Five years ago, I was able to just live and naturally be happy. I am back to that point now, but it took a while and some work. Younger me was more concerned with skiing than making money, purposely didn’t fix my phone when it broke, had just unknowingly met my future-husband, and was accepted into the Professional Photography Diploma at Langara College.
I did not know what mental health maintenance was because I was lucky enough not to need it at the time. I am privileged to have grown up in a friendly small town, had a healthy family environment with parents who loved and wanted me, naturally enjoyed being active, was always encouraged to be outside and so much more. I was allowed to simply live and did not have too many worries or stresses. The older I get, the more gratitude and appreciation I have for that, most people are not so lucky.
Then some shit happened, mainly our Dad died really suddenly in 2015 and I started a business. Both brought hard times but also massive positive growth into my life. I am not a mental-health expert nor can I give advice about what you should do. However, from these two experiences I have learned a few things that work for me and I wanted to share them with you.
This was the number one thing that changed my life.
Even if you are fine, just go as maintenance and to check-in with yourself. There is always room for growth and expanding our perspectives. We are lucky in BC and Canada that the resource is there for us — use it! Therapy can be hard, but in a good way. You might dig into some tough emotions but the healing and feeling of relief afterward is incredible. It’s somebody telling you this is the way you are and then giving you tools to set you up for success.
It’s difficult but is the best, I think every body should go at some point in their life. Ideally, before you’re in panic mode so you already have the tools to make it through a bit easier.
SAYING NO AND CUTTING THINGS OUT OF YOUR LIFE
For a long time I was doing lots of things half-ass, now I am practicing doing just a few things full-ass (to quote a favourite funky photographer of mine, Chuy).
I can’t even remember all of the things I have cut out of my life, many of them were small. Getting really comfortable saying no thank you! felt really good. Suddenly, I have lots more time on my hands to focus on what I actually want to do, not what I felt like I should do. Everything in my life is more enjoyable and more genuine.
Good advice I received about this was to start saying no to small things first to build your confidence. Women of the world, I am speaking to you. Say no to something tiny first, like black olives on your pizza (ew). Work your way up to saying no to toxic person in your life. Ask for what you actually want. It’s empowering and you will have more time to get to know and fall back in love with yourself.
ALLOW YOURSELF TO ENJOY SMALL THINGS THAT BRING YOU HAPPINESS
Small things I find joy in are having house plants, a coffee in bed, walking our dog, sitting in the sun for a few moments, a funny meme … they’re all so small but the moral of the story is to make a point of savouring them. It’s good for you.
Look into the Norwegian term hygge for more about this.
YOUR HONEY POT HAS TO BE FULL BEFORE YOU CAN HELP ANYONE ELSE
My mom always tells me that and she is right. This one is huge. If you aren’t in a good place, how can you help others get there? If you take care of yourself, you are leading by example and others will follow suit because they want that too.
For me it meant taking a lot of time to myself, saying no, missing a few things … it has paid off in so many ways. Taking the time to get mentally and physically healthy meant not helping others for a while so that I could help them better later.
MOVEMENT + EXCERCISE
I started working out! Being hurt or sick is really hard on my mental health. Now I work out because movement helps me day to day and as injury prevention so I can keep doing things I love.
This started with short runs to the end of my street and back. Then I realized I hate running so now me and my dog go on walks. Sometimes we can only fit in a small short one. We make an effort to take longer walks when we can. Something is better than nothing.
Currently I am in a groove of weight-lifting and cardio, loving it. There are a a bajillion physical health resources out there, you might have to try a few before finding one that suits you.
YOUR BEST LOOKS DIFFERENT EVERY DAY
Some days I can do all of the things. Work, clean, go to the gym, make dinner and walk the dog. These types of days are starting to come around more and more!
Other days, it doesn’t come as easily. But I am easy on myself and just try to do something instead of nothing. It could be answering just the important emails and calling it a day, just walking down the block and back, or doing stretches instead of weights. Do your best every day but know it might look different every day.
Say what you actually need. Request what you actually want. Ask for help. Tell someone your opinion. It’s so easy but it was so hard for me at first. Start small, practice, this one gets better and better.
GOOD FOOD AND GUT HEALTH
We make all of our favourite meals and have a goal of disguising as many vegetables in it as possible. Thinking long term, it’s impossible to only eat meat and vegetables forever. But we can hide some veggies in spaghetti sauce, or mix cauliflower rice with real rice …
Sometimes I also eat an entire tub of ice cream. But then I make sure to have something healthy later too. There are many professionals who are better at explaining this than me. A few faves are @broccyourbody, @hannah__chia and @no.food.rules.
I also discovered that I had a candida (yeast) overgrowth in my gut from antibiotic use and a stomach infection called H. Pylori from who knows what. Neither of these are fun and both cause really vague symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog, irregular period, nausea, headache and other easy to brush off feelings. Remember when I said go to therapy even if you’re fine? Also get a physical every once in a while.
WEED + ALCOHOL
My body started a fun thing where if I have one drink it keeps me up all night and I feel hungover the next day. I’m only 27, I thought I had more time before this happened! But with everything, there is eventually a benefit.
I started drinking only on special occasions and eliminated those casual beers. This has been another life changing decision. I had no idea how bad alcohol was making me feel until I didn’t have any for a long time. We used to have beer or wine almost every night after work or with dinner, it was part of our routine. Now we drink maybe once a month, if that. Try cutting it out for a while, see what happens.
I haven’t used their resource but have heard good things about One Year No Beer – they have a free five day mini challenge to try!
I am working on it, but when I’m stressed I get a really racey and active mind. You know when you try to sleep but your brain is twirling around? That’s it. Occasionally, I use a bit of weed-tincture to help with that. I almost didn’t include this part but I think it’s important. Do you homework before you try this, make sure it’s right for you, ask a professional first.
Starting a business forced me to get real about a lot of financial things.
Money is tied to so much emotion and stress. The book You Are A Badass At Making Money was very insightful for me. It helps you take a look at your relationship with money so that you have control over it instead of it having control over you.
Other things I did to reduce financial stress included consistently contributing to a savings account as if it were a regular monthly bill, making a debt plan for my student loan, getting an accountant, paying into critical illness insurance, reducing my credit card limit, and cleaning up my expenses. Not having to worry about these things eliminated a lot of mental stress.
DECLUTTER + CLEAN SPACES
We have a small house and it keeps us from buying too many things. On a regular basis we will go through everything to declutter. Once you do this a few times, you realize there are many things you don’t need to buy.
If I feel myself getting stressed out or I know I have a busy work week coming up, I make sure to tidy our home. Especially my home office. This doesn’t work for everyone, but it works for me.
The best cleaning inspiration out there is @gocleanco. Fair warning though, once you watch their tutorials it will simultaneously ruin and better your life.
MANTRAS + SELF TALK
Last but not least, your inner-voice.
Start paying attention to it. You talk to yourself all day long. Take note of if it’s mostly positive self-talk or negative. When I began to watch my inner-voice, I realized mine was sooo negative. I actively had to practice catching my negative thoughts and replacing them with more gentle and positive ones. This is freaking hard but really important.
My therapist started me off with a few mantras to repeat to myself at first. With practice, it became more natural and easy. This is something I will continue to do for the rest of my life.
I have incorporated mantras and positivity into my business as well. Every Wednesday, I send out positive mantras and sayings to my email list. If you want to be a part of that you can join below.
That’s it, friends. Please note that I have been working on all of these things for over three years now. It’s been a lot of work, start small. With consistency, small changes begin. What works for you will be different than what works for me. Take care of yourselves ♡