesn’t just apply to women, either. Just putting on a bit of concealer can work wonders, in my experience. But if makeup isn’t your thing, that’s perfectly fine. You can still do things that help you look the way you want to. Dye your hair (I just re-dyed my bangs in purple and blue, and I love it!), get a haircut, put on nailpolish, do whatever makes you feel good about the way you look.
Get an early start!
Recently, I’ve managed to start my days early, and especially start using my time productively early in the day. It’s such a great feeling! Usually, I’m strongly in the taking forever to wake up camp, which makes it hard to be productive. Plus, as I spend my mornings at home, and only start work in the afternoon, it can be super hard to get myself morivated to do anything in the morning.
Recently, I’ve tried to redefine what it means to me, to be productive. I’m a perfectionist, and this blog is seriously important to me, so I’d always feel bad if I didn’t manage to get working on it early in the day, or at all. The thing is, completing chores has a much higher value, in terms of gratification, to me. And I can motivate myself to do them more easily, because they aren’t that complicated. So I’ve recently decided to reframe a little bit, and count mornings as productive, if I did some chore(s) instead of working on the blog. (And also, very important, I redefined what it means to do a chore, because if I try to vaccuum the entire house before 8am, I’ll just spend the rest of the day dead on the couch. So vaccuuming just part of the house totally counts.)
This has led to me being more productive, earlier in the day, which has allowed me to also work on the blog a little more regularly than I used to, because already being done with something makes it easier for me to start doing something else. And getting more done is so great for my mental health. Plus, there is the satisfaction of fitting into the stereotype of the “early riser”.
Getting an early start is a great way to start your day off with something that you can be proud of, and that helps you feel motivated and good about yourself. So I suggest finding something you can do relatively easily, and do it early in the day. On days when I’m having trouble waking up, the task I use to get started, is quickly wiping down the kitchen counters and sink (granted, my kitchen is kind of tiny, but still, this shouldn’t take more than a few minutes). It’s not much, but it means I’ve done something productive, instead of scrolling through Pinterest (or tumblr, or Instagram) all morning. Which then makes it easier to get working on other stuff, or even just read for a little bit. (Have I mentioned that I started reading “Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls” in Spanish? It’s so much fun! And I’m learning so many new words!) Just find something that feels sensible, or meaningful, to you, and try to do that first thing in the morning.
Also, and I’m just adding this in case you consider it an option at all: Getting up before six in the morning has some serious advantages. More time for a slow start, while still getting stuff done super early, for example. And sunrises! Never underestimate the value of watching the sun rise! It’s a serious mood booster (for me)!
And I don’t mean this is the Donna and Tom going shopping kind of way! But treating yourself, and celebrating the small, every day successes, is a great mental health booster.
Obviously, this is going to look differently for everyone. Personally, I have a ton of chocolate from Easter, that I’ve been generously rewarding myself with for the past week. But also, after going to therapy, I usually try to buy myself a small treat, like some awfully sweet coffee, or some pastries I like, or once I even bought a small can of kintetic sand, just because I really wanted some. For you, this might look completely different. Maybe you aren’t into candy, or coffee, or toys. Maybe you, I don’t know, love comic books? Or crafting? Flowers? Colorful shoe laces?
No matter what it is (as long as it’s a small thing), treat youself to it, even if you just did something small (don’t go buying yourself new shoes, or cars, or whatever, anytime you emptied the dishwasher, though, all right?) Try to really pay attention to these small wins, and reward yourself for them. It’s really great for your mental health, and it helps shift our thinking to value the smaller things a little more.
Fun fact: This is something I’ve been working on with my therapist. I believe that lots of people have trouble acknowlegding the small successes we get daily, but I feel like it’s even harder with an ADHD brain. Because honestly? Most days I can’t even remember what I did that morning, so it’s really not that easy to remember the small wins of the day. Sometimes I don’t even recognize them. Which is why I got the homework to sit down every evening, and think about the good things that happened that day. I really like that. I write into my journal almost every evening anyway, so this is a nice way to make that practice more about my mental health.
But I think it’s also important to treat yourself in the moment. Once I finish this blog post, I’ll eat some chocolate. That’s the kind of thing I mean. Treating yourself to a little something, right after you achieved something small, can be a huge mood booster.
As I’ve said repeatedly (I think), what is helpful to your mental health is subjective, and specific to you. So if none of these ideas sound much fun to you, that’s okay. While you’re here, you might aswell take a minute to think about similar (or not) things that you could do, because they make you feel better. When it comes to mental health, I think it’s important to keep in mind that if a recommendation someone makes doesn’t appeal to you, there’s usually still a way you could adjust that recommendation to better fit your needs. If you feel like exercising isn’t your thing (totally understandable), finding an activity that gets you out of your house, or even just your head, will do the trick. Because it’s not really about the exercise, it’s about the fact that exercising makes you active. Dressing up isn’t really about a specific style of clothing, it’s about dressing in a way that makes you feel comfortable. And so on. If none of the suggestions here are for you, just try to change them into something that is.
Alright, that’s all the writing time I have for today. Do you have things you like to do for your mental health? Then please feel free to add them! Leave a comment and tell me about it!
Image by Kasuma