Wellness is physical and mental.

All things cycle, and we all go through natural emotional lows.  Sometimes, though, these lows can make it hard to even function, let alone be proactive about feeling better.  At times like these, we just need to take care of the basics.
The Icarus Project, a radical mental health network, published a wonderful poster by Sophie Crumb - "Taking Care of the Basics".  I reference this gem often, especially when my mental/emotional wellness is starting to tip off balance.  It's a great reminder of basics that are too easy to forget.
Feel free to download the larger PDF version of this poster.
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These are really important reminders for everyone - whether you're just kind of down, spaced out, apathetic, going through heartbreak, clinically depressed, struggling with addiction, facing a mental illness, dealing with other physical illnesses, or facing other challenges. 

Sometimes, you really just need to go back to the basics.  Without a strong foundation to stand upon, there's no way to rise above (thanks Maslow!)

Eating Well

Click to see larger view.
Food is essential to your psychological happiness. 

If we put crap into our bodies, that is what fuels us.  When you're fueled by crap, you feel like crap.

Pay attention to how your food makes you feel.  For instance, I drank tangerine juice yesterday that sent me straight into a sugar-spike headache.  Noticed, noted, not happening again.

Eat your veggies & drink a lot of water.  Harvard University recently put out a more accurate version of the food pyramid, the Healthy Eating Plate - check it out for more specifics.

Eat real foods.  If you're not sure what real foods are, check out Food Renegade's Real Food basics article.  Essentially, if it's packaged, processed, or has ingredients you don't recognize, don't eat it.

Sleep & rest

Aaah... sleep.  One of the loveliest parts of life.

Sleep re-charges your mind, spirit, and emotions.  REM sleep lets you dream out the day's frustrations and confusions, helps your unconscious self find new solutions, and gives you a chance to just stop thinking. 

Some people need less sleep than others, but most need between 7-9 hours a night.  Check out SleepTiming for a neat tool that works with your circadian rhythms for the most restful sleep.

Speaking of restful sleep, if you're getting drunk or smoking before bed, you're not getting the actual rest your body and mind needs.  Alcohol and nicotine prevent you from sleeping deeply, and drugs like marijuana suppress dreaming, an important part of our subconscious functioning.  Try falling asleep substance-free.

Rest is important when you're awake, too.  Try taking mini-meditation breaks or practicing relaxation breathing.  Stress is glorified in our culture, as if it means you're working hard enough, but sometimes the best thing you can do is rest and do less.


Don't think of it as a 'workout'- that sounds so difficult and unpleasant.  Moving is fun!  If you like going to a fluorescent-lit gym with lots of strangers and weird machines, great.  But if gyms creep you out as much as they creep me out, don't worry - there are lots of other ways to get moving. 

It doesn't matter what you do, just move! 

My personal favorites:  1. dancing like a crazy person in my room, 2. dancing like a crazy person in a modern dance class, 3. pretending to be really buff (in private) to extreme home workout videos, 4. walking or hiking outdoors.

Do a little self-reflection and figure out your personal fitness style.

Move and play how you like, alone or with friends, indoors or out - just do it for at least 30 minutes, 4 days a week.  That's it!  You can even do it in three 10-minute chunks if you feel too busy for a solid 30 minutes. 

Oh, and if you're into yoga, check out this awesome Find-Your-Yoga-Style-Flowchart (I love flowcharts!)

Herbs, Meds, Etc.

Everybody has different needs when it comes to supplements.  Needs can range from a B12 vitamin to an anti-psychotic - it all depends on personal body and brain chemistry. 

I'm personally a fan of herbal medicine, and if you'd like to learn more there are tons of excellent herbal resources online and at your library.  I often use herbs for sleeplessness, emotional ease, immune system support, anemia, cramps & PMS.

If you're considering or are currently taking a prescription medicine for mental issues, I encourage you to see a naturopathic doctor or herbalist in addition to a psychiatrist or allopathic medical doctor.  This way, you can get a more well-rounded picture of natural alternatives to pharm drugs and supplements that can help if you do choose pharmaceuticals.

Whatever herbs, medicines, or supplements you choose to ingest, please be sure to do your research about possible side effects, synergistic reactions, and contraindications.  If something doesn't feel right, pay attention! 

Having a Schedule

No matter how healthy your body and brain chemistry is, if you sit on your ass bored, there's going to be trouble.

Not having a schedule, or having a one not structured enough, can lead to depressive rumination, drug and alcohol abuse, and plain old ennui.

Schedule in your basic needs.  If you forget to eat, sleep, take meds, or shower, put it in your schedule.  Seriously.

Fill your days with meaningful activities!  Learn something new.  Make a date with a friend (or five!)  Volunteer.  Read something illuminating.  Go on adventures.

When your to-do list combines practical basics with meaningful activities, your day will have a productive and fulfilling structure.  On the Basics poster, the character's schedule reads: "Band Practice, Trapeze Lessons, Eat, Sleep!"  Sounds like a good day to me. 

What does a good day look like for you?  Schedule it in, one thing at a time.  It'll help.

What basics are important for your wellness?  Any good advice to share?

You might like:
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8/10/2012 07:17:03 pm

thank you, I really enjoyed reading your article. Your article is very good .. thank you ...

4/25/2013 05:26:17 pm

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6/30/2015 04:03:16 pm

Hallam Head Space is a student lead group dedicated to the de-stigmatisation of mental health problems on and off campus.

9/29/2013 06:11:19 pm

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10/17/2013 09:17:38 pm

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10/25/2013 08:10:39 pm

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2/8/2014 09:24:01 am

I have just decided to better myself through a healthier lifestyle. You wouldn't believe how much energy you have to do all of the tedious tasks you run into every day if you are exercising.

It seems like everything you have mentioned in this article will improve your mental and physical state.

Awesome post, thanks!

2/13/2014 06:58:57 pm

Always taking extra care of mental health. Here are very useful info about mental health basics.

8/2/2014 07:58:39 am

Your article discusses many good habits... sleep, exercise and eating healthy. For people that are severely out of shape, just changing your habits and becoming more active will make a huge difference and improve your overall metabolism. Most people are unaware of this. Start slowly, make little adjustments and you will begin to notice a difference.

4/3/2015 04:29:16 pm

Mental health is often overlooked in our society. As a matter of fact it is often expected of you to disregard it. With tedious work schedules and the added stress of our ever-evolving competitive market people don't realize the damage it can cause to your body.

5/29/2015 05:45:28 pm

Thank you a lot for sharing this with all of us you really know what you're speaking approximately! Bookmarked.

11/10/2015 08:45:49 pm

So many times when I get depressed i get a pint of ice cream to eat and cheer me up. It works while I am eating it but later I am kicking myself for me emotional eating.


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