The quality of your relationships with family, friends, communities, work, and your circumstances impact your mental and emotional health.
I wasn’t always as aware of that and spent many years–and quite a bit of energy–struggling to understand why I felt so misaligned internally when I was doing all of the things I’d been led to believe would bring me success.
I lived in perpetual reaction (mostly anger) to the things that I didn’t agree with. Self-care looked like an endless purchase of health and beauty aids, vent sessions with friends about the people and circumstances that were pissing me off, and constant daydreaming about the life I would live if the people around me would just get it together. I resented people that overstepped my boundaries because I didn’t know how to set them and felt frustrated that there didn’t seem to be enough room on the stage of my own life for me.
I’ve since learned the power of having a great relationship with myself through a healing and cathartic journey of acceptance, forgiveness, courageous truth and action. I’ve learned to take unapologetic and radical care of my emotional and mental wellness and how to choose authenticity. Also, the kind release of people and circumstances that are simply not in alignment with how I want my life to be.
I’ve discovered how to deeply and passionately love my neighbor as I love myself; with the emphasis on having learned how to deeply and passionately love and appreciate myself so I am showing up in a healthier and more loving way to others.
It has been a profoundly transformational experience to apply what I’ve garnered working with hundreds of clients, earning a myriad of certifications and an extensive study of human behavior. And, of course, my personal journey toward healing my emotional legacy.
Adapting to Change
The past two years have been a challenge and a reflection for us all. During this chapter, we’ve clarified our capacity for fear, daily uncertainty, stress, chaos, and isolation. We’ve been collectively uprooted from old paradigms and, two years in, are cultivating a new way to live and fulfill our roles as friends, family members, parents, workers, community members and citizens.
This chapter has also brought apparent the importance of a radical focus on the state of our inner world and the thoughts and beliefs that contribute to our emotional and mental health. Better mental health impacts our level of engagement, enjoyment, productivity, relationships, and overall outlook.
An investment into your emotional and mental health fortifies you for the unexpected challenges inherent to the human experience. It is also a beautiful and courageous contribution to the fabric of your familial legacy.
What does it mean to be mentally healthy? Read on for four areas of focus that can set you on a path to more emotional and mental freedom and a more positive outlook.
Getting Honest About Your Emotional State
Many of us transition into adulthood carrying unresolved childhood issues that guide our decision-making and the way that we interact with the people around us. This can diminish our ability to effectively manage stress or develop healthy and fulfilling relationships. Layering on the added pressure of the global health crisis of late has exacerbated our already stressed and overburdened human population.
A recent American Psychological Association study entitled Stress in America 2021 points to the elevated and constant risk assessment during day-to-day decision-making that is intrinsic to navigating family, work, relationships, and community during this unprecedented time. According to the study, more than 3 in 5 (63%) agreed that uncertainty about what the next few months will be like causes them stress, and around half (49%) said that the coronavirus pandemic has made planning for their future feel impossible.
The age of picking yourself up by your bootstraps, barreling through, not letting them see you sweat, and fake it ‘till you make it must come to an end if we are to improve our collective mental and emotional health. It is not only time, but past time for an updated approach. Those attempts to ignore what is happening inside simply do not work, are not healthy, and are disempowering and internally fragmenting.
When you can authentically observe, accept, and better understand what’s going on internally you become aligned, more connected, empowered, and less anxious about the avoided or unknown. Some ways to begin to hone your connection to how you are really feeling include:
- Time in nature
- Recording conversations with yourself
- Taking a couple minutes to ask yourself, How am I doing right now?
These and other practices can lead to improved inner trust, compassion, and the development of a more connected relationship with yourself and others. Do so with grace, appreciation, and patience.
Being Unapologetic About Self-Care
Self-care looks different depending on who you are and what brings you comfort, joy, and peace. It can look like working out, taking a walk, napping, giving yourself alone time, drinking more water, cuddling with your pet, or going to a spa.
It can also look like cultivating relationships and a lifestyle that are in alignment with the experiences you want to have.
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to choosing what feels right to your soul. It is important to remember that nurturing your emotional and mental self is an integral and personal part of an ongoing practice of self-care, just as is caring for your physical self.
Self-care puts you in a position to recognize the cues that your emotions and body give you on a day-to-day basis. It strengthens your internal connection and can help your ability to take a more expansive look at the situations you encounter. When you get into the habit of understanding what your needs are and when you are in need of “you” time–you can show up more fully for your loved ones and the other relationships in your life.
What small step can you take today toward cultivating a more quality relationship with yourself?
Setting Boundaries…And Honoring Them
Boundaries are the agreements you establish with others and yourself. They are an often overlooked form of self-care. We encounter boundaries all day, every day. In fact, walking through your front door is an example of a boundary in your life. It marks a separation between what happens outside of your personal space and what (or who) you allow inside.
In its simplest form, setting personal boundaries are the way we clarify where we end and others begin and our respective responsibilities for a quality relationship. Like our front door, boundaries help us and others to know the spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical rules of our road and what to expect when interacting.
Sometimes we avoid establishing boundaries because we fear repercussions or rejection from key people in our lives. When communicating your boundaries, remember that setting boundaries is a gift that you give your relationships. Healthy boundaries are how we set ourselves and others up for success. This act of self-care gifts us assurance that we are living our lives with clarity and enjoying our key relationships from a place of empowerment.
Clarifying the behaviors that are working in a relationship and those that are not can be helpful preparation for a conversation about setting boundaries. Having patience with yourself to fully understand your position and what you truly want and need can help you to go into the conversation from a solution-oriented perspective. Focusing on the behavior versus attacking the other person can help to keep the conversation productive and forward moving. Also, understand that the conversation is mostly about you communicating your position, people choose their responses.
Open, courageous, and honest communication is something that every relationship needs to thrive. It’s definitely worth a try. At worst you would have honored something that your soul needed to say.
Courageously Take Responsibility
Key to living a life that you love living is a willingness to have the courage to take full accountability and responsibility for the quality of every facet of the world you live in.
This can be a hard truth to grasp for those who at first miss the freedom and empowerment that comes from adopting a reality where you place yourself at the helm of your own life.
Many of my clients and students have initially balked at the suggestion and gone straight into all of the reasons why they are resistant to this fact. They start off with, “But he or she did XYZ and it was wrong!” “Are you saying that was my fault?!!!”
Another more empowering approach is a willingness to consider that yes, that person did this or that thing and you felt hurt, angry, disrespected, or any other negative feeling. However, at some point we must turn our focus from finger pointing and the blame game to choosing how to respond and to consider that the others’ behaviors could be a reflection of the quality of the relationship you are in with yourself.
I am not suggesting an idealistic world where you ignore behaviors that had hurtful or painful consequences. I am inviting you to consider that there is no power or solution in the blame game. Listing off all of the ways that your colleagues, boss, clients, parents, children, friends, etc. have pissed us off is a report-out that will, if left there, invariably lead to a repeat offense, more complaining, and a cycle of blame and negative emotion that is inefficient and ineffective.
Taking full accountability for our lives looks like checking in with yourself and taking responsibility for setting boundaries, for listening to that inner voice that always knows and tries to help, and for having the tough conversations with others and ourselves. Accountability takes courage, love, patience, kindness, and practice.
Take a look at a part of your life that isn’t where you would like it to be. Make a list of all of the reasons why, with no judgement or editing. Then take a deep breath and consider how you might see the situation or the actions that you would take if you were to take complete responsibility for your happiness and satisfaction in that area. Then free yourself from the grip of your story and do what you know needs to be done.
Ultimately, when we take honest responsibility for our actions, we hold ourselves accountable and build trustworthiness amongst our friends, family and colleagues. We say what we mean, and they can trust our words!
If you want to identify and reprogram the patterns that are keeping you stuck, then join the next Shape Your Foundation online program. I’m committed to helping you create a healthy and whole relationship with yourself and with others. I developed a holistic framework that integrates personal and professional leadership, spirituality, and personal connection. My goal through this program is to help you to navigate and find your way to ultimate fulfillment and freedom.
About the author: Lisane Basquiat is not only an entrepreneur but a community leader who leads with compassion and purpose.
Most recently, she led important conversation on social justice, mental and emotional health during crisis, and empowered action to repairing generational traumas through her platform and virtual programs via Shaping Freedom®