Would you prefer to keep your main door open at all times? Let’s take it a step further. Would you prefer that your country’s border is open at all times?
If both your answers are “no”, then what you probably mean is that you would be more careful to keep the country and your house safe.
If such is the case for our home or country, why are we so oblivious, may be negligent, when it comes to our own mental well-being—the domain that encompasses our physical, emotional and spiritual realms?
Why do we let anyone and everyone trespass it, anytime of the day, for whatever reasons (in our mind we translate it as “they need help and I can help”)? Why are we not as cautious and protective about our own mental health? And, why do we struggle to say “no” when the situation requires us to say “no”?
No wonder, it is of little surprise that when we are deeply hurt, stranded and betrayed, we start remembering the times we helped someone. And, that hurts us even more!
What I am really suggesting is, before you help others, you must help yourself. I am not asking you to be selfish. Rather I am asking you to become mentally stronger so that you can help others.
These are three ways to hack your way into improving your mental health.
1. Announce your personal space
The first kind of self-help that you can do to yourself is to draw your own physical space. Because everyone needs a “me-time”. But, if you get interrupted every time you are in deep thought or deep work, do you think that will help you to get stronger? No, it won’t help.
Unless you are around babies who are too young to understand personal space, foretell your personal space for other. Otherwise, chances are high that they will not only respect but also reciprocate it.
So, identify a place at home that you are comfortable being in and announce it to your family. Request your family to leave you undisturbed during a specific time everyday e.g. in the evening.
This could take the shape of your own reading table, a corner sofa, etc., somewhere where you will not be in the centre of people’s constant attention like the living room or the kitchen. Go there everyday at the same time whether you want a quiet time with yourself, indulge in deep work or simply stare of into space.
I remember that from class 5 all the way till I finished my graduation, I ensured that I have my own personal space—which I made my reading table—and I protected it with all my willpower. Because I figured out that if I must be efficient in completing my projects and create peace with self, I need that uninterrupted and undivided attention. So everyday at 7 pm I used to brew myself a cup of tea and sit at the table till 10 pm. Initially it was difficult to convince my family, but soon I let my actions speak.
I started saying “no” to everything during those 3 hours even if I was just staring at the wall in front of me. In a matter of few weeks my entire family moulded themselves around my routine and that made it easier to lay down priorities. This has helped me to engage in deep learning and thoughts to flourish as a person.
Hence, having your own personal space, can give you a real break when you need it the most. I cannot emphasise the importance of personal space enough as you grow into adulthood and the impact it has on your mental health. So, when you spend sometime everyday with yourself, you are in better spirits and more present for your family, friends and neighbours!
2. Announce your emotional space
What do you do when you are upset? Lock yourself in a room and give into tears? Deactivate your account? Start binge-eating? Whatever it is, are you sure your family understands why you are doing that or does it leave them confused, which in turn makes them react in erratic ways that also leave you doubtful?
That is because you have not announced your own emotional space.
As a result what happens is that you want to be alone but your family thinks you want consolation. This paradox can bode disastrous for your own mental health and that of your family as you are not emotionally stable to tackle this.
In a state of emotional turmoil, you may do or say something harsh and that volcanic eruption not only scars you but everybody around. It strains your relationships with others when instead they should be your bedrock. So, where did we go wrong?
So in one of our various dinner table family discussions, I raised the topic of how I wanted their support when I am upset, angry or on the negative spectrum, including if I am arguing with one of my own family members. So when I retreated to my personal space, my family knew better to leave me alone so I can learn to deal with it. That included not eating anything for three days in a row—yes, I had my share of grief! Eventually, when I came out of my grief, I was mentally, emotionally and spiritually stronger than I ever thought and the best part was that my family was with me on the boat as we overcame the storm together. They never once asked if I needed help because they respected my emotional space and treated me like a mature adult.
If you are the opposite type, you would probably want the family to be beside you, hugging and consoling you—that would not happen if they do not know that you expect that from them. A lot of youth that I know have very straining relationship with their parents because nobody maintains any space and engages in constructive conversations like I mentioned above. Only when they support you, you become stronger and can grow out of it faster and healthy.
3. Announce your spiritual space
When you are in deep conversation with yourself and healing yourself spiritually, you would prefer silence and recluseness. I have seen a lot of families do the exact opposite of that—they have little sense to respect your physical space, much less spiritual.
They simply walk in and expect you to leave whatsoever you are doing and pay family attendance. This is trespassing your self-esteem and never let anybody do that. If they do it once, they will do it again.
Because everyone has a lot of expectations and one of them is for you to be available at their calls. Be respectful and clear in defining your spiritual space to others and protect your space as you deal with people’s expectations.
In order to strengthen your mental health, develop your own routine and share it with your family members who you are in close contact with . In doing so, they will know when it is not a good time to engage you.
Although it may seem like an individual effort, it requires support from everyone. This creates a synergy where everybody is helping each other grow physically, emotionally and spiritually.
I personally have conversed with thousands of youth and have seen this to effect—they don’t take ownership and come to a routine while they expect others to understand them and when to reach out to them. As a result, this creates unnecessary tension in the family and divides relationships.
Communication is key to developing a successful relationship and the strongest relationship is that with your mental wellbeing.
So, if you are consistent about checking in with yourself everyday to nurture your physical, emotional and spiritual realms, you can become a person with stronger mental stability.
I hope this article has helped you as it helped me. Do share it with your circle for others to explore these three hacks.