Ask a Therapist: On Getting Started
Q: I know that I am struggling mentally and emotionally but I don’t know what to do about it! Can you offer me some tips to help me get moving in the right direction?
A: I think we can all relate to that stuck feeling of overwhelm. I would encourage you to simply do the next right thing! Taking one step at a time feels manageable and that step will lead to another one on the pathway to greater mental health. Here are some first step suggestions:
Start to pay attention and attend to what you are noticing. So often we are sleepwalking through our lives and not fully present to ourselves. So, a great first step is to begin to create more awareness about what is happening in your mind, heart, and body. Pause regularly to check in with yourself and take stock of what you notice. If you can activate that curiosity and mindful observation about what is going on and name some of the things you are facing you can then take a step to do something to alleviate pain or pressure and begin to heal. Do you have an elevated heart rate? Take some controlled deep belly breaths. Is there tension in your neck? Bring your shoulders down and do some stretches or apply some heat or cold. Is everyone around you seemingly irritating? Give yourself permission to take a break and walk around the block. Are the tears close to the surface? Give them an outlet – a good cry is cathartic! Do you have intrusive negative or critical thoughts? Write them down in a journal and try to counter each thought with something more compassionate and true. Are you feeling exhausted? Take a nap. Once you notice and name it you can begin to take specific action to help.
Do something small that is just outside your comfort zone. Sometimes there are things we can do to stretch ourselves a little that can really make a difference to our mental health. Perhaps even reading this article is something you wouldn’t normally do but it is giving you a chance to think about things differently, to learn something new, or to provide a next step. Consider risking some vulnerability and open up to a trusted friend or family member to garner some social support. Try a yoga, mindfulness, or fitness class for the first time. Reach out to a spiritual mentor for a conversation or prayer. Perhaps try to journal to explore and process your thoughts or feelings. Talk to your doctor about your mental health challenges. Start by doing one simple thing that pushes you into new territory.
Seek resources and/or professional help. There are so many great books, videos, and podcasts out there that can provide resources to help support you in this journey. There are an increasing number of apps that offer guidance through mental health tools or topics – like mindfulness, gratitude, and journaling – that you can download and start using right away to feel better. Talking to a therapist can be an integral step to get you on the right track with your mental health, especially when you are feeling overwhelmed, stuck, or isolated. You don’t have to do it alone.
Start with one simple action in the direction of your health and take the journey from there. It is possible to start to feel better one small step at a time.
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