Emotional Health · Health

Mental Wellness: Steps for Establishing Routines to Nurture Your Mental Health

  • Create nurturing rituals: Each day when I enter the hospital, there is a certain level of chaos. There are overnight events to review, various fires to put out, and a mountain of work to get through.  Despite that, I take a moment and heat a cup of tea. Instead of diving immediately into the work ahead, I sip my tea, inhaling deeply, and turn to my colleagues, taking a moment to catch up. The cup of tea and non-hospital chat get my day off to a good start. The pile of work can wait another few minutes.
  • Good fences make good neighbors: Establishing emotional boundaries is a critical part to maintaining mental wellness. We all have someone in our lives who asks for more than we can reasonably give. Whether a friend or a family member, this can be emotionally draining.  I have found that setting limits on what I am willing to do and then sticking to these  can help maintain my equilibrium and avoids fueling the anger and resentment that can develop when I feel I cannot meet another’s unending needs.
  • Practice mindfulness: It can be easy to spend much of my mental time in the past mulling over mistakes, questioning previous decisions or the future, worrying about what’s happening tomorrow or next week, planning for the future. Mindfulness offers the opportunity to be fully present now, to pay attention to the details of the moment.  It can be practiced anywhere, whether in the middle of nature on a walk in the forest or in the chaos of a work day.  

So those are some of mine. Mental wellness is an ongoing, active pursuit, just like physical wellness.  Now, I’m going to try to follow my own advice. The dogs and I are headed for a walk.

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  • Megan Riddle May 9, 2016 at 5:53 pm

    Thank you for all of the lovely and thoughtful comments. I love hearing your own ideas about what works for you. Mental wellness is definitely an ongoing project we can all work on.

  • D. A. Wolf May 5, 2016 at 4:56 pm

    I find myself changing some of my once-upon-a-time go-to strategies for well-being — an hour alone at a bustling cafe or window shopping in a crowded urban center. A born “city girl,” I am finding surprising comfort in short nature walks, and a growing awareness of the beauty of the woods, even if only for a rare afternoon.

    I have also found that I lose my usual ability to sanity check myself with healthy routines if I am not sleeping enough. No surprise there, of course. Everything is harder when we don’t sleep.

    Delighted at helpful suggestions.

  • Diane Dettmann May 4, 2016 at 9:19 am

    Thank you Dr. Pat and Dr. Riddle for the timely suggestions on mindfulness and caring for our mental health. It’s easy for me to focus on my physical needs, but often my mental wellness slips by the wayside. I especially like the suggestion of creating nurturing rituals. I have some in place like daily walks and quiet time for reflection in the morning and evening. This post has inspired me to think of other ways to nurture my mental well being.

  • tasha May 3, 2016 at 1:20 pm

    Thanks so much for addressing this topic. It’s why I really love to read Women’s Voices for Change – it gets real on what concerns women as we live our lives, leaving aside the buzz and hype that only adds pressure to what we do.

    I follow a mental wellness plan similar to Dr. Riddle’s but there are still times in my life, usually unexpected situations or adverse life events, when I wonder if it would be helpful to be able to ‘check in’ with a mental health professional. I’ve had therapy in the past but, at 66, a long term arrangement seems a bit – well, intense (I was in therapy for many years when I was younger).

    I know Dr. Ford has addressed this to some degree and I’ve always found her comments very helpful. Perhaps it could also be included in Dr. Riddle’s mental wellness series? I know I’d appreciate it, and wouldn’t be surprised if there there are others who would, too.

  • Marcia May 3, 2016 at 10:50 am

    Even though your budget may seem tight, I have found you have to schedule “fun” in your budget just as you schedule utility bills, etc.

  • Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. May 3, 2016 at 12:22 am

    Thanks to each of you for sharing your response to Dr. Riddle’s first post for the month devoted to Mental Health Awareness. We all benefit from the personal wisdom and experience that each of you bring to this subject.

  • Debbie May 2, 2016 at 4:25 pm

    I am thankful that mental health issues are openly discussed today. I have sought to correct a family disposition to depression by looking at diet, exercise (don’t do enough regularly), boundaries etc.
    I am a planner by nature but get overwhelmed with details of many things on my plate. It’s helpful to tackle a part of one issue and then more on.

    I have created a private space in my daughter’s former bedroom to scrapbook, listen to cd,s and plan. I now schedule catch up time with friends too and don’t feel guilty.
    I love the topics on your site. I grew up in NewJersey but now live in Sydney Australia.

  • Barb May 2, 2016 at 12:26 pm

    Phew! I’m relieved your mental wellness practices didn’t heap more “shoulds” on us. Good, simple, life-affirming practices.
    I also love the benefits of regularly walking outdoors, no matter the weather. Just getting outside and moving is healing.

  • Jen May 2, 2016 at 11:30 am

    I appreciate that May is the month for honoring Mental Health Awareness as I was profoundly affected by my eldest sister’s battle with schizophrenia.I also suffered a painful experience with psychosis as a result of Xanax overuse.Because of this,I now respect my body and brain and want to do everything I can to be healthy with both.

    I most enjoy walking “meditaton”..amazing how things look so much better with a good walk,good nutrition and good sleep.Also,I listen to CD’s with anything by Jack Kornfield,but by far,his “guided meditations for self healing” is most excellent.

  • Pat McIntyre May 2, 2016 at 7:26 am

    Thanks so much for sharing your personal strategies for improving mental wellness, Dr.Riddle. I am sure that each of us can incorporate or interpret your suggestions into our daily routines. I realize that I postpone my healing rituals for the weekend but there is only so much repair that can be done in those two days. Mental wellness routines should be intentional and every day.