How to Take Care of Your Brain 🌀🧠

May 12, 2024

We don't want to sugar coat it — life can feel really hard sometimes. Between a stressful news cycle, grief and loss, our endless to-do lists, relationship challenges, and whatever else is swirling around our heads… it isn’t always easy to prioritize our mental and physical health.

Many of us on the focused space team face mental health challenges sometimes, and we aim to support each other whenever we can. We also try to talk openly about the challenges that we face, and share the things we have learned to support ourselves and each other.

This week’s focus is all about learning to take care of our mental health.

We’re going to start with something that seems simple, but can actually be really challenging for many of us to do in practice — learning to rest.

Learning How to Rest

Often times, society tells us that it’s bad to take a break — leading to a mindset that you have to constantly be productive or you’re a failure. Society is wrong. Giving yourself a break is extremely important. 

This can be tricky if you’ve been conditioned to push yourself and work too hard, but it’s essential for your mental health that you rest. A good way of knowing when it’s time for a break is by frequently checking in with yourself to see how you’re feeling.

Ask yourself whether you’re feeling run down. Do you have a lot of tension in your body? When was the last time you took a day for yourself? If the answers to these questions indicate that you’ve been going pretty non-stop, it’s probably a good idea to take some time off to refill your emotional tank. 

This takes practice; society has ensured resting doesn’t come naturally to most of us anymore.

So put in the time and effort to learn how to take a break, and decide how to use that break to feel legitimately refreshed and rested.

Questions to Ask Yourself:

  • How does my body feel?

  • What is my body trying to tell me?

  • What’s my capacity at this moment?

A break could look like:

  • A nap 😴

  • A walk 🚶🏻‍♀️ 

  • Take 5 minutes to look out the window or at your favorite plant 🌱🪟 

  • Self-massage 💆‍♀️

  • Figuring out when you can a day off (or even just an afternoon if that feels impossible).

Accepting Help From Others

Learning how to ask for help is one of the most critical skills you can develop to support your mental health. Despite what so many of us think, asking the people around you for support is actually a sign of true strength and courage, not weakness.

Knowing your limits and asking for help from friends, family, or colleagues shows that you’re using all of your available resources to ensure you are doing okay. So often we think we have to fight our battles alone. But why would we want to play the game of life alone and on hard mode when we don’t have to? Pick a support team and go multiplayer. It’s not just smart, it’s also incredibly brave.

If your inner critic has a lot to say — work with them to let you know that asking for help is a sign of true strength and courage!

Tips for accepting help from others:

  • Make a list of people you can ask for help from

  • If you find it tough to ask — try practicing what you might say.

  • Try repeating any of these mantras: “Asking for help does not mean I’m weak“, “Support from others nourishes my body, mind, and heart.”, “People love me, and they sincerely want to help”, “Asking for help is a sign of strength.”

Practicing Being Open

The more we talk about and accept where we’re at, the more normalized conversations surrounding mental health become — ultimately empowering people to seek the help they need. And fortunately, more people are now talking about and prioritizing their mental health, just as they would their physical health.

People are also embracing self-care to improve overall well-being. This is critical because when you take care of your mental health, your physical and emotional health also improve, and you’re more likely to learn and work productively, and effectively cope with life stressors. 

When you share openly about your mental health, you’re doing a few great things at once. First, you are adding to your support team. You have another person you can reach out to when you need a shoulder. Second, you are helping get rid of the stigma surrounding mental illness.

When you talk about your struggles, you’re not only finding support for yourself but you might also be letting someone else know they can talk about what they’re going through. When we start to speak about mental health, we make room for others to share their own stories and we create networks of support.

All that said, It’s important to remember that you don’t owe anyone an explanation of your mental health, and you shouldn’t disclose in a situation that doesn’t make you feel safe. But if you know someone you can confide in, you will be giving both yourself and them a gift.

Because even if that person isn't dealing with mental health challenges, you are showing you trust them with something vulnerable. This can bring a friendship to new levels of trust and connection.

3 benefits of sharing where you’re at:

  1. Adding to your support team

  2. Helping get rid of stigma surrounding mental illness

  3. Building connection and trust

Understanding What ‘Realistic’ Looks Like (For You)

When it comes to support, this is something that looks different for everyone. When setting goals for yourself, it can be easy to pick goals that sound ideal. Many folks want to be able to function in the ways society has told them they ‘should’. But sometimes those goals aren’t realistic.

This doesn’t mean you can’t reach for the stars. but it does mean that taking a moment to think about what’s achievable for you in the moment — not just what you wish was achievable — can make a big impact

Try starting small and determine what feels realistic for you. Understand that goals can be set in steps; you don’t have to conquer the world right away. And if you avoid saddling yourself with the expectation of perfection right out of the gate, you will have so much more potential success in the long-term.

Remember that self-care looks different for everyone. Exercise, sleep, and a balanced diet might be the strategy for some — while others might benefit from joining a support group or seeing a mental health professional. It’s important to identify what works best for you.

Sleep.

We’ve talked about learning to rest, accepting help from others, being open about your mental health and understanding what realistic means for you — and now we’ll talk about our fifth and final topic — SLEEP!

Sleep is one of the most important things we can do for our mental health. I know it sounds basic, but sleep is so important for your mental and physical health. Even if you’re working with a fabulous therapist, you will get so much less out of it if you’re sleep deprived.

Your brain needs sleep time to process your day and to rest from the intense work of keeping you awake and functioning. Trying to maintain good mental health without sleep is like trying to water a whole garden with a squirt gun.

Unfortunately, mental health challenges frequently interfere with sleep. This makes it hard to get the benefits of a good night’s rest. So, don’t shame yourself if you can’t get the sleep you need, but finding ways to increase the amount of quality sleep you get should be high on your list of priorities. It will do you so much good and make it easier to get to the places you want to go with your mental and physical health.

Tips for improving sleep:

  • Create a wind down routine each night 

  • Find consistency of when you wake up and go to sleep 

  • Limit screen use early. This includes phone, TV, laptop, tablets 

  • Take a warm bath or shower to relax

  • Exercise regularly 

Final Thoughts from Megan

While there’s no pill or magic trick that will instantly fix your mental health, there are many helpful tips that can help you find the resources and support you need to heal.

This week we’ve covered a variety of topics. They may not be easy; making big changes can be challenging and taxing — so we always suggest finding tiny first steps here at focused space. Over the long term, we think the payoff from developing small new habits and using these tips will make up for the initial struggle.

Hope you enjoyed this week's theme, and I hope to see you around some of the sessions this week!

— Megan