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It’s okay not to be okay: 5 useful mental health tips from a kiwi artist

This is a guest post by our resident Live for Tomorrow artist, Loryn Engelsman.

About two years ago, I was in the midst of a pretty heavy season of constantly feeling super anxious. It was crippling. I couldn’t sleep or eat, and my mind was going a million miles an hour. 

This didn’t leave a lot of room for functioning as a person day-to-day. Some days I knew why my anxiety levels were through the roof and other days I had no clue. I got to a point where some close friends advised that I should get some extra help managing my anxiety levels.

Wanting to try anything to sort through some of the stuff going on in my head and realign some unhealthy thinking patterns, I began working my butt off to get to a place of being mentally ‘healthy.’ It sounds pretty straight forward, but I tell you, it was anything but easy – but sooooo worth it. 

Drawing on my own experience and experiences of close friends I worked alongside the amazing team at Live For Tomorrow to create content based on practical tools, experiences and encouragement. 

It has been so much fun and an amazing challenge working on this project! As I sign off as the resident illustrator, here are my top 5 faves from my time at LFT.

1. It’s okay to not be okay

It’s as simple as that. Some days are worse than others. Some days you will feel great and the next you won’t. That’s okay. Be honest with yourself about how you are feeling. Let someone know that you feel awful if you need to. Give yourself permission to not feel okay. Get through the day knowing that not every day is like this – but for today, it’s okay to not be okay (and tomorrow too!)

2. Look back and take note

At times I got so caught up in an awful spiral where my hard work felt like one step forward and two steps back. It wasn’t until I sat down and looked back on old times, old photos, journals, or chatting with friends that I could see evidence of how far I had come. For me, doing this regularly is such an important part of my journey. 

3. Captain Unhelpful

Captain Unhelpful. He’s everywhere, and means well, but is super annoying. A lot of the time we just need someone to be there for us and not to fix us. Captain Unhelpful seems to assume we have not considered the obvious things. We’re told things like “just don’t focus on the negatives,” or “others have it worse than you.” We feel guilty because we “have it really good compared to some people” – the vicious cycle continues on and on. The thing is, Captain Unhelpful genuinely means well and cares for you, but doesn’t have a clue what it’s like to be inside your mind and that we don’t need ‘fixing’. 

4. The ‘what-if’ monster

99.9% of the time the worst possible ‘what-if’ situation that your mind tells you is “totally going to happen” won’t happen. The thought of it happening is such a hard thing to shake off and can be crippling. It takes time and hard work to learn new paths of thought and to learn that the worst situations your mind comes up with won’t happen. What I found to be an amazing tool is looking back at past situations that have knocked me around and acknowledging that I survived them (and tackled them with class). This reassures me that I can handle whatever is around the corner. Kick that ‘what-if’ monster in the face whenever he pops up in your mind!

5. Life is an adventure

So often I get caught up in what is going on right now or the storm that seems to surround that I forget to step back and look at the bigger picture. Sometimes the bigger picture can feel overwhelming – but other times I am reminded that life is a massive adventure that is mine for the taking!

Hope you have enjoyed the journey as much as I have. Can’t wait to see what happens next!

Much love – Loryn x 

You can see more of Loryn’s mental health illustrations over at Live For Tomorrow’s Instagram. Also, be sure to follow Loryn while you’re at it!