Many people only talk about caring for their mental health on bad mental health days. In the past, I was one of those people. Not anymore.
I’ve finally realized that caring for my mental health on good mental health days is vitally important. I believe this is important for everyone, not just people who are living with a mental illness.
Before I explain how I care for myself on good days, I want to make one point clear: mental health and mental illness are different things. Everyone has mental health, yet only people with a mental illness have mental illness. Although, I believe everyone should care for their mental health, whether they live with a mental illness or not.
I’m living with mental illness; I have bipolar disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder. These disorders create a balancing act of anxiety and depression that I’ve become accustomed to living with. I have bad mental health days and good mental health days.
In the past I’ve focused heavily on my mental health during bad days; the days when depression was relentless, or when my anxiety spiraled out of control. On good mental health days, however, I never really gave my mental health much thought. I just enjoyed my good day, milked it for all it was worth, and moved on… knowing that another bad day would soon follow.
This approach potentially caused me to have more bad days. I recently looked back in my calendar at some of my very worst mental health days. I quickly noticed a trend; my worst days frequently fell right after some of my best. I realized: I’m absolutely exhausting myself on good mental health days, I’m doing too much, and I’m causing myself to crash.
I started thinking… When someone is drinking, you’ll sometimes hear them say, “I’m gonna have a hangover tomorrow, I should stop.” When someone is working out, you’ll sometimes hear them say, “I know I’m gonna be sore tomorrow, I should slow down.” So, why shouldn’t I do the same for my mental health?
On good mental health days, I’m typically capable of doing more, but that doesn’t mean I should. I’m capable of doing more house chores, socializing more, and staying out later… but that doesn’t mean I should. What I should do is think about my mental health, and the “mental health hangover” that I might cause if I do more.
So, that’s what I’ve been doing, and it’s amazing. Since I started implementing this I’ve had many more good days. Additionally, I haven’t experienced the crashes that typically follow a really good day.
Here’s how I do it, on good mental health days I ask myself; “how will this make me feel tomorrow?”, “how much energy will this take?”, or “have I reached my limit for today?”. If I feel like I’ve passed my limit I simply say, “I’m done for the day”, or “I’m going to save that energy for tomorrow”.
For example: Yesterday was a really good mental health day for me, because of that I was able to accomplish a lot around the house and have some fun. Yesterday night my husband asked if I wanted to go out. It sounded like a great time; book stores, video game shops, and other fun places. The ‘old me’ would have went, I would have walked from store to store, socializing with everyone I came across, attempting to take full advantage of my good mental health day. Then, today, I would have crashed from exhaustion. However, ‘new me’ said “no” to going out. I simply said, “I’ve hit my limit for today, I think I should save that energy”. My husband completely understood, we spent the night resting at home, and I feel rested today. No crash.
Basically, it’s about knowing your limits, and caring for your mental health needs on the good days as well as the bad. This method has sincerely worked for me.
I can’t remedy all bad days. Bad days are a part of life and a part of living with a mental illness. What I can do is care for my mental health on good days so I don’t experience a “mental health hangover” crash.
Sincerely, Elizabeth – Uncustomary Housewife