At 21 years old, I’ve spent a lot of time struggling with my mental health and a lot of time receiving mental health care and treatment. Here’s some of my favourite mental health advice.
“Sometimes it’s okay if the only thing you did today was breathe.”
This quote was written on a close friend’s bedroom mirror during my first year in residence, and it hasn’t left my mind since. Our society obsesses over productivity, self-improvement and success. But sometimes, it’s okay to just rest — even if you have deadlines looming or work overdue.
“Worrying about something means suffering through it endlessly.”
I know it’s not easy to let go of your anxiety, even if you know it’s irrational. However, when I’m stressed about something, I repeat this phrase, take a few deep breaths, try to distract myself… and usually, I feel a bit better.
“Be kind to your future self.”
If I had to pick just one piece of advice to give, it would be this. There is almost nothing “kindness to your future self” does not encompass. Here are some specific examples of putting a little effort in now to make things easier in the future.
- Leave out a glass of water for yourself before bed. I am often thirsty when I wake up, and I don’t like getting out of bed immediately, especially in the middle of the night.
- Meal prep when you can. When I’m doing well, I like to buy and prepare food for myself for at least the next few days, so I always have something easy and healthy to eat.
- Clean for a few minutes every day. Wash a couple dishes every evening or pick up five things off your floor. A little exertion now saves you from facing a bigger mess later.
- Texting a friend to say, “I’m stressed, talk soon” saves you from having to apologize for ignoring their messages down the road.
As a bonus, this mindset is a great way to improve your self-compassion.
“Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.”
In Grade 9, I almost failed several classes — something that shocks most people, as I’m a pretty good student now. But 13-year-old me had an undiagnosed anxiety disorder and intense perfectionism and couldn’t bring herself to submit any assignments that weren’t perfect, which sometimes meant she didn’t submit anything at all. However, getting 50 per cent on an assignment is better than getting a zero, as is getting 25 per cent and even — god forbid — one per cent.
“You can brush your teeth whenever you want.”
People who aren’t familiar with the grimy reality of mental illness often don’t understand just how difficult it can be to perform even the most basic hygiene and self-care tasks, like brushing your teeth. And these tasks can be harder right before bed, when we are most exhausted.
Yes, brushing your teeth before sleep is best, and you should do it when you can. But brushing your teeth at 2:00 p.m. is better than not brushing them at all, just as showering without washing your hair is better than not showering at all. Making your bed right before you get back in it, rather than in the morning, is fine. Eating any food is better than eating nothing.
“Anything that keeps you alive is worth living for.”
By anything, I really do mean anything — a pet, the next episode of a show, one specific fear about the afterlife. There is nothing too silly or insignificant. Over time, your list will probably grow.
“If you think everyone hates you, go to sleep. If you hate everyone, get something to eat. If you hate yourself, take a shower.”
I think this one’s pretty self-explanatory.
“The road to recovery is not straight.”
When your mental health starts to improve, bad days are terrifying. Not only must you navigate the stress and exhaustion of your mental illness and the consequences of anything you miss or mess up, but you can also feel like your progress has been ruined.
However, the pathway to recovery is bumpy, and a bad day, week or longer does not mean you aren’t getting better. Eventually, your bad days will become fewer and farther between. As much as the road twists and turns, things truly do get better.