Anyone who’s ever been on a flight can remember this safety warning: “In case of cabin depressurisation, masks will drop from above your seat. Be sure to put your own mask on before helping someone else.”
Your own mask first. Why? Because if you’re not safe, you aren’t able to make a difference to anyone else.
We accept this idea on a plane, but when it comes to mental health we somehow forget. However, the same principle holds true. If you aren’t taking care of yourself, you won’t be in any position to work productively, parent well, and make a difference in other people’s lives.
Maybe you feel like your life is out of balance. Here are some ideas on how you can re-balance and reclaim your mental health.
Answer the Question, “What’s Fun For Me?”
The first things to go when stress hits are the fun, relaxing activities you enjoy. You may have been living in a high-pressure environment for so long that you aren’t even sure what’s fun anymore.
If you’re in that situation, take some time to think about what you truly enjoy. Hobbies, crafts, outdoor activities, nothing is off-limits. Always wanted to try yoga? Curious about meditation? Brainstorm a list. Once you have one, look at it and think about how it makes you feel.
If you feel sad or a sense of longing, it’s time to rebalance by bringing fun back into your life. It doesn’t have to be huge — just one hour a week dedicated to one of these activities is a great start.
Get Some Green
No, not money — we’re talking about plants! Being around plants has a host of benefits, from improved concentration to less depression and increased energy levels. You can have indoor ornamental plants that are easy to care for. Just looking at them can help you. If you have pets, be sure to choose varieties that are not toxic to them.
You can also choose to combine the benefits of plants with physical activity by creating a garden. By growing flowers or vegetables, you can take an active part in nature and reap the benefits of fresh air, exercise, and the blooms or harvests that follow.
If you don’t want to grow a plant, even having cut flowers in your environment can improve your mood and help you relax. You can also walk outside to get closer to nature without growing it yourself.
However you do it, introducing some green into your life will help with balance and improve your mental health.
Consider Your Future Goals
Some people become imbalanced when they focus so much on helping others achieve their goals that they abandon their own future plans. This can happen if you have a spouse or loved one you support or focus on ensuring your children reach important milestones.
In the end, helping others achieve their aims without building your own future leaves you feeling drained and empty. Don’t let that happen to you — take some time to think about your career and the future you want. You can find meaning in work and build a successful and fulfilling career.
Work doesn’t have to be a grind. You have purpose and meaning in every day. Think about what you want and create a plan to achieve it!
It’s OK to Struggle
Choosing to create a more well-balanced life isn’t a straight line to happiness. There will be ups and downs, as there are in all aspects of life. The uncertainty can get to you sometimes. That’s okay.
Some people go through a quarter-life crisis when they’re in their 20s because so much is still unknown, and it’s a challenge to make choices about the future. It might happen if you’re in an unfulfilling job after having lofty dreams in college, or perhaps a significant relationship ends and you’re adrift.
If you feel trapped, disillusioned, or frustrated during the process, trust that you’re still growing. Make sure you are moving toward the goals that will make you happy and fulfilled in the long term and don’t give up. There’s no reason to settle just because the journey is long!
Balance is a Process
As with anything in life, finding balance is a journey and takes time. It isn’t something you can set in place in a single day and everything will be better. However, by taking a few minutes out of your day to do one or more of these things, that day will be better.
When you have balance in your life, your mental health will be better. And when you’re strong and safe, then — and only then — are you able to make a difference and embrace your fullest potential.
Put your mask on first, then help others.
About the Author
Jori Hamilton is an experienced writer residing in the Northwestern U.S.
She covers a wide range of topics but takes a particular interest in covering topics related to health and wellness, including mental health awareness and addiction education.