The past couple years have been difficult for many of us to say the least. The pandemic created countless uncertainties and suffering in our lives. Depression and anxiety increased significantly during this time. One thing that became apparent is the importance of mental health. We all have a limit to our capacity to handle challenges–both physically and mentally.
The pandemic was an eye opening experience for most people, myself included. It made me understand my limitations even better and how to treat myself with the utmost compassion. I knew I needed to pay very close attention to my mental health. I wanted to prevent any potential risk of relapsing and having another episode. My antenna was on high alert because if I had to be hospitalized during this time, it would be a complete nightmare for everyone in my life. I needed to be my own number one priority.
Regardless if you live with a mental illness or not, knowing your own limitations is one of the healthiest form of self-care you can give yourself. Pushing through, when your body and mind is telling you to stop, causes more harm to your mental health than you may think. When we get pushed passed our breaking point, this creates tremendous havoc on both our minds and bodies; the damage can sometimes be irreversible.
As someone who lives with bipolar disorder, I was required to pay attention to the external factors that put me at risk in my early years of being diagnosed. It was a learning process throughout the years and took a lot of failed attempts to get it right. Discovering your own stressors will help you prepare for ways to deal with them and prevent yourself from going in a mental state of overwhelm or shut down.
My two major triggers are continuous lack of sleep and extreme stressful situations over a constant period of time. I continually remind myself that there will always be circumstances outside of my control. What I can do to take care of myself is to manage my mind and rely on tools that have helped make my life easier to manage.
When I sense that my mental state is at risk, I make sure I take care of myself physically and mentally. This will include some or most of the following: getting sufficient sleep; going on walks; doing yoga or meditation; journaling, reading; watching TV shows or movies that bring me laughter and joy; sharing my thoughts or frustrations with someone I trust; or calling my therapist or psychiatrist, if necessary. This may look very different for you, we all decompress in our own ways. You have to find what works for you and be intentional in making it a priority.
It is also very important for me to ask for help when I feel at risk. I usually tell my husband or sisters if I feel I am in “the danger zone” of having an episode. They know to look for warning signs if I start to have unusual behaviors. I ask for support during this time from the people who can help. It can be as simple as asking my husband to bring my sons to school in the morning so I can sleep a little longer; or even taking an entire day or two to get back to a healthy mental state.
If you don’t have someone in your everyday life to look out for you in that way, reach out to support groups. There are numerous resources that you can find online and there may even be some locally in your area. Sometimes just knowing you are not alone and being able to talk to someone who understands what you are going through can be extremely helpful. We are often busy dealing with our own challenges and struggles that it’s easy to forget we’re all part of this great big world. Be kind and compassionate to yourself and the people in your life. Just remember, we are all doing our best. Take some time today to discover your limitations as it relates to your mental health.