Sober October. Vegan Mondays. Gratitude Tuesdays. Mindfulness Wednesdays. Thirty-day sugar-free. There are so many self-love challenges and a seemingly infinite number of ways for self-improvement that we sometimes forget they tend to be a recipe for failure.
Whether you’re halfway through a delicious, buttery scone from your favorite bakery before you remember it’s Vegan Monday or you’ve “accidentally” indulged in happy hour during Sober October, limits often make us extra hungry for the very thing we’ve pledged against.
I know a little something about this. I used to do every cleanse out there in the name of a reset and a healthy glow.
The five-day juice cleanse in my 20s produced little more than a massive headache and an eating complex. The master cleanse in grad school gave me the experience of fainting in my poetry workshop and a self-imposed moratorium on all things lemon-flavored. And to keep up with that 30-day hot yoga challenge, I missed birthday celebrations and coffee dates with new and old friends all in the name of fitness.
It’s safe to say none of this gave me the reset I was looking for.
Since June, I’ve been on the mental health beat, a brand-new position in our news organization. I’ve addressed topics that range from the resilience of high school poetry to finding gender-affirming therapy care, family caregiver burnout to the life-saving gift of veteran dogs.
I drank coffee with Tom Farley, the late Chris Farley’s brother, to talk about substance abuse and recovery, learned about the history of Wisconsin’s first suicide texting line (and met a very cute emotional support puppy in the process) and met the bravest kids on the planet at Burn Camp.
Looking back, my fidelity to those cleanses and challenges is cringe-worthy, but I only know that because I’ve started listening to mental health providers and advocates.
Often, the things we believe to be healthy don’t necessarily fit our needs. That isn’t to say we shouldn’t aim to improve for the better, but all-or-nothing attitudes aren’t healthy either. Wellness culture doesn’t help, with all the ways it pushes expensive products on us via TikTok and Instagram.
So then, if herbal powders aren’t the antidote, what is?
Humbly, I hope to guide readers with information and ideas that can be continuously useful and don’t break the bank. I’ll speak to therapists, licensed social workers, counselors, psychiatrists, psychology professors and mental health advocates to help us find a path to a better way of living — without developing a distaste for lemon or any food for that matter.
Every month, I’ll publish a column based on a question you share with me. I may not be able to answer every question, but I’ll do my best to select the ones that can shape us and make us stronger and more resilient (while recognizing this information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical care).
In addition to your burning questions on mental health, I’d like to invite you to help me think of a name for my column.
Healing doesn’t resolve with Neosporin and a Band-Aid when we’re talking about psychic pain. As a newly coiffed mental health reporter, I talk often with experts who emphasize the importance of prioritizing basic needs, which can help us better handle life’s daily complications.
This space can’t and won’t promise a “reset” or a “transformation.” What it can do is give you tools you already have, with the strong body and mind you already possess, to learn or unlearn concepts and ways of being. So, dear readers, what’s on your mind?
Natalie Eilbert covers mental health issues for USA TODAY NETWORK-Central Wisconsin. She welcomes story tips and feedback. You can reach her at [email protected] or view her Twitter profile at @natalie_eilbert. If you or someone you know is dealing with suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or text “Hopeline” to the National Crisis Text Line at 741-741.
‘This too shall pass away’ this famous Persian adage seems to be defeating us again and again in the case of COVID-19. Despite every effort