When I set out on my mental health journey, I had no idea that it would be this…complicated.
There are millions of blogs, videos, and books to help you “get your mind right” and not one of them actually tells you that it’s going to be hard.
So, here I am. I’m telling you that your mental health journey is going to be hard, but the good news is—you are going to do it.
You aren’t going to overcome the mind, you aren’t going to have an AHA moment that solves all your problems. Nope. You are simply going to become stronger minute by minute and your mind will start to open up to the possibility of hope.
But first, you have to overcome the pain that is associated with both your body and your mind. And guess what – they are connected.
Pain: What it does to your mind and body
A lot of us (I’d say 90% of the world) live in chronic pain. If you don’t wake up in pain, what exactly are you drinking, and can you share it with me?
I live with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS) and it has the ability to take over my life. We all live with something, right? I’ve lived with this autoimmune disease since I was 10 years old and it has become a daily part of my life.
When you first get diagnosed with something, it becomes very real. It tends to take over your mind and body and it can consume your thoughts and goals. Don’t worry if you’ve already let that happen—more good news—you can rewire your brain to not let it run your life. I am proof.
So how do I overcome pain every single day of my life? I use a combination of mindfulness and physical maintenance.
When you live in pain, you can’t ignore it. You have to welcome it into your life like a family member. Accept it, own it, and embrace it—because it’s all yours.
Here’s what I do on a daily basis to ease my physical pain:
- Start my day with a positive podcast
- Use Red Light Therapy
- Eat a Whole 30 diet
- Walk daily
- Stretch, foam roll, and lay on my acupressure mat for at least 15 minutes
- Turn off the news
- Turn on positive music
- Enlist in herbal supplements that make my body happy
- Surround myself with love and light (and good people)
- Listen to my body when it needs to rest
This may seem like a loaded list but once you get into the habit of doing these things, it feels weird when you don’t!
Stock up your self-care arsenal
If you’re going to maintain your pain, you’re going to need an entire arsenal of tools to just get through. And some days, these will just not do and you have to go down—and that’s okay.
I use technology quite a bit to calm my mind. If you’re like me, you may have an active thought process, where you are going going going all the time. I have tried 574 consecutive days of meditation with the Calm app, Headspace app, and many, many others. I believe it has helped me but the only thing that I can say I have “conquered” is my breathing.
When I get into a depressive or mental block, I remember to breathe. It’s a simple thing, but we don’t think about it much. Just a 3 count of long breaths can change a mental spin out.
Here are the tools I use daily to quell the speeding mind and ease the pain-body:
- Physical tools:
There are and will be more as I gain more and more control over my pain-body, but I would say, you have to start with movement. Walking daily has been a tremendous help for both my mind and my body. Start small if you have to! Just move.
Gear up for trauma; because it will get you regardless
And, just when you have all the tools in place and you find the right mindset to take on something new—life happens. Trauma comes along and sweeps your entire self-care routine on its butt.
Here’s the cold, hard truth. You’re going to get knocked down by life. It’s going to bring things into your bubble that you didn’t think you could handle. It will emotionally deplete you and turn everything you thought you were doing inside out and upside down.
I have more good news.
With these tools and the daily habits you create, grief won’t be AS bad as it could be. There will be days where you think you can’t go on. There will be days that you have no idea what you’re doing and you doubt literally every single thing—but. And this is a big but! But, you will go on. You will feel all the feels, and you will move through them.
Use the tools still, stay the course. It won’t be easy to be positive, but there is always a light in a dark tunnel. That tunnel doesn’t go on forever, it eventually ends and there will be something new coming out on the other side.
Here’s the key. Your emotions don’t own you, you own them. And whatever is triggering you—you’re letting it happen. Accept the trauma, acknowledge its presence and let it go.
Just by letting it go, you can understand the impact it has on your life and begin to accept the new you. Trust me, the new you is stronger than the old you even if you don’t think so.
Post-traumatic growth order
You’ve heard of post-traumatic stress disorder. We are going to flip that on its head and call it post-traumatic growth order.
Because not everything has to be a disorder. Not everything has to change you for the worst. Things that happen to you (traumas) can bring about growth in an uncomfortable but incredible way.
Recently, I dealt with a trauma that was unexpected. It was something that I never thought I would have to deal with and honestly was shocked at how my body and mind responded. If it never happens to you, move along and be grateful. But if it does, prepare for a rollercoaster of emotions that you will have to overcome.
The biggest part of understanding post-traumatic growth is acceptance.
Due to the fact that you can’t change what’s happening to you, you will need to accept it wholeheartedly. Instead of fighting the trauma and questioning it (why is this happening to me?) if you can accept it and all that it means to you and your life, you are one step closer to growth.
This will not be easy.
Rely on the tools, support system, and your gut to navigate you through this. I promise, at the end of the tunnel, you will feel hope. It may be hope that you’ve never thought of before, but it will be something that’s new and newness can be healing.
Self-care for the long haul
At the end of the day, you live with your own mind and body. Your mind powers your body, so if you can wrangle pain, you can wrangle thoughts.
For years I kept thinking that the mental health journey was going to be something I conquered. Something I achieved. It’s not like that at all! It’s simply a path that you choose to be on to better yourself, every minute of the day. And you won’t feel happy every minute, trust me.
The doubt and worry will live there, but it won’t be forefront. It won’t rule your actions. Give doubt and worry a backseat for a little while and let hope and strength take over.
Here’s the real deal.
Your mind is strong. But you are stronger. Your body is following your mind, so be careful what you’re thinking about! Be mindful of your thoughts and feelings. Don’t decline anger – let it in and let it go. Don’t deny fear – accept it and let it pass. Emotions are real, but they are temporary.
Self-care is long-term. Your mental state is more important than anything if you want to maintain pain and build your character. The pain will come and go, but the mind stays forever. Be nice to yourself, you’re going through it all just like the rest of us.
Keep on keepin’ on. You got this. Healthy habits for the win!
And if you feel like you don’t, reach out to us at Big Orange Heart – we know what you’re going through and have people all over the world who will be there for you.