Can our mind become sick? Well, I’m no doctor, but it sure felt like mine was.
After years of severe depression, mistreatment and not paying attention to it, I think my mind had become very sick and tired.
Like a rotten fruit, it was iving birth to completely fucked-up thought patterns. I suppose it was all a result of mental exhaustion, unconscious destructive behaviors, complete disconnection/alienation from my mind, and other chronic issues like brain fog, headaches, memory loss, etc.
I didn’t know it then, but I had been struggling with severe depression for years, which had been worsening with time. I was also later diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, among other things, and acute inflammation due to food sensitivity.
And so, without proprement treatment (and awareness), my mind and my body were falling apart.
Thankfully, I realized one day that I needed to do something ASAP to “fix my mind”, or….
As I grew more and more determined to find a solution and heal, I started to wonder if one could ‘repair’ or heal, or even change the state of your mind?
Can you heal the mind?
I’ll be honest here. I haven’t researched that question, and I don’t have a scientific answer to that. And so I will only be speaking from my own experience here. Thank you for remembering that!
I think it depends on each person’s situation but I was determined to at least try everything in my power to find out if I could fix, or at least soothe my poor, exhausted little brain.
So, I dedicated most of my small resources to healing my “mind”, my brain, my soul. And of course, my body. and boy am I glad I did. This was the best decision of my life.
So far, I’m feeling much, much, much better.
Here’s how I did it and perhaps this can help you too.
Disclaimer: I only share my personal experience here regarding my own mental (and physical) health journey. The information contained on this blog is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Please consult your doctor or other medical experts regarding your health.
1. Be prepared to make it your priority for the next few months
Yes, I said months. And I said make it.
You’re not going to heal and change ‘magically’ just because you are thinking about it. If that was the case, you would have already seen improvements by now.
It is also important to understand that other people will not stop asking you to do things or expect things from you “just because” you told them that you need some time and space.
Don’t resent them for it, it’s not their job to care for your well-being; it’s yours.
If your mind is exhausted, it is likely because you have not been taking good care of it and giving it what it needed.
Healing your mind is your job. Make it come first.
2. Start paying attention to how you feel
Pay attention. Listen to your body! Stop treating your mind and your body like they know nothing. They know a lot more than you give them credit for.
For example, when you eat something you ‘shouldn’t’, you know. Your body tells you. You ignore it, and that’s your choice, but that’s on you.
You know you don’t feel great after you’ve smoked that 12th cigarette; after you’ve eaten that 3d slice of pizza or drank that energy drink. You know your heart is pumping hard now; you feel that pressure in your stomach.
Are you listening?
What if you started paying more attention? Are there times when you don’t feel like that? If yes, what were you doing differently?
Mind and body are connected. It is appalling how western medicine tends to separate the two, and also pays zero attention to our environment (where you live, what you eat, your stress level at work, etc.). Well, my doctors did.
I believe it is absolutely pointless to “tackle” one without the other.
My mind was exhausted but I felt it in my body too: I couldn’t concentrate, I couldn’t hold a conversation, I never felt rested and, in the end, I couldn’t function properly.
For the first few days/weeks of self-care and healing, (almost) all I did was sleep and feed myself. Even movies and TV-shows were too exhausting, so I listened to audiobooks instead, but barely at first.
4. Remove (Part 1)
It’s time to figure out what is not serving you, or even hurting you the most and remove it from your life.
You probably don’t know where to start or what to do. Maybe you could think of it as an experiment? Or an investigation.
That’s what I did: I needed answers but I wasn’t getting any from my doctors. I also didn’t know where to look for answers. But I had some (tiny) level of intuition.
For example, I was always trembling or shaking badly, but some times were worse than others. Before a presentation, the level of ‘stress’ and discomfort I was feeling almost made me faint at times. But the weird part was, in my head, I was not that stressed.
So, I started looking at what seemed the most obvious to me at the time: what I put in my mouth.
After a few weeks of observation, I started to wonder if maybe coffee had something to do with it? So, I slowly started removing coffee and observed.
To make a long story short, I’ve learned that I cannot drink anything stimulating. Not even green tea. Not even drinks that contain sugar.
After a couple of years, I’ve also learned that I can’t handle sugar, gluten, tobacco, glaring lights, etc.
5. Find a good therapist
Ask for help. But honestly, no therapist is better than a bad therapist.
I met Eve when I was at my lowest. But, for bureaucratic reasons, I was only allowed a handful of sessions with her, and it almost destroyed me. Because she was like an oasis in a desert of incompetence.
She was the only person who truly helped me and I’m certain she saved my life. She understood me and helped me out of self-destructive mode; I will forever be grateful for her.
Later I was forced to continue with someone else. I think it did more damage than good, but I persisted with that new therapist for almost 4 months because I really wanted to get better and was afraid to make a mistake. But I eventually told her that I would love to keep the door open, but needed to try and find a better fit. So I moved on, and never went back.
Find help. It could save your life.
But find the right help.
6. Educate yourself about how the mind and body work
If you are going to start investigating, you need some level of guidance and knowledge. And I don’t mean just little bogs that mine (although these help too!).
I mean, real professionals, experts in their dedicated fields: dieticians, doctors, yogis, psychologists, philosophers, neurologists, monks, etc.
During that time of self-healing, I was constantly learning about the brain, the body, diet, nutrition, foods, etc.
Instead of crashing on the sofa and watching the News or another mind-numbing TV-show, you could try listening to something educational, even if it’s just for 30 minutes every day.
I made myself listen to something educational (that’s how I called it on my ‘daily accomplishment list’) every day for at least 15 to 30 minutes. It may seem insignificant, but it’s not.
You will not believe how impactful this can be, not only for your immediate mental well-being but also for the medium to long term.
7. Remove (Part 2)
It is time to start removing all the things that are not essential to your well-being. And if you’re anything like me, you are probably carrying a lot of dead weight in your bag.
Of course, this step is a major challenge because we don’t know ourselves well enough to know what is essential to use. But also, it’s hard to let go.
But it’s not impossible. Start with the obvious and keep going from there.
Physical stuff: Remove clutter. Everywhere. A cluttered environment = a cluttered mind.
Related article: All that “stuff” you own is ruining your life.
Commitments and activities: I’m all for sharing and giving more. In fact, being more generous is one of the steps in my “healing program” (if I may call it that). But right now, you need to stop doing all those things you feel obliged to do unless you really enjoy them.
People: There are the friends who uplift you, and those who don’t. Keep the former; ditch the ladder. I’m serious.
Feelings and emotions: journaling is amazing for purging out negative feelings and emotions. Read more about it in my article about journaling.
Oh, and get rid of that guilt you carry around everywhere.
8. Start journaling
I am an absolute advocate of journaling. It’s incredibly powerful for self-discovery and healing depression. I’ve written an entire post on the topic of journaling, make sure you check it out after you’ve finished reading this article.
Related article: How to start a journal and why you should?
9. Stop watching series and social media, they don’t do anything for you
You might think “oh great, this again”. But yes, this again; because it is true. Maybe some people are more impacted by it than others, but it’s true nonetheless.
In my case, within the next 1 to 24 hours after watching too many shows or movies, my mood starts to plummet.
Not only do they usually do a bad job at reflecting real life, but I think I also unconsciously compare the protagonists’ lives to mine. And usually, mine pales in comparison.
Do these things even make you happier? Have you paid any attention to how you feel after you’ve watched YouTubers for too long? Why not stop?
10. Take long walks
In the beginning, I couldn’t get my mind to shut up so. Change is hard, and I was always uncomfortable with myself; never at peace or at ease.
So, I walked. I walked until I was tired, then I walked some more.
I visited new neighborhoods, discovered cool new places in this city I thought I knew well, spent time in parks, climbed hills, admired trees, searched for birds, etc. Nature is very soothing.
I did that every day for about 4 months. I still do, by the way, just a little less.
Doing this consistently for a few months eventually allowed me to reach a level of calm I had never experienced in my entire life, and I do not say that lightly.
11. Learn how to cook
Learning how to cook has helped me to be more present, practice gratitude, and learn self-care. I even found out, after a few months, that I had some creativity in me. What a surprise (and relief) that was.
Related article: Are you depressed? You might want to learn how to cook.
12. Spend time alone
If you can retreat, do it, even though I understand that not everyone can do that. But do try. If you have a spouse or a family, talk about it and see if you can come up with some options.
Did you know you can do 10-day meditation retreats for free?
I know you want to be a “good” mother, sister, daughter, wife (whatever that means), but right now you need to be a good “you”. Then you will be able to help others. It’s about creating space to hear your own voice again; it’s not about cutting people off forever.
13. Make a puzzle
Sometimes you know you should behave differently, but you don’t necessarily know what to do. With your mind always spinning “out of control”, it’s also hard to slow down and do something ‘just for the sake of doing that thing’, without expectations regarding the outcome.
Making a puzzle is a great way to calm down and even tickle your artistic senses. Of course, if you can draw or paint, do that. But if you “have no artistic talent”, start with that.
In the first stages of my journey, I made a few puzzles, and looking back, I’m glad I did. It forced me to stop thinking, and simply be in the present moment while making something pretty (if you pick a nice one). I eventually progressed to making visualization boards, then making pretty dishes, then making hand-made cards, then creating this blog…
14. Revive your lost dreams
Despite deciding I wanted to heal and change, identifying where to go was a challenge, to say the least. I was so confused!
At this point, it is important to try new things. But you can also find inspiration from your past: what are the dreams you once had?
The point is not to fall into a well of regrets and what-ifs, but rather to remember who you once were, before, and most likely forgot.
At first, I did not necessarily enjoy doing those things I used to like. But to be honest, I was no longer feeling joy, enthusiasm, or curiosity about anything, so, I persevered. I started with just 10 minutes per day of whatever it is I had chosen; learning a language I was once interested in for example.
Slowly the enthusiasm, the curiosity, the joy, and even pride (!) started to come back. But it took a few months.
Lost dreams can be awakened.
15. Practice being in the present
Do you know what makes you miserable? Your own mind. And to be more specific: your brain on a hamster wheel.
I have a post dedicated entirely to awareness but at the present moment, it is only available in French.
16. Create. Anything.
Your mind is exhausted because you’ve most likely been putting things in there incessantly. You never just let it… be, rest. Present and calm.
And perhaps you also only ever do things because you think you should do them, not simply because you want to. Your life is a long list of chores.
I found creativity to be helpful in the healing process because it allowed me to stop “putting things in” and start expressing myself more.
I think in a way I was almost exploding with things I wanted to share, say or do but was suppressing. I had spent my entire life consuming information, and had never learned how, or bothered, to put “me” out there.
17. Figure out what your ideal life is, and start living it now
“There isn’t an endpoint. This is the endpoint”.
I’m not talking about taking on a loan and buying a Lamborghini. I’m talking about figuring out what your heart truly desires, and acting on that.
What is it that you really want? Or think you want, because we don’t always know for sure, and also those things evolve.
There is no right a wrong answer. But the key is to figure it out and start behaving as if it had already happened.
If you do that, you will slowly start creating your life around those things (alignment), rather than constantly pushing them away for (maybe) “later”.
Because here’s the thing: when you keep postponing the things you want, you think you’ll have the option to come back to them at some point. The truth is, you probably won’t because the more you move forward on another road, the more likely you are to move away from those things you wanted in the first place.
And if you think you can forget about them, well, wrong again. It might happen, but in my personal experience, they either became repressed feelings or turned into regret, resentment, sadness, etc.
If you want to heal your mind, start paying attention to it. Your mind deserves love, attention, and respect. Learn to understand it, listen to it, and behave in a manner that serves its needs. What you will get in return will go beyond your expectations.
Do you torture your mind? Constantly doubt yourself, diminish your opinions, think what you want doesn’t matter or that other people know better?