A person wanting to create or maintain good mental health needs to have good health habits in general.
These are behaviors that promote an overall healthy lifestyle, and the great news is that you, with consultation from your health care team, get to decide what lifestyle changes you want to make to become healthy.
I have a daily routine in which I do things that are healthy for my mind, body, and spirit. Without sounding like a new age philosopher, I want to share my personal thoughts on this subject.
On a daily basis, I exercise my brain to make it a strong, healthy, and resilient muscle.
Okay, I know that it's an organ and not a muscle--but it acts like a muscle in that it can be trained to improve cognitive functions like memory. Anxiety and other mood challenges can impact your memory. Memory loss anxiety symptoms can be short in duration, happy rarely, or may be indefinite.
When I'm anxious I may have what feels like twenty different conversations going on in my head.
It doesn't feel like ADD/ADHD as simulated in the video below, it's more like twenty simultaneous conversations that drown each other out and none of it makes sense.
What it is like to have ADD/ADHD
The other type of anxiety that I experience is a non-stop assessment of threat/no-threat.
What that looks like is this.
Every movement, sound, and smell have to be analyzed by me and my brain will register a threat or no-threat value to it.
This typically happens when I am feeling unsafe or in a crowded, loud, and unfamiliar environment.
An airport or a concert are two places that without careful management can cause me extreme anxiety.
An anxiety attack might result in me cowering in a corner completely terrified by having been thrown into a flashback. Blocking out my environment for even 5 - 10 minutes with relaxing music and noise canceling headphones, while deep breathing can keep me on an even keel in anxious situations.
If the anxiety gets out of control I might have a flashback or become agitated.
Sometimes I have full or partial memory loss around the flashback. Feeling overwhelmed can affect my ability to remember things that took place during that period of time, and affect my short-term memory for days or even a week.
To protect my memory, I work my brain organ.
Here's what works to keep my brain sharp and to quiet the noise in my head associated with anxiety:
I spend 5 – 30-minutes a day learning something new.
Every day I spend some time learning a new language. You could try the language building technique by building your vocabulary in your native language, work on learning a new skill for work, train for a career change, or take on a new hobby like playing a musical instrument.
Meditation to maintain calmness, grounding, and to release stress and tension is an integral part of my day.
Although I on occasion meditate for up to one hour, on a daily basis I get out of bed, stretch from neck to feet, and set my intention for the day— “I will achieve my goals today, I will eat to nourish my body, I will create a great day.”
My morning mantra changes slightly depending on what I might be challenged with or have going on in a given day, but it is basically constant from day-to-day.
I meditate using sports-style stretching or yoga, chant “Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo,” and pray for 30-minutes to 1-hour in the morning and at the end of my day. I also deep breathe for 1-5-minutes ten times a day. I use a smartwatch to remind me to incorporate these healthy habits into my day. There are applications to help with my fitness goals, meditation goals, taking medication on time and more.
You don’t need to be religious or subscribe to any particular religion or philosophy to have a spiritual practice.
Simply having a belief in something larger than yourself like nature for example, that gets you into a state of gratitude and awe of the larger universe is enough to ground you in a connection with your spirit, soul, or the thing that which makes you uniquely you.
Exercise is key for me. I have some additional health issues that cause a lot of physical pain and fatigue, but I notice that my flexibility and pain is much less when I exercise every day. There are some days that I can barely get out of the bed because of these non-mental health challenges, but even on those days, I force myself to go out for a walk. It might be a five-minute or a one-hour walk, but I go out.
My motto is, “take the first step and then another, you can always turn around.”
There are some days when I feel that I cannot move out of my bed or off my sofa because of mental or physical difficulties, but I developed a technique that helps--count “one, two, three,” then I swing my legs over the side of the bed, and “one, two, three,” and I stand up, and “one, two, three,” and I take one step, and “one, two, three,” and take another step. The next thing that I know I am out on my morning walk. I have also trained my service dog Phoebe, and my caregiver—my husband, on how to help motivate me to get moving.
Come back tomorrow for a discussion on healthy nutrition and sleep habits.
My experience with trauma is unique to me. Not everyone will be triggered in the same way or react as I have in similar situations, but my hope is that it will help people to understand what it is like to have a mood disorder, how my trauma occurred, and what efforts I have taken, along with my healthcare team, family, and a small group of friends to save my life and to create my new normal.
I want to hear from you caregivers and loved ones of a person struggling with mental illness, PTSD, or recovering from a physical or emotional trauma. I especially want to hear from anyone who has found their way to their own recovery—and new normal. This is a safe community in which to share your story.