Pillars of Mental Health

Are you feeling like those winter blues are dragging on? Why are we (in Canada) still getting snow in April? I really do love snow, especially those big fat, slow falling snowflakes – BUT I AM READY FOR SUMMER. It is spring and it still feels like winter outside.

I know that for many of the students I work with, they are struggling to maintain positive mental health right now. I attribute a lot of it to the weather we are experiencing. People are just ready for a change. For the hope and joy that comes with a warm sunny day.

Every year spring is a beautiful picture of new beginnings as we watch much of creation awake from a long winters nap and nests being prepared for new life.

Spring is on its way, warm days are coming! And right now its cold, snowy, rainy, dark. Since life is always going to have those dark and cold days how do we prepare ourselves to over come those moments? How do we become resilient while we patiently wait for those dark days to pass?

I have recently come up with what I like to call the ‘pillars of mental health‘. I am no idea if this term already exists but I started using it this semester with students to try to explain the holistic approach I feel is important for wellness.

In order to achieve positive mental health you need to ensure the needs of each of the five pillars is being met. The five pillars are:

  1. Eating healthy
  2. Exercise
  3. Sleep
  4. Self-care
  5. Support

The crazy thing is (or annoying), is that these pillars are so basic and so fundamental to not only our mental health but also our physical health and life success. The hard part is that they are the five things you absolutely don’t feel like doing or taking care of when you are experiencing poor mental health or a mental illness. I know for me that when I am feeling anxious or emotional I feel like sitting on the couch doing nothing, while eating junk food! But hear me out… if you are struggling with you mental health you need to be taking care of your five pillars. Make it a priority. Make it a non-negotiable. Find someone to help keep you accountable so that when you don’t feel like doing those things (which you aren’t going to) you do it anyway because you matter!

I know how daunting that list can look when you are feeling blah, so I am going to start you off with 1 simple step in each area to start with…

  1. Eating healthy: Start by eating at least 3 meals a day. I know many of you are thinking, “but I don’t eat breakfast” or “I”m just not hungry”. Thats ok, those are just some of the excuses that are going to pop into your mind. You can overcome them. You just have to decide, how badly you want to feel good? Challenge 1: you don’t have to eat a full meal for breakfast, just eat something – a fruit or a yogurt. Challenge 2: start small. Start with a healthy snack instead of a meal.
  2. Exercise: in order for exercise to really help your mood it should be an activity which increases your heart rate for at least 20min and done about 3 times/week. Exercise doesn’t have to be rigorous. Start with a 10 min exercise video off YouTube whether thats Yoga, pilates, kickboxing, weight lifting, or dancing. Or even simple…go outside for a walk. JUST MOVE!
  3. Sleep: I have a whole post coming about sleep because it is so important for our bodies and minds but I will start with this… Start going to bed at the same time each night, and try turning your screens off about an hour before that bed time.
  4. Self-care: Those who struggle with a mental illness often struggle to feel good and to create/process those happy chemicals in our brains. This is why self-care is so important. We need to find ways to help our body release serotonin and dopamine. Great activities include having a bubble bath, massage, time in nature, or a favourite hobby.
  5. Support: This journey can often feel like an uphill battle and a battle you are fighting alone. It is so important so surround yourself with cheerleaders and accountability partners. People who can make you laugh, and who you can enjoy life with and people who are always there to support you, and pick you up when you fall. This support may include family, friends, colleagues, a mentor, or counsellor.

I am going to start following my own advice by getting off this computer, have a bedtime snack, and get ready for bed, as its 10:30pm right now.

I want to remind you it isn’t always going to go perfect. You are going to have bad days and dark times in life. when those days come, it is five pillars made from hard work, and perseverance that is going to hold you up and support you when you cannot do it on your own. Start building that foundation today! I know you can do it, one step at a time!

Follow us @mentallyhealthy_me or @mentallyhealthymama

One Comment on “Pillars of Mental Health

  1. On this night of freezing rain and cold and wind, I too am ready for summer. I want warm weather, safe roads and fresh air so I can go running! I saw crocuses the other day, and felt the sun, and my mood just lifted. Running helps me increase me mood, and I am grateful to have found this activity. For others it might be fast walking, or aerobics. Also I love working out with songs I love… just lifts my heart! Also, as you said, enough sleep makes a huge difference in how well I cope with the world and my emotions. Thanks for posting, and let’s hope for warmer days soon! xo


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