Updated: May 8, 2020
Build a mental health routine as strong as you are! (so you don't always have to be)
Developing a mental health routine is unsurprisingly complicated for many. Due to unique life events, particular genetics, and limited access to resources, this complication is intensified for many Black women and women of color.
Read on for six first-hand strategies to help you build a strong mental health care routine.
Tip #1: Establish an Effective Self-Soothing Technique
The first step to building a mental health routine is to establish simple and effective self-soothing techniques that you can do easily anywhere.
The act of self-soothing is a quick and powerfully effective way to reduce the intensity of negative emotions. Simply put, it is how we make ourselves feel better. During moments of anxiety and stress, you want to be able to calm yourself without being impulsive or destructive.
Self-Soothing activities may look like:
Lighting a candle or using scented oil
Playing with a fidget spinner or silly putty
Baking your favorite dessert
Come up with self-soothing strategies that you can do when you are feeling unhappy. The more activities you have on hand, the better off you will be in improving your mood when you are experiencing distress.
Tip #2: Train your Inner Critic to Speak with More Compassion
Oftentimes, our inner critic can be more harmful and judgmental than helpful and objective. This is because of the criticism, expectations, or standards we have internalized from other people and our environment.
To retrain your inner critic, recognize when you are negatively speaking to yourself and reframe it to be more encouraging and compassionate. For example, instead of saying, “Why do you think you can do this” try saying “You are courageous for trying this! If you fail, recover and improve.” Continue doing this until these negative moments happen less frequently.
Train your inner voice to act as your best friend, mentor, and cheerleader. Be aware of negative beliefs and limiting self-talk and replace it with constructive, kind, and compassionate language.
Retraining my inner critic helped my self-confidence at work, reduced my anxiety, and helped me have more supportive and constructive conversations with my friends, family, and co-workers.
Tip #3: Try Meditation
Fifteen minutes of daily meditation can produce the same stress-relieving effects in the body as taking a vacation.
Of course, meditating is not as fun as vacationing on a beach-front resort, but, it does have a vast range of benefits that makes it worth building into your mental health routine:
It reduces stress, anxiety, depression, and even pain.
It can be done anywhere
It does not require additional equipment or memberships
It is widely available – from studios to mobile apps, courses, and guides at your disposal.
It has a variety of styles that can be suited to your goals and schedule.
When relocating from NYC to DC, I had trouble finding a new therapist. I tried out a lot of therapy alternatives. I tried out meditation at the DC’s Studio Recharj. After taking their 40-minute de-stress class, I immediately felt more at relaxed. Also, I was able to practice what I learned in the class to be more aware of my thoughts and feelings throughout the day.
Tip #4: Set Healthy Boundaries
Healthy boundaries are boundaries specifically created to support your mental and emotional state.
To identify what you need in your healthy boundaries try answering the following questions:
What specific areas of your life do you need to set boundaries for?
Why do you need to set boundaries in general?
Are my boundaries rigid or flexible?
How can you be true to yourself?
How does boundary setting align with your personal beliefs and values?
Personal boundaries can be challenging to navigate, but establishing and enforcing them is crucial to establishing mental health routine and necessary for your well-being. Try not to feel guilty or selfish about this.
Tip #5: Create Mood Booster Playlists
Music can be a great mood booster. Create a playlist for yourself that you can use when experiencing a specific emotion - like stress- so that you quickly get through the emotion instead of shuffling through music.
This may look like creating an anxiety playlist that transitions from faster tempo songs to slower tempo songs to help relax and match your emotions—or simply creating a feel-good playlist that includes empowering or motivational tracks.
My go-to mood-booster playlists look like the following:
Overwhelmed or Stress - I listen to gospel music to help me feel relax. Example Track: Marvin Sapp's Yes You Can.
Unmotivated - I listen to Soca or upbeat music to make me feel more motivated. Example Track: Hypasounds' How She Like It. I proactively listen to this playlist in the morning to help me get through my workday.
Insecure or Powerless - I listen to inspirational music made by women. Example Track: Beyonce's My Power.
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to mood-boosting music, so listen to what makes you feel at your best.
Be sure not to use music that is tied to a bad memory, as this can trigger an adverse reaction and can potentially make you feel worse.
Tip #6: Talk to a Therapist for More Help
If you begin to feel overwhelmed or like you can’t help yourself on your own, talk to a professional for more help. There are many factors that can impact your mental health and certain genetics or environmental circumstances that can cause mental disorders like bipolar, anxiety, or depressions. Do not hesitate to check-in with a board-certified therapist if you are unsure what’s at the root of your emotions.
Even if you are unsure about committing to therapy, many therapists offer a free first session or phone consultation to help talk through your current situation. Based on your circumstances and behavior, they can advise on the best plan for your mental health.