Written by Step Above Stigma's Founder, Ampai Thammachack
1. Take time to think more openly about what you want – it might not be what you think you need.
On a daily basis it can be very easy to think I want to participate in event “a,” apply for position “b,” buy item or service “c” or be with person “d.” However, when I am stressed out or overwhelmed I have found it very helpful pause and ask myself what I actually want and what I am really seeking. When I do so my answer always boils down to wanting or needing something much deeper than what I originally thought. What I thought I wanted usually comes down to either achieving a sense of belonging, covering up my insecurities, craving a quick pick me up or something of the like, all of which is okay. But when I stop to think for a moment, I am usually able to treat myself much better and am able to make decisions and choices that help me achieve what I want on a much deeper level.
2. Boundaries are everything – listen to your body, your body is correct.
When you feel a sensation in your body take a step back if you can and ask yourself why you feel uncomfortable or why you feel uncertain. See negative or uncomfortable comments or situations coming in as slow as you can and remember you can only control how you respond. Learning how to respect your boundaries is such a challenge, the prospect of hurting or upsetting someone can be dreadful. Nonetheless, I find that when I am focused on making decisions with that rationale, I end up only hurting myself or everyone involved. So, listen to your body and even if you end up being wrong you are always right to trust yourself, which can sometimes be the hardest thing to do.
3. We are all a little beautifully wild and weird, you are never alone even when you think your deepest and “darkest” thoughts – and that’s a great thing.
Vulnerability is connection. I usually only directly learn my very best friend’s deepest thoughts that they are most ashamed of, but these moments are the moments that make me love them most. Sharing can be so incredibly hard, but I have found that I learn the most from and in these moments. I for one am always honored when a friend shares deeply with me, and I hope you are too!!
4. Picture and try to remember what environments, people and events have made you feel the most content - not only the events themselves but how and why you truly felt comfortable and whole – then try to take this with you.
If you have one of these moments in your mind consider, were you were truly relaxed, or if had you just been working hard for weeks, what was your diet like? Were you getting a lot or only a little sleep? How were your vitals? In my most challenging moments I often lose myself. As someone with a specific mental illness I dissociate from reality and am constantly re-establishing and redefining my sense of self, it is challenging for me on a daily basis to remember what I love and how, especially when I feel depressed and withdrawn, to feel the way I want to feel again. But one thing that has helped me so much is to be in tune with my emotions and identify when I feel the most jovial. After doing so, when I have the energy, I proactively do everything I can to put myself in similar moments and situations and try my best to treasure them as much as I can.
5. Be yourself and know who you are they say, but how do you actually do this?
If I had a dollar for every time someone told me, “just be yourself!!” This advice is always simultaneously the absolute best and the absolute worst thing to hear. It is the worst because prior to entering a scenario feelings of anxiety can sometimes make it challenging to know what to do in a particular situation, it also gives no particular guidance of how to behave which I find extremely challenging when I do not feel confident in a new situation. Nonetheless, it is the best because it reaffirms that I am enough, that my uniqueness is needed and that bringing who I am, whoever that is, to the table is good enough. I have begun to see my “sense of self” as a glowing amorphous orb that twists and turns, flips and sparkles while it changes color. To me it shows that I am constantly evolving but no matter what shape or color, I am still here, and I am still wanted. Now when I am told to be myself, I have come to accept that being myself means being whoever I want to be or can be, which of course has its limitations, especially when I am working through a period where my mental health is languishing. Yet, deep down I know that being whoever I am and meeting myself where I am is good enough.
Read our blog posts about personal experiences and stories with regards to mental health. Posts written by our team or those passionate about mental health.