As a phrase, “mental health” just seems overloaded with stigma. We tend to associate mental health with someone being unstable or “crazy,” aka someone that we cannot trust or rely on. Or we can feel like it is the person’s “fault” that they are depressed or have an eating disorder, that if they only really wanted to be better, they would be able to “snap out of it,” just change their feelings and be healthy.
What we’re really talking about when we say mental health is how you’re thinking and feeling -- and everyone has thoughts and feelings. Valid and raw, thoughts and feelings. When you think about it that way, that everyone has, and is entitled to their feelings, it helps to clear the negative connotations and reminds us that mental health is an important concern for all. When we say everyone, we mean everyone. The “rich and famous” aren’t immune.
People in the public spotlight have increasingly been speaking out about their own mental health, which has helped to dispel the myth that successful, famous people like musicians and professional athletes don’t have struggles too. The outward appearance of success does not magically mean you never have negative thoughts, potentially crippling self-doubt, or painful feelings ever again. Even when someone’s life is carefully curated and presented to appear perfect from the outside, they can still be totally susceptible and can struggle with anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, or eating disorders, to name a few.
Self-care isn’t just taking care of your physical health.
Although awareness of mental health has been building, being proactive and taking care of your mental health somehow still isn’t viewed in the same light as other ways we take care of ourselves. You exercise every week. You go to the dentist twice a year. You get your eyes checked when you’re having trouble with your vision. If you have an injury or illness, you go to the doctor. (Even your car gets cared for with regular oil changes and maintenance.) The self care list goes on and on, and all of these things seem like normal everyday occurrences that responsible adults must do to take care of themselves physically.
But what about mental health? Why is taking care of your thoughts and feelings perceived so differently? Why is it meant to feel like we have failed at something if we need emotional support and guidance? Life can wear us out, and we show our wear and tear like mileage on a car. And yet, a lot of people don’t think of therapy as an important way to care for yourself.
Of course, there can be serious events in your life like trauma, abusive relationships, severe depression, or addiction that can lead someone to seek help through therapy. But when there’s not something major in your life to point to as to why you don’t feel as happy as you want, it can be harder to view your mental health as something to take care before it gets really bad. People often look for a BIG sign that something is necessary but, you wouldn’t wait for a car accident to take your ride in for an oil change -- so why wait until you are in a crisis before you will care for your mental health?
Too often, we talk ourselves into “just dealing” by not really dealing with it at all -- be it anxiety, unhealthy relationships, negative body image, or low self-esteem. We just complacently tell ourselves that it’s just the ways things are. You can tolerate it. You’re used to it. It’ll pass on its own.
You’re not only deserving of help when you are in a crisis.
You don’t have to be so depressed you can barely get out of bed or have panic attacks every day to benefit from therapy. Therapy can help you in everyday life too. Life gets more complicated the longer we live it -- more responsibilities, commitments, conflicting needs and roles. You have a lot of decisions that are not easy to make. Therapy is a space where you can sort through your conflicting thoughts. You can find new ways to lessen the emotional wear and tear that comes with being human.
So maybe you’re not caring for yourself as much as you can be. Maybe something is holding you back?
Here are some common things people say that keep them from starting therapy — see if any of these sound like “excuses” running through your head.
My life is pretty good -- I shouldn’t complain. It’s important to recognize your privilege and how your life may be easier compared to others. Also trying to be positive and not focus on the negative all the time is a healthy practice. But at the end of the day, your problems are still your problems. And you have feelings about them. And neither the feelings or thoughts are not going to just disappear. Being #blessed shouldn’t bar you from feeling, and potentially, doing better. There is always room for improvement, or areas where we feel personal shortcomings, and therapy can help you be better, in whatever capacity you’re hoping for.
It’s nothing -- I’m just stressed. Well guess what? Stress counts. Stress matters. And stress can mean (and lead to) a lot of things. In fact “stress” itself is sometimes a euphemism we use to dress up mental health concerns in something less worrisome. It’s a placeholder word for adults to use about feelings of being overwhelmed without having to use “feeling” words that may show vulnerability. Just passing it off that everyone is stressed these days won’t work. You need to find the root of the problem and unearth it, then you can work towards finding ways to redirect stressors holding you back.
I don’t have the time. The feeling is understandable, but there’s always time. We all get the same number of hours every day. It’s true, therapy can sound like a big commitment when you’re thinking about going once or twice a week for an ongoing basis. But how many hours a week do you put in for exercise? Instagram? Netflix? Yes, therapy is a commitment, but it’s not an unrealistic one by any means.
Don’t wait for your car to break down if it’s not running optimally. Don’t wait for a root canal to develop when you could prevent it by filling the cavity much sooner. And if you’re feeling like something is off and you want things to get better but aren’t sure how to get there, ask for help. Listen to yourself and treat yourself with the care you absolutely deserve. Click here to schedule your FREE consultation.