5 Stay-Fit Ways to
Maintain Peak Mental Health
The recent suicides of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade really hit home hard. Having battled depression since adolescence, I know how difficult it is sometimes to truthfully answer the question, “How are you today?”
It takes courage to say you’re not feeling very well emotionally.
Suicide is hard on those left behind. But for all the grief and anguish survivors experience nothing can be harder than believing that the only way out of your feelings of despair is by ending your life.
The recent deaths of these two well-known people fanned the smoldering issue of mental health for many of us. Thankfully the conversation in our modern world is starting to change and factors driving mental health are making their way into everyday conversations.
I’m not a doctor or a counselor and simply want to share my journey.
I debated for a long time about if I would write this article or not since the suicides of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade. The internal debate waxed on as I considered publishing on LinkedIn the professional networking site where most use the platform for job hunting.
But then I thought, that’s part of my concern when it comes to mental health in the workplace; fear of ridicule and what others may think of us.
For those that struggle to stay fit mentally here’s a list of five things, you can do to help thwart the onset of debilitating depression.
One – Listen to Your Loved Ones
Listen to your loved ones when they mention mood swings or other identifying markers that you may be suffering. Those around us can see our blind spots.
My journey towards health started with an ultimatum from my wife at the time. As she witnessed me spiraling down after my father’s death. With tears in her eyes, she told me “I love you, but I don’t know how to help you. You either get help or I’m leaving our marriage”.
Tough words to hear. But it was exactly the push I needed.
Two – Prescriptions Can Help
There is nothing wrong with using prescription medicine to help you re-center. Talk to your doctor or counselor to surface the protocol that may work best for you.
In my experience, after being on a regimen for 30 days I reported back to my counselor feeling better than I had in years.
Three – A Balm for Your Soul
As challenging as it can be sometimes to discuss your mental state, talking can be a balm for your soul.
While in counseling we looked back at my life and certain events (i.e., growing up in a domestic violent home, life-threatening health issues of loved ones, having a father in and out of prison, sexual abuse of family members, and me, and more) my counselor told me that there was nothing wrong with me feeling overwhelmed. I dismissed his statement with one from the reality I grew up in “that’s nothing, besides everyone has problems to deal with and some much worse”.
At the time what I didn’t realize was the simple act of speaking openly about the various challenges I had over the years was refreshing. And I was relieved to learn that I was not alone.
Four – Accountability Works Magic
Be consistent. Keep appointments with your counselor. Take your medication. And allow your loved ones to hold you accountable.
The question “have you taken your medicine today?” is an act of love and should not be a trigger for defensiveness.
I had a friend that was diagnosed bi-polar. They struggled with the notion of taking prescription medication. It was difficult to watch them suffer when they would hit those low patches.
After years of ups and downs that pushed her family to the brink of disaster my friend eventually started counseling and a prescription drug treatment.
In the end, they were thankful that I (and many others) encouraged them to get help. I did so knowing the benefit I’d gotten in my situation.
Five – Self Awareness is Key
Understand your triggers.
When my father passed away he had been sick for some time and was determined to die like he’d lived, on his own terms. He signed an Against Medical Advice (AMA) document and left the Veteran’s Affairs (VA) Hospital. He said if he was going to die he wanted to do it at home.
Our relationship was complicated. His death was an unforeseen trigger for me.
But, typically, there were triggers that sent me into depressive cycles that, once I got counseling and took medication to re-center I was better able to identify my triggers. With a clear open mind, I was empowered to make different choices. Things that helped me cope once a trigger was happening were speaking openly about my emotions with my wife and family members, taking long walks to help clear my head and get the body moving (a change of physical activity will change the chemistry in your body and help you switch gears mentally), and journaling.
When you know what your triggers are you can better manage yourself in them.
It’s unfortunate that Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain lost their lives and, I imagine like many from around the world, I said a prayer for their families. But I’m glad the conversation is loud and in front of so many that may not otherwise think of the struggle many people have to keep their mental health fit.
Peace and blessings to you for reading. If you enjoyed this article please SHARE it with your network.
If you need help or if someone you know does PLEASE check out the resources below.
- Tips on recognizing the signs of someone that may need help (…you can be a lifeline…)
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline (living in violence can make you feel trapped and alone, but you are NOT alone).
- International Association for Suicide Prevention (research shows suicide rates are not only increasing in the U.S. but worldwide)
- 1in6 (when boys are sexually abused it could be the starting point of unhealthy behavior towards self and others)
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (free and confidential support for people in distress)
- Crisis Text Line – 741741 (free 24/7 crisis support in the U.S.)
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- Befrienders Worldwide