Making a Major Life Change for Your Mental Health
For many years, I operated in a high-stress, fast-paced work environment. For a while, it was fun, and I felt passionate about my work. Despite how overwhelmed I often felt, I thought I was getting by and doing well. I received positive feedback at work, liked my colleagues and enjoyed being challenged. But eventually, years of working long hours caught up to me, and my mental health took a turn for the worse. I went from feeling a little tired, to burnt out, to dreading each work day. I felt as though I was drowning.
Then, I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. And I finally realized I wasn’t doing well—that it took all of my energy to simply stay afloat. I neglected taking care of my mental health for years and it was time to make a major life change. I needed to shift my life and job significantly to focus on my mental health. So, after a long search, I found a new job at an organization that prioritized clearer working hours and off time for their staff.
In such a fast-paced, busy world, it can be hard to focus on ourselves and make a change for our mental health. With that said, here’s what worked for me.
Consider seeing a therapist, if you aren’t already.
I know this is not an original suggestion, but it is an essential one. Talk therapy helped me realize what I really needed. It validated that my work environment wasn’t good for me. Therapy gave me the confidence to make this decision for myself.
I also downloaded a mental health check-in app for each day between sessions, which helped me voice what I was feeling and experiencing each day. Over time, I saw how many days were marked with “anxious” or “exhausted.” It helped me visualize how clearly I needed a change.
Before you make a major change, make a list of your needs.
For the past few years, I felt like I was duct-taping each day together just to get by. I wanted to feel like I could plan ahead and not feel swamped by the amount of work on my plate every day. I also wanted to make sure I had enough time in my schedule to take care of my physical and mental health, prioritize time for my hobbies—reading, writing and embroidery—and spend more quality time with loved ones.
Making a list helped me center the way I thought about each job listing and potential opportunity. I was able to quickly consider whether a job would help me achieve my personal and professional goals.
Think ahead about what you’ll miss.
Making lifestyle changes can be fun and exciting, but they also mean saying goodbye to smaller things that you may have loved previously. Contemplating ahead of time what those changes will be and what you may need to let go of (for now!) will help you feel more prepared.
I loved the rush of dealing with a rapid-response moment, but based on the criteria of things I wanted out of my next job, I knew those moments would be less frequent. I also knew the constant flow of those hectic, exhausting moments had been taking a toll on me. Knowing I would miss them—but also the impact they had on me and my health—helped me feel ready to move on.
When the change finally happens, spend your time intentionally!
Every day on my commute home, instead of looking at work email, I read a book or simply sit with my thoughts without a phone or screen in front of me. For two hours each weekend, I bring my laptop to my favorite coffee shop and write. I’m eating healthier and exercising more frequently.
It still feels like an indulgence every day to take time for myself, but I can feel the difference. I can tell my mental health is improving. Making big lifestyle changes for our mental health can feel scary and overwhelming. But if you make a change intentionally, you will feel like a weight has been lifted off your chest.
You, and your mental health, deserves your time and attention. You deserve this positive change.
Rebecca Wall is the Senior Social Media Manager at NAMI.
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