Visiting a relative in the psych ward of our local hospital a few years back, I was bombarded by a host of strangers all attempting to tell me their life stories. Most had a grudge against someone that they wished to share with anyone who would listen.
“You need to find somebody to talk to”, is standard mental healthcare advice. In reality, most people with poor mental health talk incessantly about their problems, and in doing so drive people away from them.
This realisation inspired me to offer my best advice for protective mental healthcare:
Golden Rules for Mental Healthcare
The rules that follow will allow space in your life for people to get close to you:
- Find Peace in Silence
What solitary activity shuts down the sad or anxious inner voice inside of you? Gardening, exercise, reading or doing a hobby?
Reason through your problems honestly with yourself after you have regained a sense of inner quiet. We cannot expect others to treat us better than we treat ourselves.
The more urgently you feel something must be said on an emotional level, the more likely your ‘best brain’ has been hijacked by fear or anxiety. When others disappoint or offend us, it is essential we learn to self soothe and calm ourselves and nurture a sense of self-respect. The points that follow here are excellent ways to do this.
- Protect Your Body’s Time Clock
Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, and if possible use the dawn to set your alarm clock. Sleep in a totally dark room and get sun on your face and skin in the daytime. If you are alone and have no one to interact with, look at pictures of smiling faces in the daytime.
You cannot reset your clock by adjusting the time you go to bed, it is set by the time you get up in the morning. Oversleep and you will never cure your insomnia.
Protect your sleep hours as your most valuable treasure. Just one late night will disrupt a whole host of bodily functions. Keeping our inner clock set is essential for health on every level.
Things that help: Blackout curtains, earplugs, daylight on your face in the morning, blue blocker glasses or filters for your house lighting, TV, phone and computer after dark.
- Eat Low Carb
Insulin not only makes us fat but also causes mood swings and unhealthy cravings. The best dietary advice that I have found (after years of searching) comes from Dr Eric Berg who recommends ‘Healthy Keto”.
Not only will this diet normalise your weight, but it will also help reorder your thinking. Steve and I have each lost 40kg eating a healthy Keto diet throughout the past year. This diet has also made us more calm and productive than we ever thought possible.
- Work on Your Posture
Straight and strong should be a lifelong goal. Pull your head back so it sits square over your shoulders, then put your tongue flat on the roof of your mouth and smile. See if you don’t feel a little better already.
- Exercise Every Day Doing Something Inspired and Productive
Is there a project in your home or garden that will get you inspired, active and sweaty? Love the effort and strength the work involved will develop in you. Find a goal that inspires you to push your physical abilities to their limit and your physical and mental fitness will develop much faster than hours of repetitive exercise.
- Follow a Daily Routine
Set a daily routine for yourself that includes caring for yourself and caring for others. Give this to yourself as a gift. Once this routine becomes habit it will provide support when you sometimes–like all of us–find yourself in a poor place to make decisions.
Most important in your routine is that you set times in your day where you adjust your goals and schedule to work better with others. Morning tea is Steve and my daily meeting time for adjusting and fine-tuning our schedule. Balancing your needs and goals with the needs and goals of others is central to good mental health. Steve calls this balancing act ‘protecting the matrix’.
Focus only on your own plans and agenda and no matter what success you achieve, your life will always feel empty. Service to others is essential to a sense of meaning.
- Don’t Lie to Yourself
Our mind, just like a computer, relies on accurate data. Lying to yourself or accepting other people’s lies as the truth is the fastest way to make poor plans and decisions. ‘Garbage in, garbage out’ is the term that computer geeks use for what happens when you feed a computer bad data.
One of the most common ways we lie to ourselves is to blame others for our problems instead of accepting personal responsibility. Another is to blame ourselves for things that are really beyond our control. Accepting the truth about ourselves and our current situation may humbling, but will always put us in a better position to help ourselves.
Telling the truth is not the same as oversharing or allowing an emotional state that has captured us to direct our communication with others. Emotions work better as personal signals for us to contemplate once we have regained homeostasis.
- Guard Yourself Against Being Manipulated
The science of the world may be built on numbers but the science of our mind is built on stories.
Beware of stories that you have been told that might cause you to work against your self-interest.
The standard mental healthcare advice that “You need to find somebody to talk to” is this type of story. What this person is really saying is, “Don’t talk to me about this.” A real friend might find the courage to suggest you to stop oversharing.
Finding people to laugh and work with is certainly healthy. Sharing our problems (or past), however, is not what builds depth in a relationship. Instead, shared goals, shared experience and genuine cooperation are what healthy relationships are built on. Because these activities take the focus off ourselves, they will quickly bring us to a place of genuine companionship. Two or more people inspired by the same creative vision will form bonds that help overcome differences.
Love and friendship is not psychotherapy. You will never find companionship if you believe that you must share your life story with others. Instead, find something meaningful to do with your time and look for people who share the same interests. Stay focused on the shared vision you are working on together (and not yourself) and you will nurture lasting love and friendship.
I hope you are having a relaxing holiday season. Steve and I have a Christmas present for you! Our new book, Love Indeed is Still the Answer, is free until the new year as a download. Please feel free to share the love 🙂