Mental health can go from fine to chaotic in minutes.
I’ve had a love-hate battle with mental illness that’s well-documented. The dark days are well behind me but there are still a few occasional glitches.
These things have drastically made my mental health better. Try a few for yourself if you find yours is deteriorating.
A clear schedule that gets smaller
When you don’t know what you have to do today it clogs up the brain.
I start each day with a clear schedule and list of actions. But what’s helped my mental health a lot is to make it a game to cut off things from my to-do list. Every time I do I feel a sigh of relief.
The goal isn’t to get the most things done. It’s to get the right things done.
To-do list elimination reduces mental stress.
The new tool I’m pumped about
I live like a homeless person.
But when I go on holiday I sometimes splurge. One of my favorite things is getting a basic hotel with a pool and sauna (my wife says I should have been born a fish).
As soon as I arrive I head straight to the pool and then transition to the sauna. There’s something about the wooden interior, extreme heat, and being almost naked with a bunch of strange men who don’t talk.
Some of my best thinking is done in the sauna.
Recently I moved house so I had to find a new gym. The one I chose coincidentally had a sauna and was 30% cheaper than my last gym.
So in a few days I’m going to kickstart my sauna habit and use it to ease the mental load that’s contributed to my recent feeling of overwhelm.
No wonder Japanese culture is obsessed with hot springs and saunas.
Going to therapy despite the stigma
What produced a transformation in my mental health was therapy.
I’ve hated talking about it for much of my life because of the stigma attached. People think you’re broken or weak when you say you went to therapy. For me, it was a survival mechanism. I was in a dark place.
The other strategies in this article are nice. But if your mental health has been destroyed sometimes more drastic action is needed.
Therapy is for anyone. Even happy people.
Sweating like a pig in the morning
When I suffered severe anxiety and didn’t trust gravity to keep me on solid ground (no joke), I found the gym to be my lord savior.
As soon as I’d sweat out a workout, calmness seemed to enter my body.
I instantly felt better. Before I got professional help this was my only real tool to battle the dark days. It’s no secret exercise releases endorphins and makes you feel amazing.
The best time I found to work out is in the morning before you face all the challenges likely to cause a decline in mental health (example: stupid bosses).
The cheeky app millions of Americans use
Meditation sounds like bullsh*t.
You sit there with your eyes closed and somehow your life is supposed to become better than Kim Kardashian’s. P-l — e-e-e-a-a-s-s-s-e-e-e.
Then I tried it.
Some of the best headspace I’ve ever had was during my 600-day meditation streak with the Calm meditation app.
I started by doing 2 minutes on the train to work in the morning. Then I upped it to 5 minutes, then 10 minutes.
Once I got to 10 minutes a day I stayed there and found it to be the right amount for me. On a few random days I experimented with doing longer meditations of 30 minutes. I even did 60.
By the end I felt like a zen monk ready to teach the ways of the buddha.
Meditation works to reduce the mental load but you have to dare to try it and stick with it long enough to find out. Otherwise it sounds like a scam.
Arguing with stupid stubborn people on the internet
Most of my life is spent on social media.
It’s my job, passion, and how I pay the bills. Inevitably some drongo will argue with me about where I put a comma. I used to try and prove them wrong or protect my precious “personal brand.”
Not anymore, thanks to this quote from Keanu Reeves:
I’m at that stage in life where I stay out of discussions. Even if you say 1+1=5, you’re right. Have fun.
Coach Montel says “most people don’t want a resolution, they just want you to tell them they’re right.”
The need to be right is what’s chipped away at the foundations of society. It becomes a debate of IQs and big swinging d*cks (or tits).
Walking uncommon streets
Walking is like an orgasm for me.
I love it. I crave it. It relaxes my mind and helps my brain join together all the dots in my head from that day. I have some of my biggest insights on walks. At my previous house there weren’t many places to walk to.
Now, in my new house, I’m surrounded by nature and a wildlife reserve. Today is the first day I will walk in this new neighborhood and discover the power of my mind once more.
Don’t underestimate the simple act of walking.
Movement distracts your mind and centers you. Humans were made to walk. Even the ancient stoics like Seneca commented on how much they loved walking.
We should take wandering outdoor walks, so that the mind might be nourished and refreshed by the open air and deep breathing.
Fun exercise: walk around the neighborhood and try to imagine who may have walked these same steps in this same place 1000s of years ago.
Writing on the internet as an average male
Writing is good for the brain too.
It helps get all that toxic mental waste out of your mind and onto a screen. I like writing on the internet because what you experience and write about has the power to help others too.
If you’re flawed and imperfect like me, you might even find a small audience of people you can one day call family.
Socializing is also another way to ease the mental load. Let writing attract the right tribe to you.
Not giving a crap about who owns what
The rich life is mostly a sign of mental illness.
Money is used to place band-aids over deep insecurities. I used to care about what people had, or how much money they made, or where they worked, or their job title.
I’d even read the ridiculous Forbes Rich List.
Then a few years ago I stopped. I asked myself “they may be rich and have all these nice cars and planes, but are they a nice person?”
Too often the answer was no. So I stopped paying attention.
Nobody cares how much money you have or what you own, because you enter this world and leave this world with nothing — same as me.
Declining 95% of meeting requests
Meetings are always longer than the scheduled time.
- They go over time
- There’s pre-meeting stress and post-meeting stress. Before the meeting you’re worried about how it’s going to go and the prep you have to do. After you’re worried about how well you did and whether the next steps will happen.
So I decline most meeting requests. Even when I worked a job I avoided meetings as if they were infected with a bat virus.
Most meetings could have been an email.
Digital detox on weekends
The phone is a huge source of stress.
When my phone is near me I feel my heart rate go up. Is the call from an angry landlord? Is it the plumber wanting to tell me my dunny is backed up and it’ll cost $5K to fix? Or is it an ex-girlfriend looking for revenge?
Obviously you can’t live 100% without a phone.
I’ve found a way to ease the mental load is to have specific times when my phone isn’t with me.
Right now that’s on weekends when I’m with my wife and baby daughter. When my daughter giggles for the first time or says her first word I don’t want a tweet notification from Elon Musk to make me miss it.
The thing about phones is you can always check your notifications later. But you can’t get back the precious moments with your family that are missed because Mark Suckerberg got you hooked to the scroll like a junkie.
Phone out of sight, out of mind.
Watch tv and crank up the blue light before bed
The blue-light-influencers preach that you shouldn’t watch stuff before bed. I’ve found that a little television or Star Wars Mandalorian before sleep helps my mind relax and decompress.
A tv show storyline takes my brain out of the workday and into some fantasy world. I then stay in that world when I go to bed so the day’s troubles don’t keep me awake all night.
You don’t need to follow all the nanny rules the internet sets. Do what works best for your brain.
Finally, two things I’d like to add
I’m not perfect. My mental health could be better.
Two more strategies I’d like to implement are 1) Working no more than 8 hours a day 2) Breathwork.
Both require further research to make them happen, but from what I’ve read so far, they could produce a boost in creativity and an easing of mental stress.
A life of less mental stress is a life well-lived.