Improving my mental health on World Mental Health Day

Today is World Mental Health Day, a day where we all can bring awareness to the importance of mental health and encourage the improvement of mental health services all over the globe. It is vitally important to the human race that mental health issues finally get acknowledged as a threat to global health, and that funding gets allocated to helping those who suffer.

I suffer from depression, anxiety, and seem to exhibit some symptoms of ADHD (all not officially diagnosed as of right now, because money) and I’ve struggled to keep a wrangle on my mental issues for several years now. The absence of stability and close support has hindered my efforts, but right now I’m doing pretty well. I have two jobs that are paying the bills, roommates who are awesome, and family around to encourage and help me if things get dire.

However, I can always improve. There are other struggles I face that could directly influence my mental health for the better. In the past few weeks, I’ve been seriously looking at these issues and have made a promise to myself to address them, even if it is a baby step towards success.

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Photo by Jad Limcaco on Unsplash

My first big issue is my physical health. I’m overweight, sore all the time, and constantly tired. I’m one strenuous activity away from having a coronary (or so it seems) and frankly, it scares me. I joke that I’m simply expecting to have a heart attack any day now just to get it out of the way, but I know that is my brain telling me that it’s hopeless to try to get healthy so why bother. I’ve made a promise to myself that I will start walking at least four days a week. It isn’t much, but I know if I get myself moving more often, it could lead me to more effective exercise.

Another thing that desperately needs to change is my eating habits. I eat out at restaurants far too often and it costs me a boatload of money. But I also HATE cooking and often just eat whatever I can throw into a microwave. I’ve battled with myself, looking for a compromise to this, and I think I’ve finally found it. In order to eat healthier food at home more often while avoiding as much cooking as possible, I’m looking into meal prepping. Cooking everything at once, dishing it out into containers to eat over the course of the week, and simply warming up the meals when I need to eat seems like a perfect synergy.

My other physical issue is my inability to keep up with routine hygiene. I don’t shower as much as I should, I don’t shave or get a haircut regularly, and I haven’t really felt like my appearance has meant much. That persistent voice telling me that I’m not worth taking care of, and that no matter what, no one would love you anyway has prevented me from caring much about my appearance. I’ve made a promise to myself to shower everyday, even if I don’t think I need to, shave at least once a week, and cut my hair once a month. It didn’t help that my beard trimmer decided to die when I made this decision, so the shaving and haircutting is on hold until I can get another one.

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Blue light from your monitor can trick your brain into staying awake. Photo by Victoria Heath on Unsplash

Lastly, I have horrible sleeping habits. I have an issue with being able to turn my brain off at night to sleep at proper times, so I’ve taken steps to improve that. I installed a program on my computer called fl.ux that reduces the blue light of my monitor to a golden tone to help reduce blue light, which tricks your brain into staying awake. I have a job that requires me to get up at 4 a.m. and it’s been a struggle to sleep well, so I’ve started going to bed very early and staying there until I go to sleep. I’ve been getting 6-7 hours of sleep this way instead of 3-5 that I was getting before.

To keep myself accountable for all these changes, I needed something that would make me completing these goals fun and stimulating. I don’t stick to things if my brain isn’t engaged with it. So I downloaded an app on my phone called Habitica. I have a little 8-bit RPG character that I can level up whenever I complete tasks. Tasks also get me gold which I can use to buy better gear for my character and buy rewards for myself. It’s amazingly customizable and flexible, and you can even add real world rewards for yourself to spend gold on. I can even group up with other users to take on quests and bosses for more experience, gold, and better gear. Having a group also helps you stay accountable, as failing to accomplish tasks results in damage to your character and party. For an RPG fan like me, it’s the perfect way to stay on track while having some fun as well.

These are things I need to improve in order to make my mental health issues less of a factor in my life. Some of them you can probably relate to, others will have unique problems and goals to beat and achieve. I wholeheartedly endorse fl.ux and Habitica to help those of you with similar struggles. These are steps we all can take to help our own situations and take control over the disorders that plague our lives every day. It’s the first step in improving our lives, and is one that we don’t need a prescription for. I’m holding myself accountable for my own mental health, and I have a good support network that will keep me on track as well.