What's Your Mental Health Language?
How are you caring for yourself?
It's a hard question for me to answer right now, but it’s one that I have been trying to ask myself and many people within my community as of late.
As a Black woman living in America, these past few weeks (let’s be honest—decades) have been full of moments that have taken a toll on my mental health, just as they have for so many of us. The recent deaths of so many Black Americans have made things especially difficult.
Amidst the rollercoaster of emotions I know so many of us have felt, it can be hard to give yourself permission to slow down and care for yourself. It can feel as if all your extra energy should be used taking action against systems that enforce injustice.
But as the writer and civil rights activist Audre Lorde once said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
Her words have returned to me when I need them most, and each time, they help me remember to prioritize self-care in my day-to-day life. They’re words that have come in handy almost every day in the past few weeks in particular.
Pouring from an empty cup does no one any good, and taking the time to replenish your energy and prioritize your mental health is one of the most radical acts of love you can give to yourself and your community.
But how do you do it?
Sometimes it’s easy to get stumped with the technicalities of self-care. The truth is, there’s no right way to exercise self-care. It’s a holistic practice that looks different for everyone.
At a recent Shine event, psychologist Anna Rowley, Ph.D., spoke to our Shine community about one thing that can help you redefine what acts of self-care look like for you: Mental health languages.
They’re similar to love languages, a guide that can help you explore how you show and receive love. Mental health languages work the same way: They can help you break down which self-care activities help boost your overall wellbeing and support your mental health.
Below are the four Dr. Rowley mentioned that you can use to explore your own practice of self-care:
If you're able to, sound can be a powerful tool in finding a way to get present and quiet anxieties or worries for a moment. It can also be an important way to learn and relax.
Whether it’s by listening to a Shine meditation, your favorite song, or a new audiobook you haven't heard before—make a note about how it makes you feel afterward. If the answer is good, add this to your mental health languages and pull it out of your toolbox the next time you need to show yourself love.
Taking a walk or practicing mindful movement, if you’re able to, can be a great way to practice self-care and prioritize your mental health.
If you can, try doing it with someone else too. Research has shown that “when you try to move in synchrony with someone else, it also improves your self-esteem.”
But even if you move alone, know that you’re still actively increasing your motivation and decreasing fatigue and depression with every intentional movement you make.
Our sense of sight can improve our mental health too.
If you’re a visual person, try using your sight to boost your mental health by viewing an online gallery or watching a video of a place you love.
You can even try something Dr. Rowley calls "thinking in pictures." It's just what it sounds like: Simply close your eyes and imagine a favorite calm place, a happy memory with people you care about, or even yourself in a moment that made you proud.
Being present and noticing the texture and feel of things around you can help you calm worry spirals too. Whether it’s through small exercises like intentionally feeling the fabric of your clothes each day when you put them on or just placing a hand on your stomach or chest as you practice breathwork.
However you choose to practice self-care, don’t forget that it’s a journey and a process. One of these mental health languages might work for you today and another might work for you better tomorrow.
Practicing self-compassion as you explore how you care for yourself is key.
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