The world is at a mental health turning point, and the number of people diagnosed with depression in the United States alone is staggering. According to Forbes Mental Health Statistics; over 21 million people in the United States currently have depression. That only scratches the surface. 29% of Americans alone want to incorporate mental health into their New Years Resolutions from 2o24 onwards. Hence the birth of this article. And furthermore, October (as at the time of writing) is Mental Health Month where yours truly lives. (In Sydney, Australia).
I too have personally struggled with mental health problems, going back to 2017 (consciously anyway), and it was only amplified during the pandemic, and catching the virus related to this pandemic three times during that time. I've been in hospital once for it, and I am sure that some physical issues came from having anxiety; even though such was not medically proven. Therapists have told me that I speak fast when I am anxious. Thankfully I've only gone as far as needing a few short day-long hospital stays; a few days in rehab, and a number of Cognitive Based Therapy (CBT) sessions to get me through. I have to confess that I was feeling s*ici*al a few times while working in the corporate world, and only once thereafter in the last four years while recovering from burnout. Life is a gift, and it is filled with wealth, joy, and abundance for me. I want to live and thrive.
In other words, being an entrepreneur has (literally) saved my life.
This all natural approach is a time and money saver, because quite frankly, mental health really f!&king matters. Knowing what triggers an anxiety moment, low mood, and/or a panic attack to name means that you can either avoid it, or come up with natural alternatives to deal with it; no different to how you manage the rest of your life. And ideally such strategies that have done wonders for yours truly, and for many other people will be covered in this two-part series that I have created as a "cheat sheet" for myself; and the best gift of all is to pass my cheat sheet (aka. mental health first aid kit) onto others. Here you are, lovely reader. Enjoy, and perhaps you might be inspired to bookmark this two-part series of natural coping strategies to aid relaxation, and to keep anxiety and depression away. Or nip it in the bud. All of the strategies that I will be sharing are non-negotiables for me. I would prefer that, than for my health insurers to pay for a monster $50K hospital bill to manage my brain. Just saying.
NB: I am sure that such strategies could work for other common mental health challenges such as BPD, ASD, CPTSD and ADHD to name.
Here's the magic:
It does not matter what time of day you move, and in what form this exercise takes; yet for the sake of improving our mental health, this exercise needs to be mindful and meaningful. In other words, HIIT is ideally off the menu. Why? Because this form of exercise does not slow down one's parasympathetic nervous system, but you do you. The key is to move. One day you could be skipping on a skipping rope (yes, back in fashion, and this past-time is not only reserved for the little ones), while the next to normal walk will do, and ideally outside. Nothing wrong with gyms; yet I find that I need some personal space while I am moving, unless I am walking with a friend or two.
Exercise is a mental health tonic, and this form of cheap (even free) therapy should be on the top of your list.
You do not need to be a hippie or you know what, and bend it like a pretzel. The best form of meditation for mental health matters is to sit down straight in a comfortable chair (the sofa can also be your friend here) with your feet firmly planted on the ground, and ideally bare foot. Your position in meditation does not need to mimic the image above. In the cooler months, wearing a pair of socks is fine. I just like to treat my feet outside of the confines of shoes, and give them some fresh air for a change. After all, the feet are considered to be the most neglected part of the body right? You can play some soft instrumental music in the background, or have no music on at all. Five minutes a day is adequate. If you can handle more than five minutes, then hats off to you.
Do not judge any thoughts. Just thank them for the share, and head back to focusing on some deep breaths.
3. Time in nature
This one is so essential, and abundance comes from being kinder to yourself, and for spending some more time in nature, and earth your feet on the dirt/grass, and/or on the sand in the beach. Doing this for at least an hour a day does wonders for my business, and for my relaxation, and ultimately my mental health. This is without any screen time. On some earthing experiences, I even muster the courage to leave my mobile/cell phone at home. And guess what? I do not miss it one little bit. This can even be done in the wintertime. There is something about the negative ions in the sand, and especially when your feet are on the waters edge, immersed in water.
This is on my hit list when it comes to taming down any low moods, and any moments of stress and anxiety. This is why some cozy cafes exist. The best ones bring forth that hygge like vibe. There could be plants around, and one of my local cafes allows you to enjoy a cup of joe around a fish pond. You know how you are drawn to your favourites, and not to judge, but Starbucks is up there for many. Those cozy sofas that make you feel at home. Cafes with unlimited table water (infused with chopped fruits is a bonus) are the best. It is nice to do some of my writing work at cafes, courtesy of one of my two MacBook Airs. Otherwise it is nice to just chill, and to be served. Everyone is welcome, even if they only buy a hot beverage. Arrive with a fast heartbeat, and leave like you are on cloud nine. Weekdays are best to attend, if at all possible, and ideally indoors where the tables and chairs (even sofas) are spread out. If you see any of the AMSR cafe videos on YouTube; you can also relate.
5. A bit of retail therapy - no deprivation
For example, after engaging in a personal development program a couple of days ago; the very next day yours truly ended up getting her eyebrows waxed, combined with a long awaited haircut, as well as enjoying some healthy food and dark chocolate. Heck, I even brought a candle. Winning a beauty bag as a result of my $100 plus purchases was the icing on top. Buying something is so rewarding once you have saved up your hard earned loose change, and engaging in a bit of retail therapy (without getting into any debt, or debt that you can immediately repay without interest) means that you are feeling good without depriving yourself.
Regardless of your self image, a hair cut is always nice isn't it? Even if only an inch of hair at the ends is taken off. You feel brand new.
Not intending to sound like a cracked record, however resting is a necessity and not a luxury. Rest is different to you and me, than it would be to your friends and family members. A little bit goes a long way; whether rest to you means anything else on this list, to having a short nap. You do you. Just five minutes a day is enough.
It is proven time and time again that workers who do not take their allocated "breaks" are less productive. If the latter is not true, then burnout will catch up to them sooner rather than later, and burnout also cascades into serious mental health problems.
7. Hot baths
Or time in a spa or hot tub. There are times where it feels like there is nothing else that is more satisfying. Water is healing. It all makes sense, as our bodies are 70-80% water. Hot baths is something so simple, but ever so cost effective to look forward to at the end of a busy day.
It does not have to be remedial. Even an aromatherapy massage (the softer ones) are great at promoting relaxation, and therefore in focusing on some essential self care. Not only does your mental health matter; so does your physical body. If you are concerned about the qualification of your therapist; you cannot go wrong in paying a little more for a physiotherapist to massage you, and undo those knots so to speak. Getting a body part cracked by a physio is painful; yet your mental health and sanity thanks you in the end.
This is a non-negotiable. Sleep is extra soothing with some lavender essential oils. You can spray some pillow mist on your pillow to help you sleep, or add a couple of drops of lavender essential oil instead. If not, using an infuser works just as well. It is ideal to eat your last meal three hours before bed, so that your body can repair your cells while you sleep, and avoid drinking water or any fluid two hours before sleep. It is not fun having to wake up in the middle of the night to take care of business in that regard. No lights (blue or otherwise, and that means no tech) an hour before bed. Ensure that your room is dim, and have no electronics in your bedroom either. (Tricky while staying at hotels, I know. I personally cover any TV lights in such circumstances.)
While anxiety was prevalent during a temporary work assignment, this pandemic trend came to save the day. I brought a couple of squishmallows (to be fair, one was a purple Harmony Care Bear) to hug. These are gems for when you're feeling a little down or lonely. They can easily sit on your lap, and they come in a variety of different shapes and sizes. Just do a Google search for such.
A few hugs promotes calmness and mindfulness.
11. Human friends and soulmates (even family, if you get along with them.)
Not everyone has friends, yet for those of us who have real friends; we need to appreciate them and not allow them to overstep our boundaries. Invest in a bit of time with them. Speak on the phone. Go for a walk together. Have lunch or a coffee. Close friendships of the opposite sex could turn into so much more. Family can also be your friends. Soulmate relationships (platonic and/or romantic) are intense, yet they are worth their weight in gold. These types of people get you and your journey.
Would you prefer 5000 social media friends, or five real friends? Give me five real friends anyday. Just one or two real friends is plenty to fill your cup, and to fill up theirs in return.
12. Animals (soul form is a bonus)
The saying that we do not deserve dogs is so true. The same is true with our feline friends.
Having had a family cat who would sleep with you every night, purring as loud as a diesel engine, with the same cat constantly sitting on your lap, while petting and cuddling this same cat in return is a true form of unconditional love - combined with some awesome and non-judgemental therapy. I've had that soul cat. One of my therapists also told me that it can take around 18 months (at the very least) to get over the grief of losing an animal. If you do not have any pets, you can pet a couple of dogs at your local park (with the owners permission of course), pet sit, and/or visit a cat cafe to get some cuddle time in.
13. Investing / growing passive income
Saving money (having it in the bank in a high interest rate climate) is great; yet what is more empowering is to invest. The happy high came with owning an investment property for 16 years; however people who own shares/stocks and cryptocurrency are among the happiest of all investors. Owning your own business is a form of investment as well. Now that you have a plethora of natural mental health strategies at your arsenal (and more to come); happier people make happier investors, of who do not mind doing some extra due diligence on where to invest their money. Since owning a healthy five figure sum in shares, with SelfWealth as my broker; having this extra security blanket, and another passive income source has done wonders for my mental health. Of course investing does not come with its risks; yet with a bit of research and due diligence, combined with being comfortable with the flow of money, and being ok with losing your entire investment; it is actually a nice feeling to invest in businesses that you believe in, while cashing in the dividends every quarter. Speaking of which, I was excited to be invited to invest in Vocal Media's Reg CF Community Round. For some (including yours truly), owing a small slice of the pie on a platform that you write for and on is so satisfying. NB: I am not receiving any commissions or kickbacks with the companies that I am sharing their links on in this article. Otherwise, I spread out my risk, and invest in Vanguard via the ASX predominantly, and the returns have been sweet candy.
It is also satisfying (and mainly from the sale of an unwanted property) to have plenty of cash in the bank, and allowing it to earn healthy interest. Not to impress, however to impress upon you, that that interest is around $800 AUD per month passively, and after tax. This is the difference between living the freelance lifestyle, where owning my own business (for me) is personally better for my mental health than being an employee. I have written about the effects of working in toxic working environments in the past, and the subtle damages that such did to my mental health, in tipping it over the edge.
15. No or low debt
The difference between having had a mortgage that tied me down (despite being a great money and time manager, as well as being sensible with debt) to having no mortgage at all is so liberating. Treating your credit card like cash (that is, in paying the outstanding balance in full during the cards interest free period) is equally as liberating.
You do not feel tied down, and therefore you have more freedom and choices in life. More time in nature is enjoyed for example, and therefore the knock on effects in mentally healthy to mentally unwell is huge.
NB: Items 13-15 do not constitute financial advice. These are simply inputs of wisdom from my own financial experiences in connection to one's mental health.
That is a wrap for part 1. I'll see you in part 2. I promise not to keep you hanging for too long there, schedule permitting. Thank you. And yes, things can only get better:
About the Creator
Freelance Internet Moderator/UX Writer/UX Consulting Designer/Graphic Designer
Lives in Sydney, Australia. Loves life.