How to Make Healing Changes when Change Feels Impossible
Making the necessary lifestyle changes for good mental health can be challenging. Making them when you are sick, depressed or overwhelmed can seem impossible. I know what its like to be so paralyzed by symptoms that the simplest suggestion feels impossible and that is why I’ve written this guide.
Here are my seven steps to making a change when change feels impossible.
Step 1. Accept yourself just as you are.
I know this may seem like THE WORST first step, but try it. Accept yourself and your situation exactly how it is. Acceptance doesn’t mean you like what is happening; it means you are choosing to allow it. Since your depression, your sadness or your anxiety is here, you might as well make some space for it and let it be. Stop fighting what is and save your energy for the next steps.
Step 2. Offer yourself some kindness.
I know very few people who do this naturally and people who are struggling with their mental health tend to have an even harder time. What would you say to someone you loved who was struggling? For a long time, I was mean to myself. I said I was stupid, lazy, fat, and as a result, I got worse, not better. It’s tough to make changes when you’re mean to yourself. Try telling yourself a new story: that you are seeking help, you are doing your best, you are smart and capable. Even if you don’t entirely mean it, practice extending yourself kindness anyway. It works, but it’s not natural for many of us. So keep at it and when you find you are hard on yourself again, smile, know you are human, and extend yourself an extra dose of kindness.
Step 3. Take one step towards healing.
I knew I needed to stop eating gluten and sugar, cook organic food, exercise, meditate, and do a bunch of other things if I wanted to get better. However, that seemed too overwhelming when I first started. So I just stopped eating gluten. I knew it was causing me more symptoms than anything else, so I started there. I didn’t do it perfectly at first, and I’m not suggesting this be your first step. Take a minute to get quiet. Your intuition will guide you to your first step and every one after. If you aren’t sure what steps might be good for you, I suggest finding a functional medicine practitioner and making an appointment. This can be a great place to begin.
Step 4. Forgive yourself when you stumble.
This is a healing journey and journeys take time. Sometimes you have a stretch of success, and then you make a wrong turn. I don’t know anyone doing this perfectly so you can congratulate yourself for being human, and offer yourself some forgiveness. It’s the perfect compliment to kindness, and it will take you further than judgment and self-condemnation. Forgiving yourself doesn’t mean you aren’t trying, it doesn’t mean you are quitting, and it doesn’t mean you failed. Forgive yourself and get back up- when you are ready.
Step 5. Practice self-care.
When I was at my worst, everyone kept telling me to exercise. But I couldn’t. Going for even a short walk seemed impossible. However, I enjoyed a hot bath with Epsom salt and some lavender oil. A bath may seem small but for me was huge in starting to turn things around. Eventually, this one act of self-care allowed me to see the value in taking good care of me. Find one thing that feels nurturing to you and make time to do it! Ignore the voice in your head that says you aren’t worth it or that something else is more important; it isn’t. Taking good care of you is MOST important. Always put your oxygen mask on first. (Pro-tip: If it takes away from mental health it is NOT self-care. Ice cream, Netflix, and mindless scrolling of social media aren’t what we are looking for here.)
Step 6. Find something to be thankful for.
Depression, trauma, and the daily onslaught of news in our world can wire our brains to focus on fear and in turn, create a mind that automatically produces the very thoughts and feelings we hope to avoid. The good news is we can change this and practicing gratitude is a powerful way to begin. When you find yourself disturbed choose to think about something that is going right. When your brain is telling you all the things that are wrong, take some time to tell it a different story. This is simple and over time will become more natural. No matter how many things are going wrong, I find that if I look, I can always observe many more things that are going right. The more I put my focus there, the better off I am.
Step 7. Go back to step one. Again, and again. (And again.)
The process never ends. We are all starting and stopping and reworking and trying again. No one has arrived. It is really this simple. I accomplished everything by following this simple plan. This journey is a healing journey. There will be peaks and valleys, times when the path is easy, and times it seems to treacherous to keep going. Take comfort in knowing you are not alone here. You can do this. You already are.