As I swing into my mental health and your average writer month, I want to make a couple of disclaimers: I am not writing as a mental health professional. I’ll be writing on strategies to protect and promote your own mental health, not to regain it once it’s out of whack. HUGE distinction. If you have thoughts of harming yourself or others, please, please, speak to a professional.

What are my qualifications for writing on this subject, you ask? Well, I don’t have any, really. That’s why I’m going to be basically regurgitating information from experts who ARE qualified to write on mental health.

See how I did that?

If you have a propensity to gravitate toward the negative, toward anxiety, or the “blues”, there are well documented strategies to help you combat it. Again, I am NOT talking about people who are clinically depressed. I have family and friends who have combated this insidious disease and I wouldn’t pretend to know how to help them.

I do know, however, that no that no one is in charge of my own happiness except me. My husband can’t make me be happy. My children can’t make me be happy, and quite frankly, it isn’t their responsibility. They have their own battles to fight. The strategies I’m writing about are simply tools that help me in my own fight for happiness.

I can either immerse myself in the Ocean of Anxiety, the Sea of Drama, the Straits of Negativity, the Bay of Sadness or the Lake of Futility, or I can grab the oar and paddle like a wild maniac toward the shore. I have to want to be happy. No one can choose happiness for me. Life is hard. Sometimes it’s brutal. I can focus on that part of it, or I can focus on gratitude and acceptance while also working to change, in some small way, the parts of life that suck.

When my editor or agent criticizes something in my manuscript, I can choose to take it as a personal slight against me or I can take a couple of deep breaths and see it for what it is—advice to make the story better. When someone I love snaps at me, I can react to their words or I can take just a second to see where they are coming from—are they in a bad mood for some reason and venting on me? If so, should I allow their grumpiness impact my emotional barometer?

That’s what I mean by choices.

It’s also true that there are physical health issues that can severely impact mood. For example, PMS is a very real thing. Other hormonal and chemical imbalances caused by physical ailments can also produce mood disorders. A check up with your health care provider should be on your agenda if you find yourself suddenly swinging from sunny to dark and back again. (Either that or your on deadline. Then it’s perfectly normal!)

In the next few weeks, I’m going to be writing about certain strategies to help improve and protect your mental health and the science behind them. These include journaling, meditating, exercise, etc. I’ll also be documenting some of the studies that suggest that they can help those of us who wish to maintain mental health while also dealing with a host of characters talking in our heads.

And again, please see my disclaimer above if you are having thoughts of harming yourself or others, please get help. Please.