Between the challenges from the outside world and the forces from within yourself, your happiness and well-being are under constant assault.
Eat well. Exercise. Do your best to get enough sleep. Don’t smoke or drink too much.
Do all these things and you can maintain your psychological and mental health. These are the messages we all hear every day from the medical and mental health community. They are all based on the assumption that as long as you avoid engaging in damaging behaviors, you will remain emotionally strong.
I can’t take issue with any of these important suggestions, of course. But lately, I’ve been realizing that these well-meaning recommendations don’t go far enough.
That’s because when we health professionals urge you to watch out for your well-being and try to preserve the natural, healthy state of your body and mind, we’re not taking into account the multiple, powerful forces that constantly challenge your mental health, both from the outside world and from within yourself.
Life’s Challenges to Your Mental Health
|Challenges From the Outside Challenges From the Inside|
Over-abundance of unhealthy food
Alcohol and drugs
Pressure to be successful
Other people’s choices & actions
Excessive life demands
The passage of time
Painful experiences and events
Desire for pleasure
Lack of motivation
Your issues from the past, including childhood
Each of these challenges threatens your mental and emotional health. And chances are high that every day you face at least one of them, if not more.
No one grows up with perfect care in every area. The gaps in care that we grow up with naturally become our gaps in self-care as we go through our adulthood. It’s vital to stop any self-blame cycle you may be in, and start fighting back against all the negative influences, both inside and outside yourself.
What do the most courageous and strong people do when they are under assault? Do they cower and cover themselves, hoping to keep the attackers at bay? No. They fight. And this is what you must do if you hope to move through your life in a positive way, and age well.
“What does this mean? How do I fight?” you may be wondering. It’s the difference between settling for a solution that’s good enough, and pushing to find one that stretches you; between avoiding situations that make you uncomfortable and purposely choosing to face them. It’s the difference between focusing on what seems like a workable solution in the short term, and looking at how your choices may play out in the long term.
3 Ways to Fight for Your Mental and Emotional Health
- Choose what makes you uncomfortable. Comfort is good, but too much comfort = no growth.
- Keep your eye on the long game. Short-term efforts or vision will limit you.
- Don’t just fight off the negative. Actively pursue the positive.
Jason – Excessive Life Demands
Trying to Preserve
Every day, when Jason comes home from work, he immediately feels stressed. It’s because his house is a mess. All week long, Jason feels overwhelmed, and vows to himself to clean his house on the weekend. Every weekend he spends two to three hours cleaning the mess from the week, and feels a sense of accomplishment that he has finally done it.
Fighting to Improve
Jason realizes that this solution still leaves him feeling badly six days out of every week. He realizes that if he continues the cycle as it is, he will feel this way his whole life. He decides to take it on. He designs a schedule to spend 30 minutes each day picking up and performing specific tasks. He follows it. It becomes habit. That overwhelmed feeling no longer dogs him.
Jane – Stress and Lethargy
Trying to Preserve
Jane is almost always tired on weeknights, after full days at her stressful job. More and more, she doesn’t feel like going out in the evenings, so more and more often, she starts saying no to invitations and social opportunities on work nights. She feels good to be taking care of herself, and enjoys the time to relax.
Fighting to Improve
Jane realizes that being less active on weeknights may be giving her less energy than in the past, when she went out more. Even though she’s been enjoying the time at home, she forces herself to say “yes” to a couple of evening events, just to see how she feels. She realizes that some amount of evening activity is good for her, and gives her something to look forward to during the week of drudgery. She begins to work on finding the right balance of evenings out vs. evenings in.
Do you find yourself struggling to identify what’s wrong in your life, or with finding the self-discipline to fight for yourself?
Finding balance, seeing what’s wrong inside and outside, and being able to fight for yourself are all especially challenging for those who grew up with invisible, unmemorable Childhood Emotional Neglect, or CEN. To find out if CEN may be getting in the way of your happiness, health, and well-being, Sign Up to Take the Childhood Emotional Neglect Questionnaire. It’s free.