January 28, 2021 was Bell Let’s Talk day in Canada. For those of you that are unaware, it is a day to raise money for and continue conversations around mental health. I was inspired by this milestone to make this my inaugural post.
I’ve never talked about this publicly, but mental health is something I have struggled with since my early 20s. During 2020, this was, of course, exasperated. I found myself becoming more and more argumentative, irritated, tired, unable to sleep, unable to eat, frustrated, sad, annoyed and mostly overwhelmed. I know the symptoms – welcome back depression!
I started doing therapy again and this time has been different than others. I have learned so much about myself and my world. Here are the top 5 things I have learned from therapy that I think many people can apply to everyday life.
1. Self-Care is not hygiene or watching Netflix
When I started therapy, one of the first things pointed out to me was that I did not practice proper self-care. I told my therapist that my self-care was taking a long hot shower and snuggling up to binge a show until late hours of the night.
This is not self-care. Self-care is something we do to take care of our mental, emotional or physical health. Which one of those did I think I was taking care of watching Gilmore Girls at midnight? What I was doing was turning off my mind to avoid the out-of-control world around me that I didn’t want to deal with and some hygiene.
I’m still getting better at this, but I’ve learned that my self-care is going for a walk with an audiobook on and exercising. I love fresh air and feeling stronger. The hardest part for me is making time for this which brings me to #2.
2. Self-Care needs to be more important than doing chores
This one blew my mind. I don’t know about everyone else, but my weekend to-do list looks a lot like this:
- Clean Bathrooms
- Clean Kitchen
- Take your child outside / do something fun
- Change bedsheets and do laundry
- Vacuum and mop
- Practice letters and numbers with child
- Make meals / food prep
- If there’s time left, self-care
At first, I did not see anything wrong with this. I mean, I have to make sure the house is clean and chores are done before I can relax, right? WRONG.
This is so normalized, especially for mothers. We will do anything and everything for everyone else before ourselves. It’s WILD that I will clean the back of my toilets before I exercise. This needs to change. Self-care needs to be much higher on that list. The grime on the kitchen counter can wait. You are more important.
3. If someone starts insulting you personally, you’ve won the argument
This one is simple and gives me sweet satisfaction. How many times have you had a disagreement with someone and they revert to “yeah well you’re a b*tch”? This person is trying to create a new argument to avoid the other one they are losing.
An old version of myself might have felt attacked and started to play defense. The discussion becomes angry and aggressive very quickly and the original points are lost. This is not necessary. You have won the first argument and you absolutely do not need to engage in the second one. Be at peace and exit gracefully.
4. Trust your body when making choices
Have you ever felt your body tense up in a situation and you are unsure why? Do you ever see someone enter a room and feel immediately relaxed? This is your body letting you know how you feel when your brain cannot.
Intuition is an amazing thing. When it comes to picking friends or a partner, your body KNOWS. Your body can tell you when you are comfortable and when you are somewhere you should not be. Listen.
5. Unconscious bias exists in people close to me
This is hard for me to believe but it is true. In therapy I, like many people I’m sure, spent a lot of time complaining about situations at home or work or the grocery store. What I never realized is that people in my life unconsciously treat me differently because I’m a woman and/or because I’m a POC.
Despite being part of these discriminated groups, I have always seen myself as privileged. Growing up my family lived in a bungalow with a huge yard. I wouldn’t consider us rich, but I knew that we were fortunate. I graduated without student debt thanks to the generosity of my parents and I now work a corporate job making a steady salary.
None of this makes me immune to the affects of unconscious bias. I naively thought none of it impacted me. Unconscious bias exists in my friends, coworkers, and family. Most situations I was frustrated with could be explained with a bias. It is the reality of the world we live in.
Women have been raised to be compromising and accepting. Men get away with so much more. I find myself thinking “Am I being too difficult? Can I really do this?” when I’m doing or asking for something I know a man would get away with. Stop it and call them out.