The conversations on mental health are becoming more open and widespread, and the corporate world isn't falling behind — young professionals don't shy away from talking about their struggles with stress and anxiety anymore. With this said, here are 10 ways you can put your mental health first in your daily routine.
1. Express, don't repress
It's alright to sit with the pain you're going through – after all, there's no shortcut to anger, frustration, or sadness. You really have to let it out either through crying, shouting, writing it down, or whatever healthy method you'd prefer. Repression only leads to extreme measures of dealing with bottled-up emotions, like self-harm, substance abuse, or even suicide attempts.
Remember that it's perfectly fine to let your emotions out, preferably to a person you feel safe and comfortable confiding in. If your support system is currently busy or unavailable, then you can try seeing a professional too. This is more ideal, as psychotherapists are trained for these situations, and might just be what you've always needed — someone to wholeheartedly listen to you.
2. Set healthy boundaries
Are you currently dealing with a boss who overworks you with tasks? How about friends who ask you too many favors? Relatives who ask you for money every month? If you're not used to rejecting people's proposals, then your emotional and mental health will greatly suffer in the long run.
Communicate and uphold your boundaries by learning to say no honestly and firmly. For instance, you can tell your relatives that it's unsustainable for you to keep sending them money because you have it allotted for other things like bills, investments, and leisure. You can also tell your higher-ups that your plate has been full for quite some time now and recommend a co-worker to do the tasks instead.
3. Stay away from substances
Some young professionals turn to activities like drinking, smoking, and taking drugs either to forget painful experiences, relieve anxiety and stress, cave in to peer pressure, or all three at the same time. But it's been proven that constant substance use can lead to addiction or dependence.
Substance misuse can impair your function at school or work, take a toll on your relationships with your family, friends, and/or partner, and isolate you from society. If you're dealing with stress, anxiety, and/or depression, it's best to turn away from alcohol, cigarettes or vapes, and drugs. Instead, seek healthier ways to cope like releasing your feelings through art, music, or sports.
4. Make realistic goals
Sometimes, we overwhelm ourselves with goals that are bigger than us – goals that exhaust our time, money, and energy. For the sake of your mental health, set goals that are easily accomplished and are in line with your current mindset, timeframe, financial capacity and emotional capability.
Some practical ways to make your goals happen include listing them down, recognizing the forks in your way, making necessary adjustments, and celebrating milestones. If you're conditioning yourself to accomplish goals that are actually doable, then you don't set yourself up for perceived failure.
5. Treat yourself every so often
While some don't have time to reward themselves after a long work week, do it the second you some time off. If you feel suffocated with stress and anxiety from school or work, make time for treating yourself. On weekends, instead of doing work in advance, why not get yourself some ice cream, watch a movie, or play with your pets?
Life's little rewards can really help keep us going, especially when we're under a ton of pressure, or if we're feeling alone and isolated from our peers. Don't think that you haven't done enough work to pamper yourself — you deserve it as much as the next guy.
6. Avoid your triggers
If you're going to an event that you know will cause you major stress or if you follow social media accounts that make you feel unaccomplished or jealous, then it's only right that you avoid these. When you anticipate a trigger coming on, dodge it as much as possible. Don't put your own mental health in harm's way.
While there are unavoidable triggers, do something about the triggers that you can control. If you're confronted with an inevitable trigger, it's best to learn coping strategies beforehand so you don't go to battle unprepared and get unnecessary aversive feelings in turn.
7. Socialize if you want to
No man is an island, as they say. Once in a while, we'll need some social interactions (even if our social batteries run out fast) in order to connect and build meaningful relationships with the people around us. Talking to others, ranting, venting, or just plain chatter can help us release aversive emotions and take the weight off our chests.
If you need to meet up with coworkers after work, catch up with old peers, or make new friends, do it by all means. It won't hurt to exert a little more effort than usual especially if you want to create bridges and get people to listen to you, feelings and musings included.
8. Be kind to yourself
We are already our own biggest critic, so it's important to give yourself an allowance for mistakes and bad choices, and forgive yourself as well for those. Don't beat yourself up for the slightest of errors because at the end of the day, you're just human and you're bound to get in your own way sometimes, and that's completely okay.
9. Listen to your body
If you're having headaches, back pain, or heartburn, don't let that go on for too long — these things will negatively affect your mental health in the long run. Your performance is directly affected by your bodily pain, so pay attention to your body and stop harming yourself by continuing to work and wear yourself out. Get some rest and recharge yourself to avoid being completely sick and non-functional.
10. Seek professional help
If all else won't suffice, then it's time to seek the help of a psychotherapist or counselor. This way, you can be equipped with healthy coping strategies and help you release your pain, stress, and any other current difficulties by opening up in your sessions. Mind You and Empath are some of the local firms that can help connect you to a mental health professional that's right for you and your needs.