Mental Health as a Personal Responsibility

Danielle Louis, MHC-LP April 15, 2022

Taking your mental health into your own hands can be a crucial, but intimidating step forward. Here’s how to make it less scary.

“Too bad, but it’s the life you lead, you’re so ahead of yourself that you forgot what you need …” 

–Billy Joel

It’s no secret that life is chaotic. It’s full of ups and downs that we work to accept, maneuver around, and heal from—all while we still have to exist and function in a society that places daily pressure upon us to perform at a devastatingly exhausting level. To add to this weight, we often fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to the manufactured images on social media of public figures and our peers. These days, we may even compare our care routines to how others take care of themselves both mentally and physically, leading to feelings of inferiority or the conviction that we aren’t doing “enough,” without acknowledging different individual circumstances and access to resources. Realistically, most moms of four do not have the free time and opportunities for the self-care and maintenance routine of Kim K—and yet there she is, right? In order to best enable the prioritization of our own care and mental well-being, I humbly remind you that there really only is one person who can best determine the right kind of care and set of priorities for you. 

It’s YOU. 

Yes, you—beautiful you!

Mental health is a personal, individualized, and unique journey. No two people will thrive, heal, and improve in an identical way—which should be a source of pride, solace, and relief. However, as the greatest superheroes say: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Now that you know you hold the power to learn, improve, and progress on a mental health path that’s uniquely yours, it also means that each and every one of us holds the sole responsibility for our own mental health. This may seem scary at first. Perhaps your partner, sibling, or friends have always been the ones to support you in big life changes or point out the little (or big) things that concern you. Maybe you’ve always had someone else to help you overcome anxieties and fears, to the extent that they might even joke about being your therapist. 

Though having a secure and loving support system is a monumental help, it cannot be the only foundation of your mental health. When we rely heavily on others, we learn maladaptive (bad) coping skills that don’t set us (or our relationships) up for success. Maladaptive coping skills may look like dependency, comparison, isolation, blaming others for our poor behaviors or reactions (“gaslighting”), anger, or negative self-talk. Luckily, there are simple ways to ensure that you take an honest, loving, and empowered approach to taking responsibility for your mental health. 

  1. Slow down.

  • As I began this post stating, life is chaotic—and, unfortunately, it is going to take society a long time to change this. Consequently, it is our responsibility to slow ourselves down and identify our personal needs. 
    • Personal needs can include: starting therapy, solo coffee dates, taking walks, turning off our phones, and sitting in silence with our thoughts. 
  • Life can easily fly by without us realizing who we are and what we need. Remember, no one will ever know who you are and what you need more than yourself.

  1. Identify what’s normal and abnormal for your mental health.

  • Are you feeling more irritable than normal? Is a partner or co-worker pointing out differences in your way of behaving or communicating? Do you notice your drinking patterns changing? Are your energy levels dropping?
  • Journal your mood (using paper or apps, such as Stoic) and begin to learn more about your mood patterns. 
  • Does something stick out as different? Concerning? Are you ready to process your life—the good and the bad? Remember, therapists, are here to be a neutral party so you feel safe, welcome, and supported. Taking out emotions, expecting others to fix us, and/or ignoring our own red flags can lead to broken relationships and low self-confidence. Conversely, owning our emotions—both good and bad—and finding the right support is empowering, healing, and meaningful. 

  1. Reduce comparisons.

  • I get it—it’s easy to compare and difficult to stop. However, try coming up with a mantra to repeat to yourself when you catch yourself comparing your mental health journey to someone else in your friend group, profession, or even yoga class. For example: “I am only responsible for my unique mental health journey, and I am worthy of being one-of-a-kind.”
  • Assess why you’re comparing: 
    • What does that other person seem to have that you desire? Can they meditate longer? Use more pop-psychology buzzwords? Talk openly about taking medication for mental health needs? Why is their journey more of a focus than yours?

  1. Hold yourself accountable.

  • No one is responsible for changing, improving, or guiding you other than yourself. You are the expert of your own life. 
  • Ask yourself the hard questions with grace, patience, and understanding:
    • Am I struggling with something? Am I kind to others? Am I a good partner? Have I hurt others? Am I responsible for gaslighting unintentionally? Am I giving myself a safe, neutral place to vent where it won’t hurt my loved ones? Am I who I want to be? Am I fulfilled? Am I healed? Am I accepting? Am I running from something? Am I scared? Am I taking responsibility for my emotions? 

No matter the answers here, you are worthy. Worthy of prioritizing yourself and being responsible for your mental health. It isn’t an easy choice—but it is one that can lead you to a more fulfilled understanding of the chaotic life we all happen to be living. Remember, there is beauty in chaos—but only you can see it for yourself.

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