I know, the title of this post sounds like a “but that’s not all!” info-mercial. That being said, there are ways — I believe — you can take steps to improve your life even if it’s only for a brief time. In some cases, having light at the end of a dark tunnel may be all you need to help draw you out of a slump.
In an article I read in the paper yesterday I saw a brief mention that “breast cancer and treatments can lead to depression and it typically goes untreated…” As a breast cancer “thriver” (we prefer that word to survivor) I know that having been diagnosed then dealing with all that a breast cancer sentence entailed there were days that it took all of my energy to simply roll over in bed, let alone get out of it, get dressed and greet the day. Crying bouts, angry outbursts and times of complete and utter despair were the norm. Did I talk to my oncologists about it? You bet I did, and for me it was enough to know they were aware of it and that I was aware of what it was doing to me mentally to allow me to power through, no matter how bleak it seemed.
Anyway… onto the seven steps you could take to improve your life:
- Take a walk. The mere act of movement gets the blood and the endorphins flowing and that can boost your mood. Taking a walk outside and being a part of nature can boost your mood through the sights, sounds and smells of the out of doors. A walk in a quiet wooded area may bring you a bit of peace from the everyday stresses even if only for a few moments.
- Take time to express your gratitude. Even in the midst of all of the crud of cancer I knew I had to take a few moments each day to count my blessings. I also took to writing them down in a journal so I could look back on all that I had to be grateful for even in my darkest hours. It’s true that some days my gratitude may have been “thankful the cream for my coffee hadn’t reached its expiration date” or “happy I found a clean pair of socks so I didn’t have to do laundry” but they were better than having nothing to be grateful for, right? I also found that the more conscious I became of looking for something to be grateful for, the more often I was able to find something more meaningful, “grateful the cancer was caught early and my prognosis is good” or “thankful to have found the Facebook support group, Booby Buddies, that supported me throughout my fight” and happy that the Rochester area is home to the Breast Cancer Coalition and grateful for the support they offered.
- Spend time with friends and family. It’s easy to want to isolate oneself when you’re struggling, but the best way to work through a dark time is with the help of friends and family. If all you want to do is have a visitor for a cup of coffee, but you don’t want any conversation then ask for that. Reach out and ask for help.
- Get some sleep. Getting enough sleep is crucial to good health and your mental capacity. Strive for eight hours a night. If you are having trouble sleeping or are staying up too late fiddling around with your smart phone or watching television then it’s likely the morning will “come too soon” and you will start the day tired.
- Speaking of starting the day. Your first morning thoughts will color the way your day plays out. If you open your eyes and groan, “Oh, not another cruddy Monday” it will be a cruddy Monday. If, however, you greet the day with, ‘I am open to the possibilities that today will bring, even if they are challenging” you are greeting the day with an open mind and not painting it in a negative color from the get go.
- Human, or pet, contact is crucial. If you are alone and feeling down, a hug from a friend or family member or taking time to pet your dog or cat can instantly lift your spirits. Skin to skin contact is a great mood booster and can boost your mood and even lower your blood pressure. If you don’t have a friend or family member who lives close by or if you don’t own a pet take a trip to a local animal shelter and ask if you can spend some time with the pets — the shelter owners will welcome it and the pets that are there waiting for a forever home will benefit (as will you!)
- Learn something. Yes, if you challenge yourself you can lift your spirits because you will be making your brain focus on the new task at hand. Pick up a crochet hook or knitting needles, learn a language, sharpen your skills in the kitchen, take a yoga class — anything that takes you out of yourself and focuses your thoughts on something else is a boon to your mental health.
What steps can you take today — right now — to have a #MentallyHealthyMonday?