Mental health issues can, and need to be addressed from many angles.
In reality, there is no one size fits all program.
Curing depression or anxiety isn’t as easy building muscle or losing weight (they follow a straight forward diet and/or exercise plan).
This is mainly because there are so many reasons why any individual may be feeling anxious or depressed!
These reasons can range all the way from hormone imbalances, to an underperforming thyroid, and of course, neurotransmitter deficiencies.
Each of the three categories listed above can be further broken down to a much higher extent.
This leaves possible problems seemingly endless.
Even if you are otherwise healthy, there could be 1001 reasons you may be feeling situationally depressed or anxious.
With that being said, we shouldn’t be so focussed on the final solution for the moment, we simply need to find a place to start.
You may be asking “how do we do this?”
By following the 10 essentials of mental health. This is our equivalent of the 10 commandments.
The first step in improving your mental health and overall well-being is to follow and understand the absolute necessities of what it takes to acquire mental stability.
Once you have these principles locked down, you will be free to move on to greater heights.
As to methods, there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
The 10 Essentials
It is of my opinion that these 10 essentials are hands down the most crucial to your well-being:
- An Unshakeable Mindset*
- Stress Management
- Quality Relationships
- Healthy Eating
- Regular Exercise
- Self Esteem
- Living With Purpose
- Living With Hope
Should you fail to include any one of these you are walking a thin line.
#1. Master The Mind
I understand you are probably sick of people in your life telling you to “just stop worrying” or “just be more positive”.
Furthermore, I also understand you don’t choose to experience the emotions that you do.
What you can do, however, is choose to change the way you view such situations.
I personally used to let anxiety and fatigue make me feel depressed.
It felt unfair that I should have to suffer even though I abstained from poor lifestyle choices.
While I still wrestle with both fatigue and anxiety, I constantly remind myself of the other areas in my life in which I am blessed.
In addition, I also use positive thinking to eliminate the effects I allow these feelings to have on me.
When fatigue comes upon me, I take a nap. No big deal.
If I am anxious, I use the methods I have learned over the years to calm myself down. I then accept any anxiety that remains as an unimportant part of my day.
For any obstacles life throws your way, you must refuse to let it break you (even if it does).
The book mentioned below contains a quote that changed my life, and I mean literally:
It is not miserable to deal with the obstacles we face, it is only miserable to not be able to handle them.
For those of you who do not know how to change your mindset, I highly recommend the book “How To Stop Worrying And Start Living”.
It is safe to say this book was a major turning point in my life.
The benefits were likely the equivalent of 5 visits to a therapist for the price of lunch.
There is no monetary gain for myself should you choose to buy this book. Rent it from a library if you need to, just read it!
Without question, mindset is #1 on the list of 10 essentials.
When it comes to happiness, fake it till you make it. It might be just around the corner.
#2. Stress Management
It doesn’t matter what your goal is, from building muscle or losing weight, all the way to recovering from depression, stress is your single greatest obstacle.
Stress affects so many functions in both the body and mind I simply can’t cram it into this article.
In order to improve your life in all areas, it is imperative to learn how to control stress.
Some basic methods include guided meditation, yoga, reducing caffeine intake, and spending time in nature just to scratch the surface.
Stress when left unchecked, will more often than not present itself as adrenal fatigue, which will complicate your mood, energy, and life even further.
If you feel as though stress has over-involved itself in your life, you would like to learn more about it and how to reduce it, I recommend reading stress 101.
Recognize stress before it breaks you, and you are well on your way to mastering #2 on our list of 10 essentials.
If you are battling mood disorders such as anxiety and depression, and masking them with alcohol or narcotics you are swimming upstream.
While substances may temporarily hide your issues, they are a Band-Aid, and in fact further complicate existing problems.
Alcohol, for example, can temporarily elevate your GABA levels leaving you feeling calm and happy.
However, once we remove alcohol from the equation, your GABA levels will take a dip, and anxiety will become even worse.
This “withdrawal” stage can last a significant amount of time depending on how hard you abuse alcohol.
For this reason, alone, many people suffering from anxiety get caught in a vicious cycle of drinking to mask their anxiety, while progressively getting worse.
In my own personal experience, I have never been a big drinker.
That being said, last year I was going through a breakup and ended up backpacking Mexico.
During this period of time, I found myself drinking with new friends very often due to cheap prices, lack of a work schedule, and a great social life.
For the most part, my mental health held up well. This was likely due to a lack of reality, great friends, and the fact that all of my time was spent sitting on a beach.
Upon returning home to real life, my mental health was worse than ever.
In fact, the next few months were some of the worst of my life. I had regular, almost daily panic attacks, chronic fatigue, and even mild suicidal thoughts.
Often times I would break down in tears, I felt completely broken on the inside.
Needless to say, it was a hard lesson on the abuse of alcohol.
Do yourself a favor and aim to avoid making the mistakes I made at all costs (if you haven’t already made them). If you have crossed the line and don’t know how to get back, the best thing you can do for yourself is to seek help.
Nobody is invincible, and all bad habits catch up to us in the long run.
While I almost exclusively spoke of alcohol here, the same can be said for recreational drugs.
Ignore sobriety and the 10 essentials are useless.
If you are looking to avoid the roller coaster ride drugs and alcohol provide, clean your act up, and slow the hell down.
I am willing to bet this is not a surprise to anyone. Everyone understands the debilitating side effects that accompany a poor sleep.
Your mood suffers, energy levels are minimal, and will power is off in another dimension far out of reach.
If complete control of your mental health is a priority, then staying well rested is an absolute necessity.
On nights that you can’t manage to get a good sleep, don’t be scared to take a nap.
Personally, I nap almost every day. The benefits of even a 30-minute nap far outweigh trying to push through the day while repelling everyone away from me because I am so grumpy.
If you have a long lunch break take advantage of it and catch 15-30 minutes worth of z’s. You might be amazed by the benefits.
In the case work doesn’t allow it, aim to sleep for 20 minutes before dinner. A 20-minute nap will feel like an extra 2 hours of sleep a night.
For those of you who have chronic insomnia, I recommend speaking with a doctor.
I have suffered from mild insomnia for my whole life, mostly related to anxiety (not a surplus of energy).
The average night it takes me anywhere from 1-2 hours to fall asleep, but never less than 45 minutes.
Cutting back caffeine, reading a book before bed, and supplementing with melatonin, along with these techniques for falling asleep have greatly improved my ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
If your “insomnia” is mild and not worth seeing a doctor, the above methods can make big changes in your sleep and consequently your energy and mood.
Improving my sleep quality has made significant impacts in my life. Without good sleep, my mental health goes south faster than Usain Bolt in the 100-metre dash.
#5. Quality Relationships
I don’t care who you are, be it the manliest of men, or the most independent of women, absolutely everybody needs quality relationships in their life.
We are not talking about boyfriends and girlfriends or wives and husbands exclusively. We are talking about family, friends AND significant others.
Even if you are doing everything else on this list right, if you are lonely, your mental health will suffer.
In one of the very first chapters of the Bible it says:
The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone”
On a less serious note, Joe Rogan in his new comedy “triggered” put a hilarious spin on loneliness.
In his comedy he says:
“Even in prison the absolute worst punishment is to be thrown in solitary confinement. You are locked up with murderers and rapists and being alone is still considered the worst punishment”. (Not an exact quote)
The fact is humans absolutely need relationships in their life on a fundamental level.
I would go so far as to say that the feeling that loneliness brings could be a direct source of depression. Anyone who has felt true loneliness would likely agree.
Unfortunately for many of us, we deny the possibility of feeling lonely and tell ourselves we are fine on our own.
In doing this we deny ourselves the delight of making quality relationships.
For me personally, the first time I ever experienced depression was when I moved to a new town and had no friends.
It is a really empty feeling.
My life consisted of going to work and coming home. It didn’t take long for it to feel like an endless cycle.
Thankfully I still had my family and girlfriend through those times.
If you currently suffer from loneliness, whether it is due to lack of friends, or lack of a relationship, the only thing that is going to change that is effort.
Put some time into meeting new people.
Life is better when you have people to share it with.
#6. Eat Healthy
*Big Yawn* (Another post on the internet telling you to eat healthy, great)
I’m sorry, I have to include it! As boring as it is, diet will make almost any list of 10 essentials.
I will keep it brief so you don’t have to read the same information everyone regurgitates.
If you are eating crap food, you are going to feel like crap…
Junk food will sap you of your energy, reduce your fitness and self-esteem, and in the long term lead to further health complications.
Conversely, healthy foods such as lean meats, nuts, and vegetables contain vitamins and minerals essential to both mental and physical health.
Would you rather feel lethargic and overweight, or energetic, lean, and have a glow to you?
The choice is obvious, it is simply a matter of following through with the right one.
Fix your diet and positive change will be imminent.
#7. Regular Exercise
Another obvious one on the list, but hey, if everyone else is talking about it there has to be some merit, right?
If you know anything about me or my story, you likely know exercise has been among my 10 essentials from the start.
For the past 10 years, I have been going to the gym or involved in sports such as Muay-Thai Kickboxing or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Unfortunately I haven’t always been kind to my body, and eventually, it returned the favor in the form of some pretty nasty injuries that sidelined me.
When I can’t exercise my anxiety spikes, and furthermore my confidence slowly dwindles down as I see muscle mass disappear.
If I look good, I feel good (relatively), and I’m sure most people feel this way.
Beyond the benefits of improving your self-image, exercise reduces stress, improves sleep, improves hormone levels, and releases natural “feel-good” endorphins in the brain.
For those of you with anxiety and depression still living a sedentary lifestyle, get up and get moving!
As an old cheesy hair loss commercial used to say “Half of feeling good is looking good!”.
#8 Self Esteem
If you fail to love yourself, how can you ever expect to be happy?
Unfortunately, today’s world is one that beats you down, rather than raising you up.
Do you know why? It comes down to one simple fact really…
In today’s world it is a lot easier to make money off of someone who is insecure.
The corporations that control everything (including the media) taint our view of what a healthy body looks like, what success looks like, and even what genuine happiness looks like.
It may sound like a conspiracy theory, but in reality industries like fat burners and useless makeup products (to name two out of one thousand) make billions each year off of our insecurities.
I personally believe this is one of the greatest reasons why rates of depression have never been higher.
Everyone thinks you need to be 6% bodyfat, own a mansion, have a beautiful car, and a model partner to have any self-worth.
Today more than ever, self-esteem is high on the list of my 10 essentials for mental health.
Further self-esteem issues may also stem from abuse as a child, being bullied, or failure at something that meant the world to you (perhaps a relationship, or failed business).
Whatever the case may be, with effort and dedication, you can learn to love yourself again.
In fact, it is crucial to your well-being that you do.
If you have some deep seeded issues, consider speaking to a therapist.
Some free methods you can implement immediately include but aren’t limited to:
- exercise/body transformation (to please yourself, not the masses)
- affirmation audios
- cutting out all social media
- set small goals that you can accomplish
Do yourself a favor, and write down three awesome things about yourself right now! Use these as a backup anytime your confidence takes a dip.
#9 Live With Purpose
When you live life with a purpose, you have a reason to get up in the morning.
Without that, what is the point of going through the motions really…
At the lowest point of my life, while I lived with depression, anxiety, and chronic fatigue, I also lacked purpose.
This put me in a dangerous position. I felt constant suffering, almost no pleasure, and no purpose to continue doing it.
Do you see where I am going with this?
Thankfully I had relationships in my life that served as anchors.
The first sign of purpose appeared in my life through visiting church. Slowly but surely, the idea was planted in my mind that maybe there was something more for me.
Every Sunday I showed up and started to feel a touch better.
Soon things changed in my life, I started taking action and light came piercing through the dark clouds.
Coincidentally (or through divine intervention), soon I had felt better long enough to write the things I am writing about and the idea for this blog fell into my lap.
Rather than hiring a daily forklift with the single duty of picking me up out of bed (which I was well on the way to needing), I now get out of bed with enthusiasm and zest.
My energy has doubled overnight, and my mind is never idle (we should all know an idle mind is a troubled mind).
Your purpose doesn’t need to look like my purpose, but you do need to find a purpose or your life just becomes one big sequence of motions.
If you have kids, make them your purpose.
If you want to help other people, find a way to make that your purpose while enjoying it.
Fitness, relationships, school, a promotion, etc, etc. The possibilities are endless!
Your purpose doesn’t have to be permanent, it can even present itself as short term goals!
#10 Always Have Hope and Faith
When battling depression and anxiety, faith is your metaphorical battery.
As your faith in better days dwindles, so does your will to overcome your obstacles.
With no faith, there is no future. In fact, I believe faith is as crucial to life as is food or water.
I want you to think back to a time in your life where you were brimming with faith and hope for something you could accomplish.
I would put money on the likelihood that you attacked it with excitement and passion every day for however long that hope lasted.
Now, on the other hand, think of a time where you truly felt all was lost…Did you do anything with the same passion as you did when you were brimming with faith and excitement?
If depression or anxiety is beating you into the ground, you need a healthy dose of faith that things will get better.
For me personally, I would have loved to have been reassured of this when I was in a hole with hardly any hope left.
I remember wishing a future version of myself would give me a sign that everything looks better at the next turn.
Unfortunately, it never happened.
Since it is unlikely that you will be magically visited by yourself from your future, I am here to tell you that you will be okay.
Time and effort heal everything, even emotions. I promise.
This is an added extra to the list, making it #11 on the list of 10 essentials.
In all honesty, and in my personal account, this belongs at the top of my list.
I personally chose to leave it until the end in order to avoid losing the interest of people who are close minded to religion. Furthermore, I do not wish to push my beliefs on anyone in an uncomfortable manner.
Adopting a religious mindset has given my mind peace I never knew existed.
Imagine if you could confidently give your worries to God, and have the utmost faith that he was working on something bigger with what you are experiencing.
This alone has cut my stress levels in half and keeps my mindset positive on the tougher days, which we all experience.
In just one brief year of attending church, I have twice as many quality friendships, a new (much more rewarding) job, a healthier relationship, and of course this blog which gives me a purpose beyond anything else in my life.
Deep down, I feel as though I am finally on the path I am meant to take.
From the bottom of my heart, I feel as though at least half of these things would not have happened, had I never opened my mind to the idea of religion.
It took many months for me to open up and expand my faith, but the journey was and continues to be a beautiful one.
Being a Christian provides me with constant opportunity to grow as an individual. Furthermore, I get to help other people with whatever they are going through in the process.
If you choose to live as an atheist, I hold absolutely nothing against that decision.
I just want to share how I personally benefit, and how you can too if you so choose to put your faith in something higher than yourself.
Religion has cemented itself in my 10 essentials, even though it didn’t make the headlines.
Over To You!
Would you agree with this list of 10 essentials?
What has made a difference in your life more than anything else?
If you are struggling with depression or anxiety, which of these do you need to take more seriously?
Until next time,
Thanks for reading!