Mental Health… everyone talks about mental health, whether in a joking manner or serious, it somehow always comes up. But why? Why is it all of a sudden so prevalent in life? What difference does it make? I can tell you a lot. It makes a lot of difference just by acknowledging it. Why? Because then you can figure out how to help it.
Let’s be real here for a short minute, mental health is not some funny joke or “excuse”. No, mental health is a real and very serious problem. It has a stigma that is attached to it, the idea that if you have a mental illness then you are batshit crazy. Admit it, that’s what comes to your mind, but maybe it’s a little less colorful. When you are told, “I heard that guy has to take medication for his mental illness” are you thinking, “Oh good he’s getting help, I wonder what else he is doing to support his mental health.” Or are you thinking, “Well I’m staying away from him, why do I always like the crazy ones?” Be honest with yourself. That’s the stigma. The most common forms of mental illness are anxiety disorders and depression. I’ll give you time to google it if you don’t believe me…. Better yet, let me save you some time, here is my source, Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
Now, what does that have to do with a blog post by a tanning salon and spa? I’m so glad you asked.
I, myself, suffer from mental illness. What?! I know, cue surprised gasp! It gets better, I’ve had it for as long as I can remember, even as a kid. I didn’t seek treatment until I was 27. Wait…. Why did I wait so long? How did I wait so long? I like to think I’m Superwoman. Either that or my superpower is severe denial. No, really it’s not, but it is. I’ve always known I’ve had anxiety, I think that is the easiest one to accept, but I’ve always been able to cope. Yes, cope, through your garden variety of mantras and self soothing. So what changed?
I did. I changed. I got older, I had a kid, with that kid comes hormones, I gained weight (we don’t need to talk about that), I stopped caring about how I looked and felt. I stopped taking care of myself. How does that make it worse? Because when you stop taking care of yourself physically and mentally all those things that gave you the strength to combat your triggers, those become weaker, and your triggers become stronger. Life becomes overwhelming, emotions, your sense of well being, the idea that everything is going to be ok becomes this thing of the past. All you start to feel is this overwhelming sense of dread, like something horrible is going to happen. (Think I’m crazy yet? Good, ‘cause I am.) Anyway, back to my description of life falling apart, I lost my strength without realizing I had lost it. I was so far removed from myself, I didn’t realize I was allowing those protective shields I had in my mind to shatter and crumble. What could possibly be worth that kind of detachment? My son. I know for a lot of people, if not most, that isn’t the case, but bare with me here.
My son became my world, he still is, don’t be fooled. He was this incredible little human who had so much to offer the world with his pure heart and bright personality. He was fascinated by everything and was such a little watcher of life. I poured my own life into him so I could protect him from the things that could hurt or harm or tarnish that pure heart of his. I took it on myself to inherit all of his bad, and in turn drain myself of my own reserves. I very rarely did things for myself. I was overweight so in the summer when most people are at the lakes and the pools, I wasn’t because I was not about to put myself in a bathing suit. Nope. Not happening. I was in my early 20s and keeping myself inside, or when I was outside I was in jeans and a t-shirt. I didn’t get my hair done, because it was too expensive. There were more important things that needed to be taken care of.
Do you ever find yourself there? There’s a point to all of this. You find yourself putting things off for yourself, because somebody in your family needs something. Your’s can wait right? It’s not THAT important, it’s just something to make you feel good. An unnecessary expense. Story of your life right? I get it, story of mine too. Yet, I’ve learned something… it took 2 kids and a couple of years of debilitating anxiety to figure it out, but I did, and it has helped tremendously. So, let me let you in on a little secret.
Take care of YOURSELF. That’s it, you’re welcome. The end.
Just kidding, it’s not the end, I like to ramble too much. True story. So what do I mean about take care of yourself? It’s really simple when you explain it, but admittedly not as simple to carry out. We have all heard the expression “you can’t pour from an empty cup”. If not then you were probably sheltered as a child. I’m kidding, maybe. Back on track.
“You can’t pour from an empty cup”. I’ve heard it, over and over and over again. I have. I always thought I understood what they meant. But it wasn’t until I was quite literally doing it myself that I really got it. That I really truly understood what they meant. You can’t keep giving and giving and giving when you have nothing else to give. That includes taking care of others. Your husband, your kids, your friends, the community, WHOEVER you are taking care of you CANNOT do it if you aren’t taking care of yourself first! I know, mind-blowing. But until you have been there, digging for the last vestiges to do everything you can to take care of this little tiny baby and this other child that has school and sports, plus your husband who is working long hours, and making sure everyone is happy while not once stopping to simply take a shower, (don’t “ew” me, you don’t know my life). Sorry, you don’t fully understand the concept of pouring from an empty cup. You don’t get how you have absolutely nothing left to give. You are literally, yes literally, giving away pieces of your sanity, pieces of yourself, trying to make sure that everybody in your life is happy. You are giving more than you have to give. Let that sink in and we will talk about why that’s a bad idea…
Sanity. Did you miss that? Mental illness. Is it coming together? I, at the age of 27, 7 months postpartum with my second child, found myself sitting in a doctor’s office crying because I knew I was being irrational. I knew that the thoughts going through my mind were just me overreacting to nothing. Really, nothing, I was creating what-if scenarios and quite literally giving myself an anxiety attack. All I wanted to do was sleep, because when I was sleeping I wasn’t thinking. But how can you only sleep when you have an infant, a 6 year old, and a husband who need you? You don’t. You find yourself just going through life. I was there, physically, but I had checked out mentally. I had nervous breakdowns in the shower because all I wanted was my mind back. It was there, I could see it, but it was out of reach. My sanity. You know what’s worse than being crazy and not knowing it? Knowing you’re crazy and not being able to control it. Hence the doctor. I finally broke down and listened to my husband and my mom and made an appointment. I admitted my weakness.
That day I was officially diagnosed with Severe General Anxiety Disorder. Yes, general, because my mind doesn’t care what it freaks out about, it just wants to freak out. On top of that lovely bit of information I was also diagnosed with mild Postpartum Depression. Isn’t that fun? You know what the doctor prescribed me? (Besides my happy pills….) Sunshine, Exercise, and taking time for myself. Hallelujah, the angels sang, the stars aligned, I watched the clouds break and sun shine through…. Wait… I live in a desolate landscape of a state with hardly any sun and my family lived 1000 miles away while my husband worked ALL THE TIME. Where was I supposed to find time for myself? Really, where? The baby was constantly attached to me, he’s my Mama’s boy. The older one still needed me to help with homework, make him dinner, and get him to school, plus you know be MOM. I can’t do ALL of that AND take time to find my happy. It wasn’t possible. Or was it?
It took me 6 months to learn how to take time for myself, I took my daily sunshine in a pill called Vitamin D (still do - it’s amazing - I’ll get to that later), and it took me a year to find MY exercise. Not to say I didn’t do it before, I did, I started walking, but it took me a year to find the exercise program that I enjoyed. That made me feel good. Noticing a trend? It takes time and dedication to take care of those around you, you have to take the same time and dedication to take care of yourself. It will take a while to find what works for you. You might start something and be like eh, that’s not it. And that’s okay! Find what works for YOU! Need ideas? Don’t worry, I got you.
First idea, are you ready? It’s a good one. Get a facial.
Yes. A facial. Don’t roll your eyes. Let me break down for you why… you can also check out a previous post here. But to make it easier for you, here we go… the benefits to a facial for your mental wellness.
Facials reduce stress levels and anxiety.
Facials improve blood circulation- Poor circulation makes you look pale and sickly, it also prevents nutrients from enriching your skin tissues.
Facials prevent skin aging… oh yes…
Facials help exfoliate and replenish your skin.
Facials make you feel good.
Then there is massage...
I don’t think I need to explain to you why massage is an important way to take care of yourself. But just in case, let me help you out.
Massage is an effective approach to positively affecting the body’s biochemistry in order to treat mental health ailments. This includes anxiety and depression, as well as complement traditional medical treatments.
Massage activates the neurotransmitters in your body that can decrease anxiety and lower stress levels.
People who receive massages see a 30% increase in serotonin and dopamine levels.
Massage therapy helps reduce the stress hormone cortisol.
It can help lower your heart rate as well as systolic and diastolic high blood pressure.
Massage therapy helps in alleviating symptoms of illness or disease with it’s healing power and low incidence of side effects.
Increases immune function.
Has shown to help with PTSD.
Those are just some of the ways that massage therapy can benefit you.
Next is waxing, lashes & nails… yes, vanity.
Why is vanity important in taking care of yourself?
When you’re stressed, depressed or anxious outward image is the first thing to go in most cases.
By treating ourselves with bits of vanity, it can help boost our self confidence. Which in turn, combats our depression and anxiety.
Also, sanity. Sometimes we have to look good to feel good, and when we feel good we stay sane.
So next time someone asks why you spend the money to get your nails, lashes, or eyebrows done… you can confidently reply with, “Because it keeps me happy”.
I’m sure you were waiting for this one. One of the most commonly used activities to combat stress, anxiety and depression is fitness.
Regular exercise can have a profoundly positive impact on depression, anxiety, ADHD, and more.
It can relieve stress, improve memory, help you sleep better, and boost your overall mood.
Provides more energy throughout the day.
Helps you feel more relaxed and positive about yourself and your life.
Promotes changes in the brain including neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that promotes feelings of calm and well being.
Releases endorphins, serves as distraction.
Creates stronger resilience when faced with mental or emotional challenges in life.
Regular exercise can also help boost your immune system and reduce the impact of stress.
Research shows the moderate levels of exercise are best for most people. Moderate means: That you breathe a little heavier than normal, but not out of breath. That your body feels warmer as you move, but not overheated or very sweaty.
What’s nice is you don’t have to be a fitness guru or fanatic to reap these benefits. As you can see, you just need moderate exercise, 20-30 minutes a day.
Last but definitely not least… Tanning
We’re a tanning salon, so I’m sure you’re not surprised we added tanning to the list. But… do you know why we added it? Vitamin D.
Vitamin D is so important to our health and we are not getting enough. There are many ways you can get Vitamin D such as foods, supplements, and the sun. The problem is that most people limit their sun exposure for fear of skin cancer, we aren’t taking our supplements and we are relying on foods. Except, there is not enough Vitamin D in our foods to give us the amount our bodies need in order to do what it needs to do. Insert tanning… 15 minutes in a UVB classic tanning bed gives you the same amount of sun as standing outside at solar noon, direct sun, no clouds. Why is that a good thing? It’s a good thing because it is controlled. You can be in a tanning bed for 5 minutes and your body will produce the amount of Vitamin D that it needs. Vitamin D is a hormone that our body produces, not an actual vitamin that we can put into our body, which is why we need those UVB rays. Those rays are what produce that hormone, and over the years our bodies have evolved to repair skin damage immediately following sun exposure. The key is to control your sun exposure, not to completely rid yourself of it.
Here are the benefits of tanning:
Reduces the appearance of scars, stretchmarks and jaundice.
Reduces and fortifies the largest organ - your skin.
Can help with weight loss.
Chases away the winter blues.
Stimulates production of Vitamin D.
Provides sunshine in measured doses.
If those aren’t reason enough to take care of yourself first, then I don’t know what is. It is so important to make yourself a priority. I’m not immune, I often have to be reminded to take care of myself. Writing this blog post is as much for me as it is for you. We all need to be reminded that you can’t pour from an empty cup. As a friend of mine told me recently, if you think it’s selfish to put yourself first, then Mother Theresa was a selfish woman because she loved what she did. It was her purpose and her meaning. So what is your purpose, your meaning, and how will putting yourself first help achieve that?
About the Author
Dusty is the Manager here at Hawaiian Sun Beauty & Wellness in Dalton Gardens, ID. She is a mother to two amazing boys. Those two boys keep her extremely busy, but when she does actually gets some downtime music and books are her favorite place to escape to. She hopes that by sharing her story it relates to even just one person. She is by no means a medical professional and although she did her research you should always follow through and see your physician if you are feeling signs of depression or anxiety. This blog post is just that, a blog, it is not a medical journal with a degree behind it. It is a blog post with experience behind it, and what works for one may not work for another.