Today's email might seem a little more somber and serious, but I think it's a topic we need to address: managing mental health. So many individuals on this journey struggle with mental health issues and I wanted to talk about it on a deeper level. While of course working with a local therapist is my first suggestion, there are others too, like:
1. self-care is a necessity not a luxury
2. don't let your mental health struggles define you
3. remember that there are always good days and bad days
4. optimize your good days
5. be kind and compassionate to yourself on your bad days
And within this.. I want to share more in depth details on HOW-TO prepare for your bad days, and to ensure you are taking care of yourself while continuing to lose your weight on this journey - reprioritizing your needs both mentally and physically. Learning self-development is a life-long process, and continuity over time is necessary. Being a priority in your own life may seem silly at first glance, but for those struggling with mental health issues, it is crucial for long-term wellness and post-op weight loss success.
What you may or may not know: Obesity can wreck havoc on your mental health and they are correlates, meaning one doesn't necessarily cause the other, but they are both co-existing together and can affect one another. Often times, obesity is linked with anxiety and depression, more than other mental health struggles.
Additionally, individuals who have a less-than-positive emotional health are at greater risk for obesity in general. While increasing your mental health overall may not necessarily mean you'll lose weight, having a stronger mental/emotional health overall helps you to take the necessary steps to focus on your health/wellness and weight loss journey.
Many individuals struggle most when crises hit, or when things seem out of their control, and/or when they are at their most vulnerable emotionally. This is why staying prepared and doing your best to be emotionally resilient can help you in the long-run.
Your emotional health is just as important as your physical health - and some might even consider it to be more important because if you aren't able to take care of yourself emotionally, this may mean not moving your body as much, staying in bed more because that's all you CAN do that day, and eating convenience foods which may be higher in calories and lower in nutrition.
Unfortunately, this is how so many struggle in a cycle of eating poorly and then beating themselves up because just TRYING is hard, and things to happen all at once, or become emotionally overwhelming.
This is why individuals who struggle with mental health issues also tend to struggle with obesity longer. This is also why I strongly recommend people have a crisis management plan in advance because I know things are that much HARDER to do when your mood is low, when you're struggling emotionally, and taking a shower that day was a total win.
Instead of beating ourselves up when this happens, we need to optimize our GOOD MOMENTS, and our higher moods to help us out when lower moods, anxious moods, or other crises issues if life arise. Take your time, slow down, and do one thing at a time.
Planning and preparation may not be second nature, but when your plan ahead for yourself, creating better habits, and having strategies in place for your own personal health and wellness, this is another level of or layer to personalized self-care.
For today's email, I want to share some tips on EMOTIONAL resilience, and SELF-CARE that anyone can do IN ADVANCE.. so that you have some things handy and ready for you when struggles arise, your mood is low, and all you can do for yourself and your family might be the very basics..
1. Write a list of encouraging quotes, phrases, statements or things you can say to yourself when struggling through a bout of depression or anxiety. Go deeper than "you can do it" and try to show some understanding - and make it personal so you know it's for you. For example, write something like:
"Don't believe everything you think" - Unknown
"If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person." — Fred Rogers
"A positive attitude gives you power over your circumstances instead of your circumstances having power over you." — Joyce Meyer
Or something that is more personalized of something you would say to yourself...
"Self, I know you are so tired right now, but getting up and getting a shower will make you feel so much better. Get up and do it! I promise you, it works" or "Get up off the couch and walk around the living room 5 times. I know this is tough, and I also know once you do it you will feel accomplished and so much better about yourself emotionally." -OR- "Your anxiety does not define you, you are loved, you are important, and you mean so much to those who love you - just remember that!" or "whatever you do, go to bed on time. You'll want to stay up, but you know that will make you feel worse. You deserve a good nights rest. Turn the lights out."
These don't have to be challenging statements either. They can be loving, supportive, encouraging, or offer suggestions to help you move through the funk. We all have tough days. Write something that will help you work through it and beyond it. Be compassionate, be kind, be loving, and be honest!
2. Make a list of "essentials" posted for you to find when the BLUES hit.
This list might include such essentials like...
1. Do some deep breathing
2. dance it out
3. stay hydrated (drink your water)
4. take a nap
5. stay out of all-or-nothing thinking - those negative thoughts are not true, don't believe everything you think. Get a sounding board (call mom, your best friend, or someone you trust)
3. Make a non-negotiables list for yourself of things that are so BASIC you can do it when the doldrums are in full-effect.
For example, so you can help to avoid poor eating, make a list of all the local food places and create a list of approved food items, so that you're not tempted to eat things that will make you feel worse. You may not have the headspace to choose chicken and veggies when you are struggling, but if you have a non-negotiable order ready, you'll already know without thinking about it what you'll get.
Also create other non-negotiables like avoiding movies or programs that make you super sad, or make your depression/anxiety worse. Also, if you have that ONE friend who always turns it around and makes it about him/her, they might not be the person who you call when you're struggling. Call someone supportive instead. Similarly, avoid interacting with individuals who tend to push your boundaries or take advantage of you when you're at your most vulnerable.
Do this when you are at your best to help you get through the days that are your worst. You may not have the headspace to handle thinking about non-negotiables when you're struggling so having these done in advance will help you greatly, so you don't have to think about it or make difficult decisions.
4. Create healthy habits ahead of time. Have a cup of water by your bed, sofa, or wherever you are at all times to stay hydrated. Creating this habit now will help you so that you always have some hydration when you're struggling emotionally. Start creating these habits now to help you later no matter what is going on.
5. Prepare some FREEZER food in advance, so you can HEAT & EAT with ease
Prep and plan once a month or once a quarter so you'll have some healthy eats in your freezer. This will help you eat healthy and helps you take the thinking out of it so you're not a risk to make poor choices.
6. Know who your support team is - and have their information accessible.
Who are the people you can turn to when you're struggling? Do you have a mental health counselor or therapist you can schedule a session with? Do you have a friend or family member you can call? Who's on your trusted team that will help you when your depression, anxiety or other emotional issue strikes.
7. Establish your version of BALANCE or the middle-way or middle-path for when your reasoning may be unreasonable or for when negative cyclical thinking strikes. Challenging the negative self-talk and practicing this over time can help you over time and especially during the low-points.
8. Move your body often for improved mental health. So many people have an aversion of working out because either it's associated with pain or something they "must" do. However, I've seen that if you focus on moving your body to improve your mood, you'll likely find you'll feel better and the extra calorie burn is a bonus not the premise. Of course check with your doctor first to ensure you are safe/approved for physical activity.
More than anything, ready yourself for positive change. Positive thinking is more than just quotes or 'thinking positive', it's about putting a shift in thinking into action for your life, and having tools and resources for long-term behavioral change, and overall mental wellness.
Use these tools to help you stay a few steps ahead of emotional struggles and hopefully to guide you through them when they pop-up. As a reminder, find a therapist in your area if you feel like you are really struggling or if the issues resurface regularly.