This past fall I began my first semester of graduate school as a Clinical Mental Health Counseling student. It was a stressful and exhausting semester since I was working part-time and choreographing a high school musical on top of being in school full-time, but I made it through and I now have a better idea of what kind of school/work/theatre/relaxation balance I need in order to be less stressed out.
Part of the work that I did during my first semester involved a lot of self-reflection and getting a deeper understanding of who I am as a person, because this will be important for me to know as a future mental health counselor. Here is what I have learned about myself in the past year or so in regards to taking care of myself mentally:
I am not good at getting things done. I’m most productive in the morning. In order to get errands, homework, etc. done (without waiting until the last minute), I need to start getting it done as soon as I get up in the morning. Otherwise it’s too much of a struggle to find my motivation.
Being around people for a significant period of time drains my energy, and I need more relaxation and recuperation time than most people I know.
Too much rest and relaxation at home will make me feel cooped up. This is especially annoying when I feel cooped up but am also lacking the motivation to do anything else. Having some kind of structure in my day can be very good for me and make me feel more mentally balanced.
It can be difficult for me to calm myself down when I’m having an anxiety attack. I’ve learned the importance of having somebody in my life who is willing to help me calm down during these times. My boyfriend is amazing when I’m experiencing anxiety at any level, and even though he may not understand it, he handles it in the best way possible. I’ve never had anybody in my life who helps my anxiety like this before, and I feel very lucky.
At this point in my life, I have been recovered from depression (and significant anxiety) for the same amount of time that I had struggled with it. However, I still have moments from time to time in which I experience overwhelming anxiety, and a few days a year I find that I’m having what I call a “sad day,” which is where I feel down and like I’m going to cry for no reason. On these days I need to be especially gentle with myself. It can be very frustrating to feel that way out of the blue, but I now know how to take care of myself. On these days I don’t push myself. I let myself rest and try to maintain positive self-talk, no matter how frustrated I may be with myself.
I think it’s important to try to understand yourself and how your mind and body react to certain stressors in life in order to be able to effectively self-care, especially if you are living with a mental illness. While having a deeper understanding of myself will help me professionally one day, it also helps me on a day to day basis. Take a moment to get to know yourself.