Mental Health : Let’s Talk About It

Mental health is simply defined as a person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being.

Is it just me or does the word “mental” feel negative?! From what I can gather though, mental health is simply a state of well-being that every human being needs just as much as physical health, yet very few people talk about and advocate for mental health.

As someone who battled and survived years of mental illness, the mission to stay healthy emotionally and mentally has been my top priority. I have now given a whole different meaning to “self-care,” as it has become an essential tool to my well-being.

I used to think self-care meant being selfish, because I prioritized my own needs. Now, I know better. Self-care simply means taking care of myself—my body, mind and spirit, with a strong focus on my mental health. I learned the hard way (and I’m still learning!) that my body reacts as fast as it can to let me know that I am overwhelmed and need to slow down. So, now, I take care of myself by doing what I need to help myself relax and bring joy to my life.

Of course, we all know that nutrition, fitness and meditation are fundamental principles for health and well-being. In addition to these, I’d like to share my personal “coping methods”, the little things I do that have helped me get through each day, even during the toughest times.

Aromatherapy

Doesn’t it make you feel good when your room smells good? I’m obsessed with aromatherapy and it comes in many different and inexpensive forms. I personally love using incense, natural soy wax candles and essential oils. The first thing I do in the morning is burn incense, as I find it very cleansing. Then, I either diffuse an essential oil all day or light up a candle, depending on my mood. Find your own aroma and make it part of your daily ritual.

Surround yourself in BEAUTY

Fresh flowers make me happy, so I buy flowers each week. I place them on my desk as I work all day, and sometimes I splurge and buy more for the other rooms. I believe a flower a day keeps the doctor away.

Read and write

Depending on how much time I have, I make sure I read something that inspires me. It could be a page (or chapters) in a book, or a simple inspirational quote. WORDS HAVE POWER, so I value their inspiration and motivation. When I have a lot on my mind, I write them down, including my prayers. I bought a beautiful, hand-woven basket when my husband and I went on a trip, and I made it my “prayer basket”, where I place my written prayers. Try it. Make your own prayer box/basket and fill it with your own prayers and intentions!

Happy tunes

Who doesn’t like music? Listening to music has become an essential part of my own therapy. Whether I dance or bob my head to happy (or mellow!) tunes, each piece provides encouragement.

Silence

More recently, I have come to appreciate silence, when I work on being more present and simply listen to any sound that surrounds me. Sometimes, that is enough for me. Whatever you fancy, I hope you enjoy every moment of it and make it your own.

Bodywork

I realized that my body tends to hold on to a lot of tension and stress. That said, a regular massage is no longer a luxury for me but a necessity to my well-being. I remember years ago when I didn’t have enough money, but I knew I was in pain and I wanted some work on my body, I skipped other expenses and chose to spend it on a massage—and for me, it was worth every penny. To this day (depending on my budget of course!), I get regular massages, acupuncture, chiropractic treatment or any other type of bodywork, so long as I know it will be beneficial to my overall mental and physical health.

No one else knows you the way you know yourself, so only YOU can find the little things that make you happy and will help you achieve your overall health goals. In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, I hope you find your own #selfcare rituals in the simple things and take the time to take care of YOU and your #mentalhealth.

With love + gratitude,
Elizabeth

What are you thoughts on self-care and mental health? How has it impacted you and/or those around you?

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  • Patty

    This is great! Mental health is as important as spiritual health…going to counseling for me has been a good spiritual practice in my life.
    That necklace is just beautiful:)

    • elizabeth

      That’s great @Patty! Good for you!

    • elizabeth

      I appreciate that Patty, thank you!

    • elizabeth

      I appreciate that Patty, thank you!

  • Ashlee @ Foreverandalways.co

    I love this article! I too thought that taking care of your self first was selfish for the longest time. But, like they tell you on planes – If there were a crash, place the mask on yourself before you help others. Because what use are you if you can’t breathe? Gotta take care of yourself before you can help others. 🙂 Beautifully written!

    • elizabeth

      Thanks @ashleebinderim:disqus!

    • elizabeth

      Thank you so much Ashlee!

    • elizabeth

      Thank you so much Ashlee!

  • Adrienne

    Thank you for this. Mental health is probably even more important than physical health and disregarding that can affect our physical health. This is really a great reminder and I really enjoy your tips. What are some books you would recommend to help with mental health?

    • elizabeth

      Thanks @adrienne_chan:disqus! I don’t know of any books that specifically help with mental health, but I read books that are inspiring, mostly non-fiction. Some favorites are “The Alchemist”, “You can Heal Your Life”, “The Wild”, and “Eat, Pray, Love”! 🙂

    • elizabeth

      Thanks @adrienne_chan:disqus! I don’t know of any books that specifically help with mental health, but I read books that are inspiring, mostly non-fiction. Some favorites are “The Alchemist”, “You can Heal Your Life”, “The Wild”, and “Eat, Pray, Love”! 🙂

  • Adrienne

    Thank you for this. Mental health is probably even more important than physical health and disregarding that can affect our physical health. This is really a great reminder and I really enjoy your tips. What are some books you would recommend to help with mental health?

  • I love your ideas here. Music and aroma therapy are my go to’s. But flowers sound like something I should add, especially if they bring that flower shop scent home. I also try to workout once a day or move my body several times a day, the movement really helps to release the tension I keep in my shoulders and back. I’d love to try meditation and yoga. I’ve been drawn to it for a long time but have never tried.

    • elizabeth

      Yes, yes and yes @disqus_TinaEvans539:disqus!!!

    • elizabeth

      Yes, yes and yes @disqus_TinaEvans539:disqus!!!

    • elizabeth

      Thanks Tina! I’d love to be consistent with meditation and yoga as well. Buying flowers is a bit easier, for now! One step at a time. 😉

  • I love your ideas here. Music and aroma therapy are my go to’s. But flowers sound like something I should add, especially if they bring that flower shop scent home. I also try to workout once a day or move my body several times a day, the movement really helps to release the tension I keep in my shoulders and back. I’d love to try meditation and yoga. I’ve been drawn to it for a long time but have never tried.

  • Anesha Brown-Morris

    Love this so much!!! For years, I battled mental illness because I thought it was normal since it ran in the family. After I rededicated my life to Christ, I not only see it differently but I also approach it differently. Fighting back with scripture, recognizing the triggers and open doors that welcome the low moments in has helped tremendously.

    • elizabeth

      That’s so great to hear Anesha, thanks for sharing!

  • Anesha Brown-Morris

    Love this so much!!! For years, I battled mental illness because I thought it was normal since it ran in the family. After I rededicated my life to Christ, I not only see it differently but I also approach it differently. Fighting back with scripture, recognizing the triggers and open doors that welcome the low moments in has helped tremendously.

  • Melinda G

    Thank you for your words. I’m a strong believer that when we take care of ourselves and become refreshed, we are then able to truly be who we are and play our part in bettering the world. God only created one of each of us, and so we need to be sure of our identity and have the time to process through things – whatever that may be.

    • elizabeth

      Well said Melinda, thank you!

  • Leslie Kay

    This is so great. I am definitely the type of person that needs to write and read, and listen to happy music to give myself some self love. I still sometimes forget that I need to write it out but when it does happen I realize the benefit it gives to my whole being.

    • elizabeth

      Such a simple thing to do, yet so powerful and healing, right Leslie? 🙂

      • Leslie Kay

        Yes!! So important!

  • Rachel Graham

    oh man, i saw the title and thought blah blah, another person who is going to tell my friends who are depressed to deal with themselves but it was the opposite! So many people forget that “mental health” is not just for those who struggle with it, but something we all should do. This week I’m personally going to spend some rest time outside, read a book, write in my journal, see my chiropractor and get a facial. Taking care of mind, body, and soul!

    • elizabeth

      YES!!!! That’s awesome Rachel!

  • Sarah

    Thank you for sharing this! There absolutely is a negative stigma around the words “mental health” and it’s ridiculous. I’ve struggled with anxiety, and for a long time felt very ashamed about it. More people need to be talking about the issue, and sharing raw and open stories to show that you are not alone, and there are ways to cope and feel better.

    • elizabeth

      Thank you for being a part of this conversation Sarah, and let’s keep it going! 🙂

  • Lauren Leith

    I really appreciate the perspective this article was written in, that is, that it was written from the voice of one who has struggled with mental health before. It helped me to really take seriously the issue itself and the power of the strategies. So many of those strategies were refreshing reminders to me to get back into habits and disciplines that feed me with life and give me mental clarity and rest. I needed to hear some of these things, thank you for the reminders:)

    • elizabeth

      Thank you for sharing that Lauren! I truly get it and I know how it’s like to struggle with such a debilitating illness. At the end of the day, it’s really the little reminders that help us keep going each day.

  • ALANA

    I just love how you have given real everyday options for mental health. It really concerns me that in our society we prefer to prescribe medication to TRY and solve the problem instead of thinking about lifestyle solutions. PS I love your marketing style Grit & Virtue great way to engage your readers, I love this promo xxx keep up the good work

    • elizabeth

      Yes, it’s the small things that matter in our every day life, right Alana?! 🙂

  • ALANA

    I just love how you have given real everyday options for mental health. It really concerns me that in our society we prefer to prescribe medication to TRY and solve the problem instead of thinking about lifestyle solutions. PS I love your marketing style Grit & Virtue great way to engage your readers, I love this promo xxx keep up the good work

  • Rachel

    I loved this article and I find it very relevant and something that is important to go over as I agree that anything attached to “mental” is often considering negative. I do almost everything you mentioned as I’ve learned that not only is it important to be aware and take care of yourself mentally but also talk to your brothers and sisters in Christ about it and not put up a front that you’re completely okay mentally. The church is full of broken people and I think often time people feel like they have to act happy and perfect when walking into a service or bible study. This was a really encouraging article, although I do think adding some verses could be beneficial as well!

    • elizabeth

      Thank you Rachel! Let’s keep this conversation going and I appreciate you being a part of it.

  • Karla

    Okay, yes! Come on somebody haha! this is what I needed today. I am about to embark on a new and venture somewhat alone as a young 22 yr old student in Asia and this is what I needed to hear. It is okay to take care of myself and it is always a struggle. I get the physical aspect (though I should workout more) but the mental health is something I always skip over! But, not anymore. I have the oils and I might just go ahead and pay for my first massage! As I get nervous about what’s ahead I am realizing importance of taking extra care of me before I go. Thanks Grit and Virtue for all of these encouraging emails and blogs! I am always encouraged when I get these emails cause it proves that I am not alone and I’m not the only one who thinks Jesus and business!

    • elizabeth

      Never alone, Karla! We are all in this together! 🙂

    • elizabeth

      Never alone, Karla! We are all in this together! 🙂

  • Karla

    Okay, yes! Come on somebody haha! this is what I needed today. I am about to embark on a new and venture somewhat alone as a young 22 yr old student in Asia and this is what I needed to hear. It is okay to take care of myself and it is always a struggle. I get the physical aspect (though I should workout more) but the mental health is something I always skip over! But, not anymore. I have the oils and I might just go ahead and pay for my first massage! As I get nervous about what’s ahead I am realizing importance of taking extra care of me before I go. Thanks Grit and Virtue for all of these encouraging emails and blogs! I am always encouraged when I get these emails cause it proves that I am not alone and I’m not the only one who thinks Jesus and business!

  • MultiEli

    Unexpected. I didn’t expect this post to comfort me as much. Being a career-oriented/overachiever all my life, 5 years ago a brick wall fell on me. That brick wall was depression. Not because it is something negative but rather because I had always seen and prided myself for being invincible. My body and mind were for me to control and use how ever I wanted. I didnt know deciding to start a family would change everything. See, the problem is that I had made the “decision” st start a family but had not changed my mindset to prepare and nourish a healthy mental environment necessary to support and raise a healthy child. Since that event, I’ve been trying to live my life in a more wholistic way . But boy are bad habits difficult to eliminate completely… yes just yesterday (2 babies, a new job and a business project later) I’ve pushed myself again to the point of being sick with fever and nausea because of exhaustion and was bed ridden all day. Another brick wall. So, this post is like a refreshing breeze for me, a reassuring arm on my shoulders telling me that its ok. I can do it. Injecting simple little “pick me up” habits in my crazy busy schedule will help me find a better balance. One day at a time.

    • Christina Barnes

      Yasss! Thanks for sharing this! You can do it! 🙂

    • elizabeth

      One day at a time indeed, @multieli:disqus! Remember that we are all in this together and you are never alone. I hope you keep fighting the good fight, and at times it’s also okay not to be okay. Just be and make sure you always care for yourself first, so you’re able to take care of your family and everyone else. 🙂

    • elizabeth

      One day at a time indeed, @multieli:disqus! Remember that we are all in this together and you are never alone. I hope you keep fighting the good fight, and at times it’s also okay not to be okay. Just be and make sure you always care for yourself first, so you’re able to take care of your family and everyone else. 🙂

  • Giraffe Joyce

    Mental health is so important. I didn’t understand the power of thinking well until I started counseling. It was such a foreign idea to me, but now I see that it is so splendid to learn what our brains do and how to treat them well. Just like we feed our bodies well and make sure we’re well rested physically. The same applies mentally, emotionally, relationally, etc.

  • Giraffe Joyce

    Mental health is so important. I didn’t understand the power of thinking well until I started counseling. It was such a foreign idea to me, but now I see that it is so splendid to learn what our brains do and how to treat them well. Just like we feed our bodies well and make sure we’re well rested physically. The same applies mentally, emotionally, relationally, etc.

    • elizabeth

      YES!! @giraffejoyce:disqus, so true!!

    • elizabeth

      YES!! @giraffejoyce:disqus, so true!!

  • Christina Barnes

    This was so special and timely in my life! I’m also learning to focus on the practices of self care, especially since becoming a yoga instructor last year. I also work with an international women’s ministry where we host spiritual retreats where we share our stories and seek healing from the pain of our past — and its all led me on a trajectory of being super passionate about health and wholeness in mind/body/spirit. I believe this wholeness and growing in right relationship with yourself, God, and other is exactly what Jesus was referring to when He was talking about the abundant life! Thanks for opening up a very important conversation.

    And ps- those necklaces are so cute!!

    • elizabeth

      Thank YOU Christina, and for being a part of this important conversation! <3

    • elizabeth

      Thank YOU Christina, and for being a part of this important conversation! <3

  • Nadia Boomsma

    I have struggled with depression for several years and at the time I just didn’t know a way out. I also didn’t take good care of myself and found myself only slipping away further and further but over the last year I found my way out and I’m so thankful for that. It’s still something I struggle with quite frequently but I’m not drowning in it anymore. I also started to take care of myself and I realised that that’s so necessary. We don’t always have to feel great or act like everything is fine and we don’t have to hide when that happens, we can just be honest and be ourselves. I always thought I had to figure everything out on my own because I was used to it and I didn’t want to bother anyone with my ‘problems’ but now I also see that there’s nothing wrong with receiving help, it doesn’t mean you’re weak! I decided recently that I’m going to start therapy to just help me out a bit more and to help me further on the new ways I’m going. It’s so important to take good care of yourself and we should never feel ashamed of making choices because of that! It seems like menthal illness is almost a forbidden topic but it’s okay if you battle and struggle with it or have battled and stuggled with it. We’re not less human and we’re not crazy, we just fight a different battle than others. We were created just as beautiful as others by our Creator who loves us just the same!

    • elizabeth

      Well said @nadiaboomsma:disqus! Our struggles do not define who we are. They are merely struggles that we get to face and fight through, and can only strengthen us each day.

    • elizabeth

      Well said @nadiaboomsma:disqus! Our struggles do not define who we are. They are merely struggles that we get to face and fight through, and can only strengthen us each day.

  • Sandra Ngonidzashe Mboweni

    So grateful that there is an actual month devoted to mental health. I struggle with anxiety and depressive tendencies on a daily basis. It’s been tough learning how to deal and opening up to people in my life. After I open up, people don’t necessarily take me seriously or they usually respond in an insensitive way that frustrates me but all this has taught me to get help for myself. If I don’t look out for myself, I will just kee getting worse. This article is really helpful because it lists small things I can be doing for myself. I have honestly been feeling overwhelmed lately and lost as to what I should do to live a better life. I really love the prayer basket idea and will be incorporating that practice into my own life. Aromatherapy also sound amazing and I want to try it. Thank you so much for writing on this very important subject. God bless you.

    • elizabeth

      YES, @sandrangonidzashemboweni:disqus! It’s the little things that matter and I hope you get to practice some of these.

      p.s. Just a little note. At the end of the year, I read some of my old prayer notes and I reflect on how God answers our prayers in mysterious ways, and it becomes a very humbling and grateful experience for me. 🙂

    • elizabeth

      YES, @sandrangonidzashemboweni:disqus! It’s the little things that matter and I hope you get to practice some of these.

      p.s. Just a little note. At the end of the year, I read some of my old prayer notes and I reflect on how God answers our prayers in mysterious ways, and it becomes a very humbling and grateful experience for me. 🙂

  • Sandra Ngonidzashe Mboweni

    So grateful that there is an actual month devoted to mental health. I struggle with anxiety and depressive tendencies on a daily basis. It’s been tough learning how to deal and opening up to people in my life. After I open up, people don’t necessarily take me seriously or they usually respond in an insensitive way that frustrates me but all this has taught me to get help for myself. If I don’t look out for myself, I will just kee getting worse. This article is really helpful because it lists small things I can be doing for myself. I have honestly been feeling overwhelmed lately and lost as to what I should do to live a better life. I really love the prayer basket idea and will be incorporating that practice into my own life. Aromatherapy also sound amazing and I want to try it. Thank you so much for writing on this very important subject. God bless you.

  • kute juan

    Although never diagnosed with depression I am surrounded by it. I’m pursuing a masters in counseling and as I’m closer to finishing I SEE mental instabilities in the most unlikely people and places. The masks that we wear to appear balanced in this chaotic society is daunting. Specifically being a woman of color, I find my personal world and the people in it to be high functioning mentally dis-eased. When in particular no longer seem to know what “normal” feels like. I night I knew what self care was until a couple months ago when my only son attempted suicide. Fighting other depression that he was refusing to accept he wanted “out”. As a mother, my initial reaction was to run to him and be there however what I came to realize was that it was necessary to identify and maintain a healthy boundary where I could support him and still care for myself. It was a hard lesson. It was more than bubble baths and massages. It was quiet contemplation and lots of silence. It was defining a space where I could nurture myself and still be there for him.

    I’m learning self care is a critical asset as I pursue a career in mental wellness. I hold tightly to the familiar phrase…” Put your mask on first and then help the person next to you”.

    • elizabeth

      Thank you for sharing @kutejuan:disqus! My heart goes out to you for so many reasons. I hope you continue to take the time to take care of yourself, as you take care of your son and the others.

  • Rachel Wold

    Thank you for this article; I especially love that you gave practicals as to how we might treat ourselves with kindness. For me, I will tend to value others over myself to the point where I am devaluing and neglecting myself. At its worst, I will shut down my own desires in an attempt to love others well. I have been learning recently, however, how truly valuable and whole I am as a woman created in the image of the Lord; when I better understand my value, I am better able to care for and be kind to myself.

    • elizabeth

      Yes, YOU ARE whole, valuable, worthy and created in the image of God @rachelwold:disqus!
      I have also learned the hard way that I need to take care of myself first, in order to serve others.

    • elizabeth

      Yes, YOU ARE whole, valuable, worthy and created in the image of God @rachelwold:disqus!
      I have also learned the hard way that I need to take care of myself first, in order to serve others.

  • Dezerai Seitzer

    I would add getting out for fresh air and sunshine to the list of “coping methods.” As a solopreneur I can find myself getting so focused on my work that I’ll go days without taking the time to go outside and suck up some of the God’s natural medicine. I’ve noticed that it really affects my mental state, so when I find myself feeling down or unmotivated I try to head outside for a short walk.

    • elizabeth

      YES! Thank you for adding that in Dezerai! Taking the time to breathe some fresh air and soak up some sun is definitely on my list as well. There are so many little things that could help us, and I just couldn’t possibly list them all! 😉

  • Courtney

    Mental health so valuable, is an aspect of health everyone should tend to, and no one should stigmatize! Let’s go a step further though, and talk for a minute about holistic health, as in whole being-health. Tackling mental health alone, is only one aspect of mental health. I have found it helps to think of myself as whole vs pieces. I tend to get a cold, because stress. I get stressed because I’m not taking care of myself spiritually, or mentally, and to really get rid of the cold, I have to deal with the heart issue.

    So self care for me means engaging my whole self in things that nourish and restore me on multiple levels. Which involves intentionality. I can fix dinner and eat quick because I’m hungry and have things to do… But sometimes I have the time and space to cook a nice meal, savoring and enjoying the experience. Intentionality is about slowing down-which is a form of self care in our busy world.
    For me, these self care, life giving things, change. So I’ve also had to learn to give myself grace when something that worked for months isn’t working anymore. Or is life giving in one season, but not in another.
    I’ve also had to realize if I’ve been neglecting self care for a while, one home spa day, one nice meal, one hike in the woods isn’t going to bring long term restoration. If I’m noticing a lack in self care, then I’ve been neglecting it for far too long.

    Mental health, self care, emotional well-being, spiritual growth, physical health, are all related and connected. And to pursue whole health means regular healthy, life giving activity.

    Few of my favorite self care strategies I’ve not noticed in the comments yet:
    1. Playing- nurturing my inner child. Laughing, colouring , play doh, reading kids books, turning everyday errands or chores into a mini “adventure” the same way we might for a child. Play more.
    2. A mindfulness walk. Ten mins, or two hours. Just a break, to slow down and pay attention to the light at that time of day, what’s growing, what colors do I noticed. Just observing for the sake of observing.
    3. Creative work. I’m an artist. So this is a big one for me, but it’s works for almost everyone once they find a medium they like. Color, draw, paint, beads, clay, sewing…onward. Try something. It doesn’t have to be good, or time consuming, it should be fun though.

    4. Pets and house plants. I don’t have much of a green thumb, and know pets aren’t for everyone. But these are huge blessings of self care for me. Growing living things in my living space.

    Hooray for mental health! We’re each worth the care. Flourish dear ones.

  • I love everything about this post. It’s good to be reminded that this is not indulgence, it’s self care. Health lies in the trifecta (body, mind, and spirit). I personally need to get my butt outside more to release some endorphins.

  • Blanca

    Glad for the rise on Mental Health Awareness. Really hope God can shine a light on this meaningful cause through g+v & many more. I personally enjoy writing, painting + planting to de-stress, relax & focus on what Gods placed before me.

    Blessings,
    Blanca

  • Heather

    Great suggestions in this article. I struggle daily with self-improvement and it’s terribly difficult. And the people around me just don’t get it. It’s nice to see that you do. Thanks for this post.

  • Torre

    Love that you included silence. It has been beneficial for me in coping with depression and (social) anxiety. Sometimes I use noise to drown out the emotion and thoughts but it takes a great deal of strength to turn off the tv, put the phone on silent, and sift through all the things going on within me.

  • Hannah

    To know that so many deal with depression in silence no longer makes me feel so alone. I often find myself (like this weekend) hiding out rather than enjoying the outdoors or being around friends. To see the impact depression has caused on my physical/mental well-being and life, overall, is amazing. I used to be the most happy, go-lucky, spontaneous, outgoing person, and here I am now- just here. This article has reminded me that there are so many different ways that I can think of the positive and turn my life around, rather than seeing it fade away.

  • Whitney

    I love this article! Self care is SO important but something I too often neglect. This article has inspired me to make a list of things I like to do to take care of myself and reference it whenever I need a little “me” time.

  • Carri Brumley Ritz

    Great article! At 47, I’m finally figuring out that self care is essential! Hoping I can teach my daughters this now, so it doesn’t take them a life time to figure it out! Thank you!

  • Great article. I’m still working on my self-care routine… it’s so hard to find a balance. I love that you shared your tips, and aren’t afraid to speak up about things that so many consider taboo.