As I inch closer and closer to turning 30, I’ve spent more and more time prioritizing my mental health. For some reason, it feels like now is the time – more than ever before – to focus deeply on how I think, feel, and act in order to best serve my emotional, psychological, and social well-being. I’ve cultivated 5 habits to best serve my mental health.
The truth of the matter is, life is stressful. Even the most wonderful parts of life come with stressors. For example, being a homeowner is a huge accomplishment, but comes with stressors like paying taxes, maintaining the property, and managing monthly mortgage payments.
Having a loyal community of friends and loved ones can be super rewarding, but oftentimes can include stressors like having disagreements, occasional fights, and confronting one another with difficult news and opinions. Following a healthy diet and lifestyle is obviously wise, but can sometimes include issues with body image dysmorphia, yo-yo dieting struggles, and moments of utter failure.
To be frank, life is full of highs and lows and the stress we feel can at times become impossible to manage. As such, I’ve read many books, spoken with several therapists, confided in loved ones, and taken time alone with myself to consider the best ways I can serve my mental health and support my overall well-being.
As a result, I’ve learned some practical tips, adopted helpful habits, and heard important sayings that I’ve integrated into my life and will continue following moving forward. I’m taking a stand by putting my mental health and well-being first, and here’s how I’m doing it.
5 Habits to Best Serve My Mental Health
I will not take other people’s opinions as facts.
For far too long, I had a bad habit of processing everyone else’s opinions as cold hard facts to the point where I would second guess my own thoughts and feelings about a situation at hand. It was almost like I didn’t trust myself enough to disagree. And it really didn’t matter who the other person was.
Sometimes it was a relative, other times a friend, and sometimes it was a colleague. Any time anyone I conversed with disagreed, I would doubt my own feelings about the topic at hand and agree with theirs. I recently discovered how toxic this process was because it led to so much self-doubt and made me lack confidence in myself.
It’s taken a lot of reading and therapy to realize I can feel one way about something and another person can disagree but it doesn’t make either of us right or wrong; it simply means we have to agree to disagree. While that sounds so incredibly obvious, it wasn’t so straightforward to me until now. Better late than never!
Putting myself first isn’t selfish; it’s necessary.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always put other people before me. Their feelings, problems, highs, and lows were all so important to me, and to show my loyalty I would prioritize them and de-prioritize myself. This cycle isn’t just wrong; it’s problematic.
While it’s great to be a supportive friend, a person to come to in a time of crisis, and a cheerleader during other people’s milestones and celebrations, it doesn’t do any good to consistently de-prioritize my own wants, needs, and feelings. Life is a constant act of balancing being selfish when necessary and self-less when needed.
But always being self-less and never claiming my own space and time only leads to burnout. It’s not sustainable long-term. As the saying goes, “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” And so I’ve reclaimed my needs by putting myself first for my own well-being.
I will stand by the boundaries I set.
On theme with putting myself first comes setting boundaries and standing by them. Setting boundaries helps me communicate to others how I want and expect to be treated. I get to determine how I am spoken to, limit toxic behavior, ignore insulting comments, or reject any negative energy that enters my space.
Taking ownership of my feelings and needs has helped me realize that boundaries are incredibly necessary in order to be emotionally, mentally, and physically healthy. And if/when others refuse to honor the boundaries I’ve set, it’s my responsibility to remind them that I need to stick by my boundaries in order to continue having a relationship with them.
It’s their choice and right not to agree to the boundaries I’ve set, just as it’s my right not to continue relationships that compromise my boundaries and happiness.
I remind myself that I am not responsible for other people’s feelings.
As long as I do not bully others, name call, or flat out insult someone, it’s really important to remember that I am not responsible for how other people feel. Yes, I care about my loved ones and friends. Yes, I want good things for all of them.
But if I respectfully communicate how I feel about something and they’re hurt, disappointed, mad, etc. it is so critical for me to remind myself that I can’t own their feelings. For far too long I’ve carried the guilt about how other people feel in stressful or confrontational situations.
Owning their feelings is not only not my responsibility, but it also isn’t healthy for my own well-being. Taking on that stress leads to such an emotional toll on me in a way that absolutely does not serve me.
By acknowledging that I do not own other people’s feelings and it’s not my responsibility to make them feel better I am freeing myself up emotionally, focusing on my feelings, and thinking about what’s best for myself first.
I cannot control situations and that’s okay.
I’ve struggled with control a lot in life, especially these past few years. I’ve always been a long-term planner and feel happiest when I am in control of my life and organized in my goals, decisions, etc.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic was the first big event I can remember as an adult that really shook my way of thinking. I realized I couldn’t control anything. I was unemployed for five months as a result of the pandemic.
At the time, my wedding plans were uncertain for health and safety precautions. I switched to a completely remote lifestyle, which limited my abilities to travel, see people, and feel connected to the world around me.
All of these changes proved to me that life is uncertain. There is no set course to follow because things can change in an instant.
While this was incredibly difficult for me to accept, it has helped me because I feel less apt to try controlling the things I used to. I now feel more inclined to approach life with more flexibility than I ever have before.
Don’t get me wrong – I am not completely changed. I still go through bouts of wanting to control situations and it takes time for me to reel myself back in, but I do feel less structured than I did before, which has helped me feel a little lighter and more open to what the future holds.
Making these habits part of my daily life will lead to sustainable change.
These are only a few of the main habits I’ve integrated into my life recently that I feel strongly and passionately about sticking to in order to live a more rewarding, healthier, and freer life moving forward.
Change doesn’t take effect overnight and I’m still learning, growing, and doing the work. I will make mistakes. I will forget to stick to one, some, or all of these habits at one point or another because it’s instinctual to revert back to doing what we know and what’s comfortable.
But in order to support my overall well-being and best serve my mental health, I need to repeat these habits like mantras and keep them top of mind.
I hope you’ve taken a habit or two from this list and recognized them as places where you can start to begin prioritizing your own well-being. No one will put you first in life except you. So take care of yourself as best you can.
Do you have other suggestions on best habits to serve your mental health and well-being? Drop your tips in the comments below!