When you have small children or live overseas or live overseas in a hotel for 5 weeks before you fly 28 hours around the world with the small children or are preparing for some kind of enormous life transition, sometimes (you know, hardly worth mentioning) you might need to check on your mental health. You ¬†might need to be sure that you aren’t turning into the woman in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” who began peeling the wallpaper from her attic bedroom asylum because she felt as though the pattern had turned into bars that were caging her in. Not that any of us have ever felt that way, of course, ever.

Anyway, I like to keep a running tab of things I can do to take care of my mental health. Because, as a friend once told me, if you don’t have your mental health, you really don’t have anything. In other words, guard that mental health like it’s a lifeline.

So, to that end, here’s a list. Perhaps something on here could lift you out of the dark annals of your own mind and into some airy breathing room:

Sometimes the best thing you can do for your mental health is . . .

  • go outside
  • call someone who really gets you
  • say a one-word prayer
  • light a candle
  • make something with your own two hands (meal, flower arrangement, poem, collage)
  • read Maya Angelou
  • take some very intentionally deep breaths (you realize you’ve been panting all day)
  • refuse to wear clothes that feel sprayed lacquered on they’re so tight (i.e. refuse to wear clothes that are hurting you)
  • move your body
  • laugh, laugh, laugh (because the sense of humor is the first thing to go)
  • put on some lip gloss
  • download project runway on itunes
  • say NO
  • visit a body of water
  • chant: “Things won’t always feel the way they do right now”
  • chase after something beautiful — find some found art
  • take a nap
  • choose to make a memory instead of make a purchase
  • begin again (i.e. I wanted to be more patient with my kids today and I just lost my cool. Right now, in this very moment, I’m going to begin again. That’s what I can do.)
  • remember that one of the very few things in life that you can control is how you treat yourself — and how you treat yourself can change everything.

So if you’re feeling particularly low today, muddled, foggy, trapped in your own turrets and tunnels of crazy, take a step toward your mental health in some small or big way. And tell us how it went . . . What is something you did to protect or restore your mental health?

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