We are used to being sore after the gym. Sometimes we even get excited about it, earmarking some new exercise or class after we feel a good burn the next day so we can try it again and get gram-worthy results.
But think about it, were you always this way about your fitness? I bet there were some days in the beginning that the soreness made you want to stay home the next day and chill in sweatpants (back when home in sweatpants was not mandatory).
What about the famous runner’s high? How many awful runs did it take you before you actually attained it? Because I’ll tell you, I had many cramps prior to hitting that elusive endorphin kick. Emotional and mental health progress akin to those gym gains, you have to get comfortable with getting uncomfortable in order to see the results. try these concepts for some real emotional growth.
Just like fitness, it's great to start small and build up slowly.
Take, for example, a mental concept we’ve heard a lot about lately: boundaries. When you return to the office, you can start by simply saying, “Hey, Susan, I think we should probably not talk shit in the break room, it got me in trouble last time.” A simple, honest statement that does not blame the other person and sets a clear boundary, and gives your work buddy a chance to show you that they respect your boundary is a great place to start. Is it uncomfortable? Yes, but it allows you to also establish your needs, and you can work up to telling your fun cousin you have to stop lending him money for his business ideas----once you have built up your boundary muscles.
Try, try again.
When you are practicing a concept, like meditation for example, and find it is difficult, rather than giving up, do what works for you in fitness. Try finding a podcast, YouTube video, group, or coach to guide you. There are many teachers to help you on your way, you don’t have to flounder on your own, and just like fitness trying different methods can help you find works what is best for you.
Find a buddy.
Just like a good workout buddy, think about having a friend or family member you can count on to be objective about your mental state and let you know if something seems off, and vice versa. Being open about mental health can be scary and is often stigmatized but it is so important that it is worth the initial uncomfortable conversation. Find someone you can be comfortable enough to start slowly expressing what your normal looks like so that if you start to feel off, they can help you get back to home base. You don’t have to disclose every feeling at once, and you don’t have to open up to everyone, certainly not anyone you don’t trust. Just start slow and see how they respond, a good friend will be receptive, and likely will feel comfortable starting to share with you as well.
Sometimes, you need a break.
Sometimes there are going to be difficult emotions by nature of making progress with mental health. Realizations about unhealthy relationships you need to let go of, habits you have to change, even moving, or taking other opportunities can bring up sadness, regret, and resentments that you may need to express and process. It may feel bad at the moment and may even cause you to question whether you are doing the right thing, but it is a normal part of progressing mentally and emotionally. Just like soreness does not mean you should stop working out, uncomfortable feelings do not mean you should stop progressing with emotional growth. However, similarly to working out, where the actual pain is a clear time to take a break, intense negative emotions are a sign you are at a stopping point and it may be time to set a solid boundary with a particular person or take a break for a day or two from something.
Find an expert to help.
When things are really overwhelming, seeing a therapist to help you work through it in a systematic way is similar to having a personal trainer who can guide you through physical growth. They help you identify your most important goals and are well trained in the best ways to get you to them so that you can alleviate that stress. All therapists have higher education in theories and treatment modes that help clients to meet objectives, and many of these theories have been backed by research. Like trainers, you can look at their backgrounds, specialties, and philosophies to see which one will be a good fit for you. Much like personal training, not every session will be enjoyable, but sessions will bring you closer to the progress that you want to make.
Keeping your mind fit the same way you keep your body fit will hopefully be the way we look at mental health in the future, and so much information is out there to get you started, so start small, find a buddy, a coach, a therapist, or start wherever makes the most sense for you. Just keep in mind that just like fitness, any goal worth reaching is not going to be without a little struggle and sweat, but trust me, you will like the results.